We humans put an awful lot of stock in kisses, don’t we? Letters are sealed with lipsticky kisses, there’s the legendary Kissing Bandit, there’s Kiss (the legendary band), and of course the delectable Hershey’s kisses. And we’re not alone. Certain species of birds are known to give each other a fond peck from time to time. And even among plants, there’s an amazing natural phenomenon called inosculation, from the Latin osculare (kiss), when two trees, a weaker and a stronger, “embrace”, and remain connected, to save the weaker one’s life. It’s really a lovely sight.
I’ve never (that I can recall) been kissed under the mistletoe. But I have been kissed at sunrise, in the moonlight, on the beach…most of these smooches, I hasten to add, courtesy of Steve. Indeed, I still remember our very first embrace, in my parents’ driveway after an early date (The Way We Were, that sentimental Streisand-Redford classic; we were quite logically swept away by the passionate onscreen romance of Katie and Hubbell.) And the celebrant’s “You may kiss the bride” is a beautiful culmination of most wedding ceremonies. Hooray for kisses, right?
But I’ve come to have mixed emotions about them. For one thing, I firmly believe that adult family members should always ASK kiddos for a kiss/hug (as opposed to demanding one). My late, rather unlamented Pop Cunningham was one to tickle (and tickle, and tickle) my sisters and me, ignoring our breathless entreaties to stop. As a small child, I was often commanded to bestow a kiss on the wrinkled and overly powdered visage of my Nana’s spinster school teacher friend Retta O’Brien, and I dreaded it (I’m guessing Retta didn’t much like it either).
However, I am a fan of the very stylish European “air kiss,” that delicate, two-sided gesture, where each person puckers up in the recipient’s general direction. The air kiss says, “Bonjour! Here we are, acknowledging each other’s presence with the added benefit of zero physical contact!” But I’m somewhat hesitant to try air kissing here in the USA, because it seems a little snobby.
So on I go, hugging rather too generously, kissing only a bit more sparingly. Inevitably, my greeting partner is doing the opposite, and there we are, one of us extending their hand for a friendly shake, while the other is simultaneously planting a big wet smack on an unsuspecting cheek. An awkward silence always follows, and then upon parting the roles are usually reversed, with the kisser now a determined shaker, and the shaker now an abashed kisser. Can’t we all just escape from this Hell???
I have a modest proposal.
Let’s agree to reserve the kiss for certain special times, places and people. We do NOT have to pucker up for every random person in our lives. This way, the kiss can remain the sign of genuine affection it was always meant to be.
Then, if I suddenly kiss you out of the blue, beware. I am either Judas, or a Corleone.