Thursday, July 16, 2009

Let’s Talk Kissing

Ancient lovers believed a kiss would literally unite their souls, because the spirit was said to be carried in one's breath. ~Eve Glicksman

This post is inspired by the book I’m currently reading – Her Unlikely Family by Missy Tippens. * Spoiler Alert *. In this story, Missy has lots of attraction, interaction and tension between the hero and heroine but not a single kiss on the lips until the end of the book. Oh, they have plenty of opportunities. And they get real close several times but between doubts, fears and interruptions, they never touch lips. Because to do so would change their relationship from friendship to personal.

In the 1990 movie, Pretty Woman, the main female character is Vivian, a high-class prostitute. In that role, she tells Edward, the male lead, he can do anything except kiss her. Why? Because she considers it too personal to be part of the ‘business’. In the movie, the change in their relationship from business to personal is signified when Vivian wakens Edward with a kiss on the lips. Very symbolic. I vividly remember catching my breath at the moment her lips touched his because I knew what it meant and my heart went crazy. Yet, it was just a kiss.

So, what is a kiss?

The Online Etymology says, "Kissing, as an expression of affection or love, is unknown among many races, and in the history of mankind seems to be a late substitute for the more primitive rubbing of noses, sniffing, and licking." Interesting.

The online Free Dictionary defines kiss as ‘To touch or caress with the lips as an expression of affection, greeting, respect, or amorousness.’

We know that Europeans kiss each other on the cheek as a form of greeting. In some religions people show respect by kissing the feet or hands of their spiritual leader. And Greeks are well known to kiss on the lips as a form of greeting regardless of gender.

But a kiss sustained longer than a few seconds is assumed to have romantic or erotic connotations. There’s a good reason for this. According to The Romance Bible your ‘brain center is revved-up by a kiss and starts unconscious preparations for the body to have sex’. In other words, a kiss is an aphrodisiac. How well it works depends on the emotional involvement of the people sharing the kiss. For a woman, the man’s appearance, smell and even the ambiance plays a key role in how she receives his kiss. For a man, it seems to stem more on her appearance and how fast he can undress her. I believe that is why many inspirational novels don’t have the main characters engage in kissing – because men are physiologically the same regardless of where they go to church.

As I’m writing this post, 3 of my kissing memories come to mind:

1. Steve. Slender, blond and very attractive even though his lips were thin. He gave me lots of attention and I really liked him. We only went out on one date before he kissed me. And from that point on, I couldn’t even look at him. He came back to see me a few times but I brushed him off. I still saw him around the military base but I tried to avoid him. You see, I don’t know what it was, but when I kissed Steve, his lips were hard and cold. It was like kissing a piece of steel. I know – previous face plant in a metal locker. I really don’t know if others thought the same. I guess I could’ve asked my roommate to kiss him and see but I just wanted to forget him and the whole experience.

2. Claude. (kload) Tall, dark and a bit overweight but we were friends. My roommie said Claude had a crush on me but I didn’t believe it until he took me home to meet his family near the Quebec border. It was a nice visit. Before we parted, he pulled me in for a big bear hug and pressed a sloppy kiss at the corner of my mouth. It made a slurping noise just before he lifted his head and stepped back. I never saw Claude again. Lucky me.

3. Nelson. Average height, dark and handsome. Sigh. A military policeman. A protector. His face literally lit up when he saw me. If someone had told me that I wouldn’t have believed it, but I saw it myself one day when he walked into the mess and saw me sitting there. And at that moment, I knew he liked me. It was there on his face. I was so attracted to this guy but he had one major flaw. He didn’t like kissing. How could a guy not like kissing? It seems his mother didn’t like kissing and she kept telling her kids that kissing spread disease. Actually, she was right if you look at the health statistics but how can you do that to your kids? I mean I was so into this guy and he’d throw up his arms and ward me off whenever I wanted to lock lips with him. Well, that’s not entirely true because we did our share but not as much as I liked. He did have a very redeeming quality though – he loved hugs. He liked sitting – sometime for hours with his arms around me and cuddling. And he liked holding hands. I think that’s why I overlooked his dislike of kissing and married him. And over the 32 yrs we’ve been together, he’s shown me that kissing isn’t a major requirement to a relationship but rather, an enhancement.

