Kissing is our greatest invention. On the list of great inventions, it ranks higher than the thermos bottle and the airstream trailer; higher, even, than room service possible because the main reason room service was invented was so that people could stay in bed longer and kiss without going hungry. Thomas Edison, switch off your dim bulb and slink away! // Tradition informs us that kissing, as we know it, was invented by medieval knights for the utilitarian purpose of determining whether their wives had been tapping the mead barrel while the knights were away on crusades. If history is accuate for once, the kiss began as an osculatory wire tap or oral snoop, a kind of alcholic chastity belt, after the fact. Form is not always faithful to function, however and gradually, kissing for kissing's sake became popular in the courts, spreading (trickle-down ergonomics to tradesmen, peasants, and serfs. And why not? Trancending class and financial status, completely democratic in its mysterious capactiy to deliver cascading pangs of immediate physical and emotional pleasure, kissing proved inherently if irrationally sweet. 

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It was as if that modicum of atavistic sweetness still remaining in civilized western man was funnelled into kissing and kissing alone. Orientals, including those who tended the North American continent before the land developers arrived from Europe in the 16th century, rubbed noses, and millions still do. Yet, despite the golden cornucopia of their millennia - they gave us yoga and gun powder, buddha and pasta - they, and their multitudes, their saints and sages, never produced a kiss. (Oh, sure, the rig veda, a four thousand year old hindu text makes reference to kissing, but who knows the precise nature of the activity to which the sanskrit word alludes? Modern Asians, of course have taken up kissing much as they've taken up the fork, though so far they haven't improved upon it as they usually do with those foreign things they adopt.  ) 

Kissing is the flower of the new world. So- called primitives, savages, pygmies and cannibals have shown tenderness to one another in many tactile ways, but pucker against pucker has not been their style. All animals copulate but only humans osculate. Parakeets rub beaks? Sure they do, but only little old ladies who murder school children with knitting needles to steal their lunch money so that they can buy fresh kidneys to feed their kitty cats would place bird billing in the same realm as the true kiss. 

There are primatologists  who claim that apes exchange oral affection, but from here the sloppy smacks of chimps look pretty incidental: at best, they are probably just trying to see if their mates have been into the fermented bananas. No, arbitrary beast- to - beast snout nuzzling may give narrators of wildlife films an opportunity to plumb new depths of anthropomorphic cuteness, but on Aphrodite's radar screen, it makes not a blimp. 

Physchologies claim that talking to our pets is a socially acceptable excuse for talking to ourselves. That may cast a particularly narcissistic light on those of you who kiss you pets, but you shouldn't let it stop you. Smooch you bulldog if you're so inclined. Buss your sister, your uncle, your grandpa, and anybody's bouncing baby. No kiss is ever wasted, not even on the lottery ticket kissed for luck. Kiss trees. Favourite books. Bowling balls. Those are good kisses too. They resonate in the ozone. 

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The best kisses though, are those between lovers, because those are the consequential ones, the risky ones, the transformative ones, the ones that call the nymphs and satyrs back to life, the many-layered kisses that we dive into as into a fairy-tale frog pond or the murky gene pool of our origins. The fact that we enjoy watching others kiss may be less a matter of voyeurism than some sort of homing instinct. In any case, it explains the popular appeal of Hollywood and Paris. Didn't Joni Mitchell's line " In France they kiss on Main Street" inspire hundreds of the romantically susceptible to pack their breath mints and head for Orly? 

There is no other flesh like lip flesh! No mean like mouth meat! The musical clink of tooth against tooth! The wonderful curiosity of tongues. 

/ - Tom Robbins /