Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Today I reflect upon the kiss.
The fact that this physical gesture is virtually universal in human culture tells you there's definitely something to it. But really, isn't the kiss interesting?
Kissing is so commonplace that we never stop to think how strange a gesture it really is. I mean, hugs make pretty much sense, they're really quite simple: it's nice to be close to someone, to embrace them as a symbol of that emotional closeness, and to literally feel it in the pressure of another body, the crush of other arms. But kisses are another story. Why the press of the lips on another person's skin? And why are the usual targets other lips, or cheeks, foreheads, hands?
Well, I'm sure entire books have been written on this subject by psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists much wiser than I. But as a self-proclaimed expert (emphasis on the adjective, LOL) on the erotic, I'd like to address myself just to the erotic kiss. You know, that wonderful smackeroo the hero lays on the heroine as the music swells. You know, the unbelievably sublime experience with your latest crush that your subconscious mind is imagining right now.
I don't know if it's due to being born in 1956, or if today's generation feels at all the same, but I grew up believing the ultimate confirmation of the desired one's mutual attraction was the kiss. In every musical, romantic comedy, and Disney movie, that kiss was the goal, the dream, the payoff. If the Prince kissed you, then you were going to live happily ever after. Or at the very least, enjoy the following several hours in the extreme.
I found myself at an early age, and to this day, coveting lips. Oh, there are a lot of features I can enjoy in a guy's face: long-lashed brown eyes, sparkling blue ones, an unusually-shaped and intriguing nose, or just a perfect one, cheekbones, well-arched brows, a nice beard. But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, as it were, my gaze will be on his mouth.
So, why the mouth? I suppose biologists will tell you there are a lot of nerve endings in the lips--this is an erogenous zone that enjoys stimulation. True, I'm sure. But something deep down tells me there's more to it than that, and I think it has to do with what else the mouth does. It eats. It tastes. It consumes. It takes sustenance. This is why sexual desire is often called a hunger. It is a hunger: hunger for another person. Oh, I suppose it can be, and often is, hunger merely for stimulation, or for the opposite sex in general. But I think more often, particularly for women, it's hunger for a specific individual.
I think you know what I mean. The target fellow is wonderful: you admire him, rejoice in who he is, long to fill yourself somehow with that loveliness you see in him. You're hungry for him. And you wish, wish, wish he felt the same hunger for you.
Now, a quick intermission before I continue, during which you may enjoy this little portrait I did awhile back, called "The Shadow Kiss."
The kiss, then, is the expression of that hunger, the communication of that longing, and because it is oral, kissing is a kind of feeding. When you offer your lips to be kissed, are you not very nearly saying, "please feed me" and, simultaneously, "please feast on me"? When you kiss the beloved, you do more than say to yourself, "this feels good"...you also think about the man behind the lips, about his essence, and the glory of being so close to him, of feeding on him, on this particular man. And as he kisses you, don't you delight in what you perceive to be his hunger for you, his eagerness for intimacy, his excitement at being so close to you?
This understanding of the function of kissing may be why so many women prefer it, or at least feel it's more important, than sex. Sex is so thrilling in a purely physical way, it's possible (especially for guys) to want it and do it just for the sensation. But kissing, which is less physically stimulating, seems to me to be more emotionally and spiritually exciting. When I daydream about my latest celebrity crush, I rarely or never (depending on the fascination level) think about intercourse. But kissing? That's where my imagination has a field day.
Because if, for example, Ben Linus from "Lost" were to kiss me, that would mean he desired me, and how thrilling is that? (I can hear a lot of you readers breathing heavily at this idea, you know.)
And if I am currently obsessing over some archetypal guy dressed up as a famous person (to make the distinction--after all, that guy we dream about isn't the real Hugh Laurie or Jon Hamm), that means I'm really into what he represents to me. And so, I want to be near it, to eat it up as it were, to feel it filling my belly and nourishing me. That's why I like to think about kissing him.
What interesting creatures we humans be, confusing one hunger with another, one physical act with another. But from a romance writer's perspective, it's one of the countless things that make sex and romance so fascinating.