It’s believed that many years ago, mothers would chew food for their infant children and pass it to them via mouth-to-mouth contact. This ritual was not just built to establish family; it was not just to say “I am the mother and you are the child.” It was a necessity of life. It was something, while endearing, humans could not live without.
Today, we kiss not because we need it. Or, perhaps, we kiss because we do. But when I linger on the idea of mouth touching mouth, lip biting lip, I find it to be a strange concept regardless of its origin. Kissing is, in part, something we do because we’re told to. From a young age, we were drilled with the idea that all could be fixed with a simple solution of true love’s kiss. Kissing can wake up an unconscious princess, therefore, it must be able to alleviate all of my much more peasantly problems, right? But regardless of fairytale and fiction, why does something as simple as the connection of two orifices give us a euphoric feeling we wouldn’t experience otherwise?
Philematologists (the formal word for a kissing scientist) have come to the conclusion that we keep on kissing because of chemistry. Kissing releases chemicals and hormones in your body that trigger feelings in your brain. It helps us to judge how interested we are in somebody. I know you know what I’m talking about when I say that you can feel the difference between a kiss that means nothing–it just doesn’t do it for you–and a kiss that gives you that feeling. And, after all, kissing is (almost) as intertwined with someone else as you will ever be.
When I was younger, my grandma and I had a joint obsession with The Princess Diaries. We were convinced we were the nonfiction Jewish version of Princess Mia and Queen Clarisse (a.k.a. “Grandma”). Through my freshman year of high school, I would have sleepovers with my grandma once every month or so and we would alternate between watching the first movie and the second while eating frozen Cool Whip out of the container. We knew every word, every scene, every sound. I also had every book in the series–all sixteen of them. To most, Mia is known for her trademarked idea of the “foot-popping kiss.”
“You know, in the old movies whenever a girl would get seriously kissed, her foot would just kind of… pop.” My grandma and I watched each month as Mia figured out her true love via test of the foot pop over and over again. This was my exposure to sex and romance–watching a Disney-produced film with my grandma, who once wore white evening gloves on a day trip to the zoo with my grandpa.
One night, my grandma and I decided to sway from our routine. We rented The Kids Are All Right, now one of my favorite films, starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a lesbian couple whose teenaged children meet their sperm donor father. In a scene, Bening and Moore attempt to spice up their sex life by watching gay porn. Consequentially, this scene was graphically displayed on my grandmother’s oversized plasma screen television.
I had never seen my grandma cringe the way she did. Though we also shared a love of forward thinking girl power, I was primarily her Princess Mia, not her gay porn advocate.
“It’s okay,” I told her. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
Though I was getting older and more “aware,” I was still big on the foot-popping kiss. My friends starting kissing boys in the sixth grade. Though I had my fair share of opportunities–and by opportunities, I mean boys leaning in and me literally running away–I waited so that my first kiss would be perfect. I wanted it to be memorable so that one day, I could look back at the five minutes of my life I was closest to becoming a princess. My first kiss was a foot-popper. And, of course, I told my grandma about it the next time I saw her.
I understand why we touch each other. I understand snuggling, cuddling, sleeping together, even holding hands. Part of me still finds it strange that we have a compulsion to kiss. When you see someone you love, you want to kiss them hello, you want to kiss them goodbye, and you want to kiss them every second in between. I know I want my lips on someone else’s, but I’m not sure why.
To Mia Thermopolis, a good kiss is foot-popping. To Romeo and Juliet, a kiss is a prayer and a sin sweetly purged. And to me, it’s something I’m still trying to figure out (with practice, of course).