Kissing does have many advantages, though. According to kissing:
- Prevents tooth decay due to a stimulation of saliva which prevents plaque buildup
- Releases tension as you breath deeper and shut out the rest of the world
- Aids weight loss as it speeds up your metabolism and burns calories. (10 calories for every 10 mins or 1 pound every 5 hrs)
- Slows aging since it tones your facial, neck and jaw muscles
- Increases fitness as it gets your heart pumping, pulse racing and gives you a great cardiovascular workout
- Releases pheromones which are the chemical messengers that show sexual attraction
- Promotes self-esteem, happiness and a feeling of being wanted.

Put that way, kissing is very good for your body and soul – if you find the right person to kiss. Which brings me back to Missy’s book. I think the near miss kisses were entirely appropriate for that story. It certainly enhanced the experience and brought an ‘Awh’ moment and heart flutter to me as a reader when they finally sealed their relationship.

I’ll leave you with this kissing quote for writers:

"May I print a kiss on your lips?" I said,
And she nodded her full permission:
So we went to press and I rather guess
We printed a full edition.
~Joseph Lilientha

Do you have a kissing experience you’d like to share? Either a bad one you’d like to forget or a good one you want to remember? Come on, tell us about it…


Captain Hook said...

Interesting post, Anita.

I come from a family that does not display affection. I'm 37 years old and have never seen my parents hug or kiss. Probably because of that, I hate touching of all kinds (well not sex itself, but the cuddling and kissing).

When my ex and I were dating and married, it was tough because he's a big cuddler. I told him at the beginning that he was limited to 2 minutes of cuddling and kissing a week.

Yes I would actually keep track.

(My word verification is "dograsm". Sounds slightly obscene.)

Ban said...

"because men are physiologically the same regardless of where they go to church." Loved that line Anita - so true !
kissing memory - sure I'll share one: I was hung up on this guy while in college (went to visit him in haiti, while he worked at a missionary school but things didn't work out as I'd hoped.) Back at school though another guy started paying attention to me. He walked me home one night and kissed me. it was a good kiss but I was still so emotional trying to get over guy #1 that ... I cried. Yep, I cried but he was cool about it - even wiped away my tears.

Ban said...

ps: forgot to add that the tension and build up to that first kiss is my favorite part of a romance story. 'cause once that kiss happens the relationship has changed (as you pointed out) and the rest is inevitable though how, when, where etc. is still in question.

Helena said...

Love the topic, Anita Mae. But I am going to 'save' my reading of the whole post until later, probably even a few days later. So my anticipation will build while I am partaking of the events at the Festival of Words!

I'll be back on track by Sunday night.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Morning, Cap'n. As I read your post, I realized I did't like touching, either. I had 2 sets of parents growing up. I had been abused by one set and didn't seem to fit in with the other. I don't remember sitting around cuddling. And we never went anywhere so we didn't get hugs goodbye. In Gr 12, one of my classmates would touch my arm when she talked. It really made me feel special. I finally got up the nerve to ask her about it and she said she had to teach herself to do it. But that when you touch someone as you talk, they feel like they have your undivided attention and are more receptive. It sounded good and I started doing it. Not to everyone, but to my friends. Amazingly, I liked it and they smiled when I did it. A couple days ago I heard a newscast that said if you want to get a man to smile, put your hand on his arm. She showed us and it was amazing how the men responded. It's been so long, I forgot about that memory.

But to get back to you, my mom said something similar when she married her 3rd husband. She said he always wanted to hug her. Then she shuddered and said when she sits on the sofa, he can. But usually she sits on her recliner.

Isn't that interesting - or sad - how parents can influence so much of their children's psyche.

Thank you Sarah. I truly appreciate you sharing with us today.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Ban, I loved your story but you didn't finish it! What happened? Did Guy #2's response strike an emotional chord in you? Did you date him after that? Come can't leave me hanging...

Yes, I like to think the tension prior to a kiss is like foreplay without the physicality. Your pheromones are engaged, your emotions are heightened and everything to do with that person seems to take on a special significance. I think that's why shows like Moonlighting and Castle and so many others are successes.

