February 14, 2008

Why We Kiss: From Premastication to Romance

It's been called osculating, necking, philemating, macking, and snogging. They say the average person spends two weeks of their life doing it. If you're anything like me, you spent a good part of Valentine's Day smooching. It's a holiday that allows all kinds of ooey gooey signs of affection and I took full advantage. I even made my husband play the, "lets say why we love each other," game. Brutal. The poor guy is counting the seconds to President's Day when all he has to do is watch basketball on the couch.

But why I bother kissing the guy. Let's face it, with all the spit and leftover spinach dip between our teeth, kissing can be pretty gross. So in pursuit of the answer to my curious animal instinct, I set out for some answers. Luckily, there is an entire group of scientists dedicated to unlocking the secrets of our locked lips. In all seriousness, they call themselves philematologiests and they have some very unromantic explainations for our spity hobby.

Perhaps, they offer, cave-stay-at-home-moms chewed food for their babies and passed it into their babies mouths creating a mouth-bond. Yuck. And how premastication has anything to do with kissing I have no idea. I have to admit, I've bit pieces of candy bars off for my kids to eat, but chewing it up and spitting it at them? I hope more from those cavewomen.

Another theory they offer is that kissing originated from Roman times where a kiss was the sign that sealed a contract. "Sealed with a kiss," sound familiar anyone? Roman men would kiss each other on the lips to seal a business agreement. It was something along the lines of, "hey, can I buy this horse?" "Sure." "Great, let's make out." Young Roman couples were asked to kiss each other at their weddings to seal the marriage contract. The famous "kiss of death" has also been linked to Roman times from Judas' kiss to Jesus which identified him to the soldiers and led to Jesus's death. The mafia, being the devout Bible readers they are, adopted this practice. It's advisable to avoid the Don on Valentine's Day because his kiss means you're about to get whacked.

Kissing has been viewed by many cultures as a way to unite two people. This theory has it's origins in Indian culture where the soul was thought to be carried by the breath so joining mouths together and sharing breath was actually a bonding of souls. I actually like this theory. It makes me feel less creepy than the chewed up food version.

Kissing, however, is not a universal token of affection. A full 10% of the world doesn't kiss at all. In fact, some African tribes consider the act of kissing to be cannibalistic. Other cultures find kissing vulgar. The U.S. has a few kiss related crimes still on the books. In Indiana, it is illegal for a man with a mustache to "habitually kiss human beings. I can understand that one. Mustaches are prickly. No girl wants a rash on her upper lip from an overly amorous Sasquatch. The prudy prudes of Hartford, Connecticut made it illegal for couples to kiss on Sunday. Cedar Rapids Iowa has criminalized kissing strangers. I propose another law that anyone who has eaten an Awesome Blossom be banned from kissing for the following week.

The most popular theory of kissing is a sneaky one. Anthropologists propose we kiss to sniff out a prospective mate and by getting our noses right up in someone else's face (while distracting them with spine-melting smooches) we are really smelling their pheromones to determine if they are compatible mates. Its been found that women subconsciously prefer the smell of men whose immune system proteins are different from their own, which could produce healthier babies.

Of course, there is the obvious theory for kissing which is it just feels so darn good. Our lips and tongues are jam packed with nerve endings and kissing is a lot less strenuous than having to give a backrub. Plus at 26 calories per minute, it's another excuse to add to the long list of why you're not going to the gym today. By this estimate, the most calories burned in any one kissing session was a joint 3,480 by a New York couple who kissed for a record breaking 29 hours.

So whatever your reasons for kissing today, nourishment, pheromone scouting, sealing your apartment contract, get your smooch on. Trust me, the lucky recipient of your kiss will be oblivious and just think you like them. Suckers.


Karen said...

Okay, that may be more than I wanted to know. I'm going with "it just feels so darn good and God made it that way for a reason."

Emma said...

I love the laws against kissing. LOL Consider me an OUTLAW! How can anyone kiss for that long?!?!?!? Crazy!

S'mee said...

ahhh science! I just had this conversation with a young person the other day. You know the whole pheromone thing. Primordial ooze and biology choosing the pick of the litter, chemical love, how we sniff each other,... one thing leads to another; and the race survives!

very romantic.

Colleen said...

Whatever the biological reasons, Jim's smooching savvy is what hooked me!

Nancy Sabina said...

Excellent essay.

Adrienne said...

Man, I'm glad you had a romantic Valentines. Francis and I... got our taxes done. And no, that's no a euphemism.

We're getting a fat refund, though. That's romantic, right?

pflower10 said...

There is also the KISS OFF as a form of telling someone you don't like them anymore....for me that is right up there with flipping the bird!

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