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A Kiss Is Just A Kiss: Only When It Isn't

Posted Jul 26 2008 10:18am
Americans tend to think a kiss is one of three types.

The first is the "blow in the air" kiss, which I see as the socially acceptable "blow off." It's the kind of kiss you frequently see in Hollywood or social events. Usually eyes dart in the opposite direction from your mouth as you and your fellow kissing partner not so subtly seek the next person to "kiss."

Then, there is the kiss reserved for grandparents, children, dogs, cats and other loved ones who aren't peers. These kisses may feel obligatory, as with great aunts or third cousins, or be genuine displays of affection, as with children and grandchildren.

The third type of kiss is the "getting to know you better" one, or more commonly, the type of kiss shared between romantic partners. It can range from gently, tenderly brushing two pairs of lips together to something more intense, such as getting your tongues all tangled up in one another, figuring out where your noses go and how to breathe while performing this important ritual. This kiss can also evolve from a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to an entire body bath, depending on the level of attraction of the participants.

However, a new kind of kiss is crossing European waters to become more common in the US. It's the cheek to cheek buss. This double kiss has been around forever, but except in a few of the afore mentioned circles, has not yet become a valued European import.

This kiss involves some practice. You sort of get your heads in the right direction, make sure the rest of your body isn't touching and that both kissers know the same rules. If you don't, you run the risk of bumping noses, foreheads and looking perfectly ridiculous. Then there's the question of height and girth. If you are built closely enough where your eyes easily meet on a level playing field, or if one's stomach doesn't protrude into the allotted space, you are off to a pretty good start. However dangers lurk at every turn. If one bends down first or is the first to look up, then each person runs the risk of serious damage. Bending down means possible back ache. Looking way up risks a bad neck cramp or worse. Unless well practiced, this kind of social mouth-to-mouth equivalent of a handshake can result in serious complications.

Personally, I've come to like this kind of greeting, but only with people I know relatively well and not with perfect strangers. You could say I'm at level 202 of cheek kissing and far from being ready to graduate. So, how do I get the message across that according to where you stand in my Rolodex (remember that word?), you are worthy of such a greeting? Of course the converse may also be true: Am I worthy of a double kiss according to you?

This part is really complicated. What if you are in a group? I haven't quite figured out if it's appropriate to do a round robin double-cheek buss or if the wiser move is to wave to all and say "hello" in one fell swoop.

Of course this science and art (or is it really a social sport?) has to be perfected, as it is fraught with mishaps along the way. A guy's end of day stubble is no fun along a delicate cheek - and "oh my" - will my make-up smear?

Who is supposed to initiate this entire process? Protocol supposedly indicates it's the higher ranking person. But I don't get it. Higher ranking in what? The greater number of children one has? Or should we run into each other at the supermarket, the highest grocery bill or most bags carried out?

In the end, I feel as if this new type of kissing definitely has potential, but, at least for me, the system is far from perfected. I guess the old adage has merit here: Practice makes perfect. Only please save me from injuries and foolishness in the process.

Kiss Kiss.
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