Like you said - 'No turning back'. Yup, that says it right there.

Appreciate you dropping by, Ban.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Helena - I guess 'anticipation' could be another name for this post. LOL

Enjoy the Festival of Words.

Ban said...

Hee Hee - didn't realize I'd created some suspense :D
#2 and I hung out for a week or so and had fun flirting (nothing serious) and he told me many things I will treasure in my heart but in the end he went back to his ex-girlfriend. It was a good thing though, he helped me get over #1 and in the end I realized I didn't need either of them. ;)

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Excellent topic, Anita. I have never seen all of Pretty Woman. I really should remedy that.

Working on my wip, I've really noticed how much impact a simple kiss makes on the story. It forces me to think about whether the character development is ready to move on to a different stage -- new problems, new resolutions -- and how far I want to take things. The main thrust of the story isn't to live happily ever after together, of course, so I really need to grasp the full weight of any intimacy I put on the page. At the same time, I once tried to second guess myself, thinking I wanted to drag things on longer. I was overruled :)

And since we're all sharing... my husband and I spent a long time corresponding long distance when we first met, before we finally made trips to visit one another. Emotionally, we were well into a committed relationship, but our first official date when he came to visit was adorably awkward. We couldn't just skip those flirty preliminaries and jump into close, affectionate contact, so we ended up with one long day progressing from playful hand-holding to finally that first kiss, and that kiss let us transition from the 'getting to know you' physicality to the same point of intimacy and familiarity we were at otherwise.

And for a little sharing, here's a great post from Magical Musings on the human mind and kissing.

Suse said...

Hi Anita, you are so right in saying that parents influence how their children view kissing, cuddling & intimacy.

I don't remember being kissed or hugged by my parents when I was growing up, but I do remember Mom & Dad snuggling on the couch. When I met my husband's family, it was hard to adjust to their hugging all the time.

When we had kids, I made sure to hug, kiss and tell them I love them. I would want them to always know that love. I hope they will pass it on in their love lives as well as with their children.

I believe kissing is a very important part of a relationship, as well as the cuddling, etc. My heart always used to give a flip when the hero and heroine first kissed in those Harlequin romances. I just knew something special had just happened.

I received my first kiss from a guy I had met at a track meet. We were staying in the same hotel, and he was just leaning in for the kiss at my door when my coach came out of his room. Kind of spoiled the moment.

Rie said...

Great topic! I am all for cuddling and kissing. It's beneficial to know that I can actually lose weight while I do something I love, now if he would hold still for 5 hours I could lose a pound!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Awh, that's nice, Ban. It sounds like it worked out for the best for all of you.

' the end I realized I didn't need either of them.'
Wow! What an empowering statement. Good for you!

Thanks for coming back. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hi Hayley, Pretty Woman is one of my favorite romance movies although there is one scene where I'll shout, 'Don't look!' if my teens are watching with me. And yes, so far, they still duck their heads and then ask, 'Can I look yet?' :)

'how much impact a simple kiss makes on the story'
Yes, it does. It's hard to get a reader emotionally involved if the kisses aren't attached to emotions themselves.

About the glimpse into your own romance - your experience is what most of the inspirational books are based on - it's what in the 'olden days' would be referred to as 'wooing' or the courtship. I'm glad you had a chance to experience that. No doubt your emotions were on a giddy roller coaster all day waiting for the 'moment'. It's something you'll always remember.

Oh - and thank you for the link. It must be the only one I didn't come across on this subject while doing the research. And the pic is precious. Actually, there were so many pics of animals kissing animals and humans kissing animals that I finally just decided to go with the movie still from Pretty Woman.

Thanks for sharing, Hayley.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Suse - I was the same way - determined to raise my kids with lots of hugs and kisses. I have a lot of respect for my MIL but we visit her, I tease her about her non-kissing rule and she always ducks her head and giggles. My kids smile at it. I believe I've made an impression because when most teens don't want to be seen in public with their parents, even my 14 yr old son will hug me regardless of who's watching. He's done it after a sleepover when I've met him at church and he's done it on the street when I dropped him off or picked him up from a youth retreat. I notice his friends looking but they don't turn away, or laugh, or shrug. They just look.

