The anatomical juxtaposition of two
orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction. --Dr. Henry Gibbons,
Definition of a Kiss
Blair walks in and gives Cristian a big sloppy kiss to make Max jealous. --One Life to Live (Soap Opera Digest synopsis, May 2, 2000:109)
Usage: We kiss to show our affection, as in kissing a child, parent, or lover (see LOVE SIGNALS IV).
Consumer products. In 1995, Revlon claimed that its
ColorStay Lipcolor "won't kiss off on your teeth, your glass . . . or on him."
Later in 1995, "Procter & Gamble, the manufacturer of Max Factor and Cover
Girl cosmetics, asked Revlon to provide support for its claims within a week"
Courtship: "Ever so slowly, the couple's heads will loom closer and closer, like docking spacecraft. Three inches away and closing, their faces will roll several degrees right or left, in synchrony, so the noses will clear. And the lips begin a cautious link-up. The pair seals together in the first kiss" (Givens 1983:91-2). (See below: Neuro-notes III.)
Culture. 1. In Latin countries, a man may kiss the back of a woman's hand to greet her with respect. His hand kiss should be "effortless, noiseless and moistureless" (Morris 1994:113). 2. In Vatican City, kissing another's foot is a "humble salutation" (Morris 1994:76). Extremely rare, the foot kiss ". . . still survives in a ritual form when the Pope symbolically washes and kisses the feet of poor people in Holy Week" (Morris 1994:76; see also BOW, Humility).
Media I. Jane Wyman and Regis Toomey kissed for 185 seconds in the 1940 movie You're in the Army Now.
Media II. "I would like to think that someone who had respect for me and cared about me . . . would have kissed me on the cheek [rather than squarely on the lips] and said, 'I'm delighted to meet you'," nurse Darva Conger confessed on the February 23, 2000 "Good Morning America'' show, in an interview about how she felt after marrying a total stranger, Rick Rockwell, on the February 15, 2000 Fox TV special, Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire.
Media III. On kissing Leonardo DiCaprio: "Sharon Stone proclaimed that 'kissing him was like kissing your arm.' He got another scathing review from 'Romeo + Juliet' costar Claire Danes: 'Our chemistry ended when the cameras stopped.' Then 'Titanic's' Kate Winslet revealed: 'It was like kissing my brother'" (Davis 2000:53).
Primatology. Chimpanzees may kiss and embrace after a fight.
RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. "Nuzzling, licking, sucking, playful biting, kissing, and so on, which appear to have a broad geographical distribution as sexually meaningful signs, can be used to communicate the emotional intimacy that is prerequisite to sexual intercourse" (Givens 1978:352). 2. "Many mammals 'kiss' before mating as a way of stimulating a partner's maternal instincts. Dolphins nibble, cats give playful bites, dogs lick faces or nuzzle flanks, and chimps press lips in their courtship" (Givens 1983:93). 3. "Our kiss originates from a mammal-wide sucking reflex" (Givens 1983:93). 4. "Mouth-to-mouth contact with the lips" is a worldwide sign of love (Morris 1994:155).
Neuro-notes I. The most sensitive area of our face is the perioral area (which includes the lips and nose). Kissing sensations travel through the trigeminal nerve (cranial V), which carries impulses received from the lips. Reflecting its importance, trigeminal is served by three sensory nuclei, extending from the upper spinal cord through the brain stem to the amphibian midbrain. Pleasurable protopathic or light-touch sensations travel from the principal and spinal nuclei through evolutionary-old pathways to the thalamus, then to areas of the mammalian brain (including the cingulate gyrus, prefrontal cortex, and basal forebrain), as well as to primary sensory areas of the parietal cortex (see HOMUNCULUS).
Neuro-notes II. Mirror neurons: "Mirror neurons are incredibly powerful; 'vicarious' would not be a strong enough word to describe their effects. When we watch movie stars kiss onscreen, some of the cells firing in our brains are the same ones that fire when we kiss our lovers" (Marco Iacoboni, Natural History; date unavailable; http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/features/28883/mental-mirrors?page=5).
Neuro-notes III. Mirror neurons: "Even so, when moving heads together for a kiss, even a first time, sudden, passionate kiss, we rarely end up breaking our front teeth. There is usually a soft landing. The essential point is that when people move synchronously or in temporal coordination, they are participating [via mirror neurons] in an aspect of the other's experience" [p. 38; source: Stern, Daniel N. (2007). Chapter 2: "Applying Developmental and Neuroscience Findings on Other-centered Participation to the Process of Change in Psychotherapy," in Braten, Stein (Ed.), On Being Moved: From Mirror Neurons to Empathy (2007; Amsterdam: John Benjamins), pp. 35-47].
See also EMOTION CUE, REST-AND-DIGEST.YouTube Video: See an awkward first kiss.
Copyright 1999 - 2013 (David B. Givens/Center for
Photo of sculpture by Auguste Rodin (picture credit: unknown)