the ubiquity of kissing
(originally posted 5/6/2020)
What the hell is a kiss anyway?
In a 2015 survey University of Nevada’s anthropology department found nearly half of the 168 different cultures cluttering up the planet don’t even engage in pressing their mouths together as a display of affection. Apparently the words “gross” and “icky” popped up a lot.
If you stop to consider how many different way we come into physical contact with each other, and the dizzying number of things we try to communicate with these gestures, you might think I’m being stubborn if I hold out for a traditional kiss.
There’s back slapping and handshakes, fist bumping and hugs. Each with their own messages. Brushing the hair out of someone’s eyes or slapping their face. Two distinct messages. Some cultures squeeze elbows and some hold hands to express intimacy.
Eskimos rub noses, also called kunik. Apparently they do this because they are scared that if they did it with their mouth their lips might freeze together. Given how cold it is up there I’d be more concerned about the snot freezing together. Have you ever seen an Eskimo without a bunch of snot hanging under his or her nose? Which begs the question; do Eskimos give CPR by holding the mouth closed and blowing into the nose? It might explain why their life expectancy is lower than ours. If you’re an Eskimo having a heart attack you might want to head towards someone else. Just giving you a little head’s up Nanouk.
But back to lips.
They are unique, like fingerprints, and are the most sensitive part of our bodies. Not the penis or vagina. Not even close. There are over a million nerve-endings packed into our lips. No food and drink gets into our bodies without their say-so and the lion’s share of air passes through them on its way into us. And, more specifically (and much more importantly), every sigh and every whisper on their way out.
But back to the nerve-endings.
Over a million of them. It would take you 11 days, 13 hours, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds just to count them all (no breaks allowed).
More than every wink, blush, subtle arching of the back and not-so-subtle swiveling of the hips combined.
At some point I’m sure you’re waiting for me to get to the point. Ok, here goes…
“…I keep breaking things – appointments and porcelain, thinking of your lips…”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain
Sometimes it’s like there are only two things that exist in the universe; my memory and her lips. You wanted a point? There’s your point.
“He drew her very tenderly close and their lips met like starved hearts.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, At Your Age
Of course that sounds so dramatic, but did I mention the one million nerve-endings?
“With kisses your mouth taught me…
my lips came to know fire.”
― Pablo Neruda, Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems
Obviously it’s not just me, which provides some comfort.
(Fumbling ever-so-briefly to regain my composure)
The color of our lips is caused by visible blood capillaries under our skin. They are visible because the lips have one of the thinnest layers of skin on the body. They never sweat, because lips do not have sweat glands. They are the only parts of the body where the inside extends to the outside. The membrane that makes up the inner lips also makes the outer lips. And, unlike our backsides, they get thinner as we age.
“If you kiss her cheeks, she is your friend;
if you kiss her lips, she is your lover;
if you kiss her heart, she is your soul mate.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo
And then there’s that… always that.
“I want a kiss that’s like a huge wave crashing against a rocky shoreline.
The kind with a roar and where the water shoots up and turns into mist.
There’s got to be a better way of saying that.”
I don’t think I’m being stubborn.