'he was just leaning in for the kiss at my door when my coach came out of his room. Kind of spoiled the moment.'
I guess, eh.

I don't remember the 'feeling' of my first kiss, but I remember we were standing in front of an open window in my apartment (I left home at age 16). And when our lips separated, I spun around with my arms crossed because I was so giddy with excitement and didn't know what to do. He just wrapped his arms around me, tucked my head under his chin and held me like that for a long time. It was magical.

Wow, thanks for pulling that memory out of me, Suse. And thank you for sharing your First Kiss story.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Rie, I gotta admit, I didn't realize I could lose weight that way either. But then I think the most I've been able to keep hubby engaged in a lip lock would run about 90 seconds - 2 mins tops - and that took some tongue calisthenics and imagination of my part. heh.

Still, you don't have to do the 5 hrs all at once, eh. I mean a full pound is a lot to lose in one batch for any sport.

Of course, if you add other... er ... body movements at the same time, you could burn it off a heck of a lot faster. ;)

Thanks for visiting us Rie, it was a pleasure.

Janet said...

Great post, Anita - and lots of discussion. Some of these are romance novel worthy :)

I love the first kiss in a novel - the connection as others have mentioned that moves the romance forward and opens up further conflict. Over on betabloggers we posted the first kiss scene. They ran the gamut from innocent to hot - and everyone was wonderfully written.

Off to pack more boxes - and look at my post for tomorrow. Might have to pull something out of a hat for this one :)

DebH said...

love the post, Anita. Thanks for sharing those three memories.

my first memorable kiss was when Cary (i met him at a movie theater - i was watching a movie solo and apparently i caught his eye... hmm, that's a whole different story).

anyhoo, it was the summer before my first year of college and he taught me about French kissing. He was a good kisser and I enjoyed learning. The major drawback was that he was a smoker.

From then on, I refused to kiss any guy who smoked or used tobacco products. Like kissing an ashtry - or at least how an ashtray smells.

as for touching and affection, my family has always been that way. my mother grew up with severe lack of affection and didn't want us to grow up that way. fortunately, my husband's family is also affectionate, so there's lots of snuggling in our relationship and he always reaches for my hand when we're walking or out in public. *happy sigh*

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet, thanks for dropping in. I was under the impression most of yours were pulled out of a hat. LOL

Your posts are wonderful regardless of where you get them. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Deb, loved your most memorable kiss story! There's one point I'm wondering about...
You said, 'i met him at a movie theater ... and he taught me about French kissing. He was a good kisser and I enjoyed learning.'
Hmmm - So I guess the movie wasn't that interesting, eh? The amazing things we learn in movie theatres. Or did you meet him there and took lessons later? LOL

Your story reminded me of Billy's kisses but that's a whole other story. LOL Remind me someday when we're reminiscing (sp?) over tea.

Your comment about Cary having smoking breath reminded me of this kissing quote I found yesterday but it didn't fit in with the post:

I kissed my first girl and smoked my first cigarette on the same day. I haven't had time for tobacco since. ~Arturo Toscanini

So nice seeing you here, Deb. Take care of yourself.

DebH said...

LOL Anita

actually, the movie was interesting - "Howard the Duck" and Cary was with a bunch of his buddies. So the lessons came later.

Missy Tippens said...

Anita Mae, thanks for mentioning my book!

I have a confession, though. I had several kisses in the first draft of Her Unlikely Family. And my editor asked me to cut back some. She said the romance progressed too quickly, and that they were too cavalier about the kisses. When I revised the story, I found I ended up taking out all but that one. Once I slowed the relationship progression down a bit, I found that I liked putting it off longer and longer! :)

I had one reader who wrote to me and said, "I thought they would never kiss!!" LOL

My first kiss was in 6th grade. And it was instigated by a group of friends. They were pushing me and the boy to kiss! Of course, he was much shorter than me, so they had me kneel, and he kissed me. :) I don't remember much about the kiss itself. Just the mortification of having it be in front of others!!

Missy :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Missy, your editor sure knew her stuff (was it Emily?) because the book was just perfect.

re your first kiss - the kids may have been pushing you to kiss him but the only complaint I hear from you is that they all stood around to watch. LOL

Thanks for the visit, Missy.