Of Kisses: The Story of Tongues

Of Kisses by Felicia Lujan
Kissing has been an essential part of relationships further back than many can remember. I am interested in how the passionate kiss and views on kissing have changed roughly over the last century. After being inundated with Valentine’s Day imagery, the timing for writing such a piece seemed appropriate. Is kissing a necessary part of falling in love? Can you love someone you have never kissed? What happens if couples stop kissing? Those are just a few of the questions which came to mind when I began to write this piece.

I believe that kissing is an important human need. I was able to identify several scientific and psychological studies which officially confirm this, but it isn’t really necessary to use these to agree with something all of us can simply feel. I’m not sure how many people would agree with me when I say that I find a kiss more erotic than sex itself. The mouth is a fascinating orifice. When we kiss we are face to face. There is no hiding. We are physically and psychologically connected in ways which uniquely identify us.

Over the last 100+ years the kiss and views on kissing have changed in thought-provoking ways. For the last couple of weeks my mind has been flooded with things romance marketing experts think will make me feel wanted and loved. The real question is what do I think makes me feel wanted and loved? I think that all the candy, jewelry, cards, gifts, and dinners are bizarre when it comes to romance. Why aren’t there more classes on the art of kissing? Why don’t we see ads encouraging lovers to make love? It’s because there is little money to be made by marketing those things. We have started to indulge more and more on chocolate and we are beginning to forget about psychological and fleshly indulgence.

Soldier Kissing Girlfriend Goodbye_Washington DC

“Washington, D.C.~ A soldier kissing his girl goodbye at Union Station” 1942~
Image No. LC-USW3- 011367-C
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

A kiss can indeed be integral to falling in love, especially when we are young. It’s not merely for physical reasons, it’s just that young people tend to have idealistic and preconceived notions about love and romance. Mature adults develop a deeper understanding of intellectual and carnal pleasures. The older I get the more my perception of these things changes, thus affecting my understanding of the kiss, love, sex, and that which I find sexy. At one time I did believe that you needed to kiss someone to fall in love with them. I can say without a doubt that education has stimulated my appreciation of that which is platonic. Not that I think those with platonic relationships should never or would never kiss, but my thoughts on that would only complicate this piece.

Between 1895 and 2012, the kiss has gone from conservative to liberal on the “osculating” rate scale. The Eau Claire Evening Telegram called kissing “osculation” in an 1895 article titled “Art of Kissing.” How many of you have heard that word before? My guess is not many! I prefer the word “frenching” myself. That 1895 news article claimed that the “kiss plays an important part in history.” A kiss was considered “commingled feelings of lovers,” or “a seal on the union of souls,” or “a signature to the contract of hearts.” I did find that the 1895 article confirmed my thoughts on the eroticism of the kiss. The author said that “on the whole, poets have been more enthusiastic over kisses than oven love itself.”

The Daily Iowa Capital newspaper published “The Delight of the Kiss” in 1896 and called “osculation a theme of the great poets and writers.” One writer goes as far to say that kissing isn’t really kissing at all. Dr. Taylor “declares” that tribes “rub noses” and he says that the “prevailing salute” used by “over half the world” is actually “smelling” or “sniffing.” I find it funny that after quoting Dr. Taylor and discussing the “prevailing salute,” the author quotes Aristanetus the ancient Greek epistolographer. Aristanetus once said that a kiss was “the sweet mingling of souls.” Here we can again see the deeper connection which surpasses that which is physical.

In the 1940s, journalists were still referencing the kiss with that mechanical word. In 1941, Walter Winchell speculated that there were “still people who” didn’t “know the joys of osculation” in the Daily Mirror. At this point I had to wonder if most didn’t know the joy because they were straight scared of that word? It doesn’t exactly push my mind into romance mode. What about you? He then goes on to talk about how a “Chicago gent once sued his wife for divorce because she kissed another man over the telephone.” Hum? Maybe it was actually a connection of minds that man was more troubled by? I’m sure Winchell didn’t exactly encourage others to kiss by saying that people were in legal trouble for kissing in parked cars, on doorsteps, or God forbid in “broad daylight!”

