Trading masticatory juices with someone who may have just consumed something on the menu that you wouldn’t have dreamt of choosing is such a part of western culture that virtually all of us have engaged in it at some time; some by force, some by guile, and some through mutual attraction.
As with every cultural habit, there are strict rules in force that you break at your peril. Strangers are expected to ask permission first, unless they are very famous, then you are supposed to be flattered. Grand-parents exercise the droit du seigneur and if you want to receive your birthday present, you’d best pucker up and endure. Even if Grandpa’s false teeth are loose.
Ignoring the research of literary types, relying on early Verdic texts who claim that kissing originated in ancient India and travelled to Greece when Alexander the Great invaded India – anthropologists prefer the theory that kissing originated in ancient caves with no electricity to power the Babyblender and a screaming infant to feed. Harassed Mothers would chew a mouthful of bison leg until it resembled a Sainsbury’s ‘Organic Bison and Polenta first lunch’ and palm the rug rat off with that. Penguin style. Mouth to mouth.
Kissing originating as a method of feeding infants doesn’t explain why a large portion of society spends Saturday night under neon lights with an earth vibrating bass beat trying to recreate a method of feeding that went out of fashion when the first cave got electricity. Nor does it explain why not all cultures continue the practice. The Trobriand, a Papua New guinea tribe, prefer to bite each others eyelashes off, missing eyelashes being a sign of a potential partner being available for sexual activity. (I assume they haven’t met chemotherapy…) Whilst those of the Manchu tribe, finding our western ‘kiss’ to be far too sexual for public consumption, cheerfully perform fellatio on their young male children as a sign of affection. (Probably best not to mention your proud Manchu heritage when applying for a job as a nursery maid).
Justin Garcia, along with two other researchers, looked at comprehensive data from 168 cultures across the world and found the ‘romantic-sexual kiss’ was present only in 46 percent of those cultures.
‘I think this is a reminder of Western ethnocentrism’, he said. ‘We see something so often, and we assume it’s everywhere.’
The French, who allegedly gave the world ‘French kissing’ or Galocher as the slang term which has only just made it into the Dictionnaire Larousse would have it, kiss on each cheek. Everybody. All the time. Endlessly. Join a party of twelve for lunch and it takes half an hour before you can sit down. All that touching and kissing form an early age does have the advantage that their nurses are the better for it; no hang ups about putting an arm around you when things are dire, or a comforting hand on the arm when delivering bad news. Yet they have social hang ups of their own regarding kissing on the lips, believing the mouth to be an erogenous zonetherefore not appropriate to kiss a baby on the mouth.
A hang up that seems to have crossed the channel. I find it strange that the British have no qualms about kissing their children on the lips, nor family members doing so, yet are appalled by the idea of a stranger kissing the kid on the lips. Given that incest is the most likely cause of sexual abuse in a young child, logically they should be more concerned about the family invading this infant erogenous zone?
Having said that, I have known two adults who habitually kissed everyone they met on the lips, one male, one female, and trust me – the female caused far more consternation amongst women than the male ever did. (It did help that he was remarkably good looking – and he didn’t kiss the men!)
So, an incredibly divisive subject (perfect for the Anna Raccoon blog!)
Do you? Don’t you? Would you? Wouldn’t you? Why not? Where not? And if you insist, who not?