Recently, I was at a gathering of old friends. We graduated from high school thirty-four years ago; before that we studied, played, wrestled, gossiped, cheered, laughed, and grew up together. I observed varying levels of familiarity amongst us. There were greetings by handshake, a polite gesture reserved for those uncomfortable with too much physical contact or those acknowledging acquaintances, but not close friends. Some clasped one another in robust hugs. My favorite salutations, though, were from those who kissed, like family or the choicest of friends, on the lips or cheeks – brief pecks that suggest warmth within the confines of proper etiquette…
The girlfriend I’ve known since I was eight years old -- we kissed on the lips, like sisters. The boy I wrestled in my backyard, before he started shaving, who now teaches where we were students -- he approaches most everyone with a huge smile, enthusiastic bear hug, and noisy smacks on the cheek. And then there was the European kiss of a new/old friend, but instead of grazing the air over both cheeks, one kiss landed on my blushing face, coupled with tender words of welcome.
What is so sweet about a kiss? I think the answer lies in the connection that we make with the other person. When I think of the lip presses I’ve shared, I think of boo boos; Champagne laced celebrations; open mouth, slobbery gifts from my toothless, grinning babies; and the dizzying first skim of lips against mine. I’m no philematologist, but I do appreciate the thrill of all those moments.
After doing a bit of reading, I found there were delightful reasons to continue smooching. The benefits extend to both sides of the kiss and include:
1. More time. Kissing your partner each morning adds five years to your life.
2. Increased self esteem. Kissing makes you feel good because it increases endorphins and enhances your state of mind.
3. Greater relaxation and a sense of well being. Kissing releases oxytocin (calming hormone) that reduces anxiety, produces a feeling of peace, and has a meditative quality.
4. Stress relief. Kissing lowers cortisol (a stress hormone), reduces tension, and can even eliminate headaches (quality counts here)!
5. Keeping you attractive. Kissing uses approximately 30 different facial muscles and the activity serves to tighten those muscles and increase circulation.
6. Heart health. Kissing creates an adrenaline which causes your heart to pump more blood. Frequent kissing can decrease blood pressure and cholesterol.
7. Decreased infections. Devoted kissers are less likely to suffer from stomach, bladder and blood infections. Kissing builds immunities that protect the body.
8. Calorie burning. The amount of calories used depends on your current weight and the amount of time and energy you put into the activity. DailyMuscle.com reports that two 10-minute kissing sessions a day can lead to a 10 pound weight loss in a year.
A social kiss, often delivered with an audible “Mwah!” and where no lipstick hits the cheek, is usually well tolerated. Contact, however, calls for a politic approach. Do not attempt a social kiss if you are contagious. That concern aside, if a hug is enthusiastically received, a respectful air kiss or short sweep on the cheek will not usually offend. Be observant of what others in the room are doing. Whether you are the kisser or the mark, kissing air or skin, offer your right cheek and kiss the other's right cheek for the first kiss, and then offer your left cheek as you kiss your partner's left cheek for the second kiss.
For this Valentine’s Day, kiss someone. Politely, lovingly or soulfully…you choose. Just kiss.
“Kisses, even to the air, are beautiful.” Drew Barrymore