By 1962 the “public” paranoia about kissing was peaking. Gazette Mail ran an article which was simply titled “Public” and the headline was followed by a big question mark. It would be interesting to look at intimacy issues of the time period to see if there is any correlation to anything other than “how people are brought up.” This makes me wonder if the roots of candy and all the other Valentine’s Day junk got their start here? Dr. Robert O. Blood was questioned for this gem. The article says that “some people who might otherwise be disposed to show affectionate regard in public have learned not to do so through bitter experience.” The article features a large image with a caption which reads “Hello Kiss at airport between JFK and Jackie on her arrival home from Greece embarrassed him.” Really?

She Gets The Kiss

“She Gets the Kiss”
c1898~ Image No. LC-USZ62-66319
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

It wasn’t until 1978 that I was able to see that the views on kissing had really transformed. The Winnipeg Free Press ran an article titled “A kiss is just a kiss…or is it? Kissing customs changing.” I was happy to see the change, though that damn mechanical word was still there. The article read “kissing has gone through several metamorphoses through the years. The on-screen style of smooching has progressed from proper, closed mouth kisses and a let-your-imagination-be-your-guide fade-out to today’s erotic open-mouthed osculation, which leaves little to your imagination.” But isn’t this what everyone needed? In this piece we can even see a few pointers~ one of which recommends that we kiss with our eyes by “giving the object of your affection a loving, longing look across a crowded room.” There is that mind connection again.

The Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph published “The Kiss” in 1994. This is where it gets interesting because we start to see references to psychology. A quote in this article would seem superficial to most, but we must remember we are talking about a master of the mind. The “uniquely Freudian thought” which is quoted says “the kiss between the mucous membrane of the lips of two people is held in high esteem among many nations, in spite of the fact that the parts of the body involved do not form part of the sexual apparatus but constitute the entrance to the digestive tract.” Here we see Freud separate sex from the kiss and the mind. In the articles I found between 1895 and 1978, this had not been done.

Meet Me at the Fountain

“Meet Me at the Fountain”
c1908~ Image No. LC-USZ62-58857
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Today kissing and the connection of love, sex, and pleasure has been studied by neurologists and psychologists worldwide. In 2012 an article by William Loeffler was published in the Monessen Valley Independent. The article had the words science, psychologist, scientific, biologists, anthropologists, and historians. I loved this one! The word osculation is only in the dictionary now! It has been replaced by scientific or psychological terms, which I am ok with. Loeffler interviewed a woman who wrote a book on the science of kissing for this piece. Her name was Mary Kirshenbaum. He asked her “but does all this scientific analysis take all the romance out of the kiss?” She responded to Loeffler by saying “it really doesn’t take the magic away at all, but it gives us a better understanding of ourselves.”

When it comes to a holiday which is intended for romance and “magic,” we should remember what is really essential to our happiness. The mind is what is actually behind the art of a kiss and the “seal on the union of souls.” If our minds are not in it a kiss is indeed just a kiss, sex is just sex, candy is just candy, and we lose the face to face intimacy that makes us feel wanted and loved. A kiss~ even if it is only in the mind can be more sensual and satisfying than the most expensive box of chocolates~ so indulge.

Explore posts in the same categories: Analysis, Articles, Authors, Body and Mind, Connection, History, Holiday, Journalism, Journalists, Pleasure and Pain, Psychology, Quotes, Worthy Reads, Writers, Writing

2 Comments on “Of Kisses: The Story of Tongues”

  1. Sahm King Says:

    I once fell in love with a girl that I never kissed. That said, I’ve always believed kissing was an integral part of a relationship. I take lack of kissing as a sign that things may be sour… Of course, myself considering Self a master of such things, I tend to read much into the act of kissing, which is why I would never kiss anyone who is not my girlfriend. I’m so stringent that this even extends to family.

    If couples stop kissing, there’s change in the wind.


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