Who, if not the inventive miniaturization-loving Japanese, could have thought of sending kisses across cyberspace using one’s tongue? Welcome to the digital age in which everything must be digitized, stored, altered, sent, received, recycled in a bin and finally emptied to make more room for more trash.
But first, some kiss history. The word came from Old English cyssan ‘to kiss’, which in turn came from coss ‘a kiss’. Kissing is recent development in western culture and is rarely mentioned in Greek literature. It only recently became a social gesture, a sign of refinement of the higher classes. In the east, the same refinement was once seen writ large on the faces of the men who frequented the rooftop dens of ultra-refined dancing girls of affluent Lucknow.
It is believed kissing was quite rare among the lower and semi-civilized races but was firmly established as instinctive in the advanced societies—whatever the word ‘advanced’ means. The kiss seems to have been unknown to the ancient Egyptians, which makes one wonder about the hold of Cleopatra on Marcus Antonius. However, the kiss was well-established in early Greece, Assyria, and India.
Today, science has convinced us by showing us brain scans of people involved in lovely relationships and found that after that first magical meeting, a complex system in the brain is activated which mimics what a person experiences when under the influence of cocaine. In studies of affection between paramours, when the human guinea pigs viewed images of their partners, the reward and motivation systems (in the ventral tegmental area) was found flooded with dopamine, an internal chemical that is released when one undertakes something exciting.
Kissing requires tremendous muscular coordination of 34 facial and 112 postural muscles, the most important one being the kissing muscle (orbicularis oris) which is used to wrinkle the lips. Lips have numerous nerve endings which make them sensitive to touch and bite. And in the case of the French kiss, the tongue plays an important role.
Affection does reduce stress. When kissing was studied in experiments, it was found that an increase in the frequency of kissing in marital and cohabiting relationships resulted in a reduction of perceived stress, an increase in relationship satisfaction, and a lowering of cholesterol levels. One can now better understand why they convinced the masses to consume fewer eggs instead of promoting marathon kissing sessions.
Kissing causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and norepinephrine into the blood, which brings on an adrenaline rush that benefits the cardiovascular system. When the heart pumps faster during a passionate kiss, one may burn up to three calories per minute—not that lovers carry with them calorie counters.
Of course, most Christians overemphasize the ‘Jesus is love’ bit and neglect his struggle against sodomy in the God’s temples and usurious practices of the rabbis and derive greater inspiration from the second verse of the song of Solomon 1:2 from the Old Testament:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth
For thy love is better than wine
Medicinal properties and religious inclinations aside, kisses could become the next big business with servers across the world dedicated to nothing but storing the lip-prints and audio signatures of millions of cyber-kissers. When thieves begin to steal famous kisses and the Wall Street bankers sell them to vulnerable investors, the police will appear with not fingerprint experts but rather with kiss-and-tell specialists. And whether its Osama or Obama, everyone kisses, therefore, terrorists at-large and those on Washington’s Capitol Hill will all be caught using only their kiss signatures.
This conspiracy of inventing a contraption capable of ‘getting two people so close together that they can't see anything wrong with each other’ in cyberspace was hatched in Tokyo's Kajimoto Laboratory. The device allows French kissing over the Internet by flapping the tongue on a plastic straw to make another plastic straw flap remotely on someone else's tongue.
The French, before they started imposing fines on veiled Muslim women, were a polite and tolerant people. The reason they clung for so long to ‘preserving the French habit of kissing ladies' hands was that they believed that a man needed to ‘start somewhere.’ Later they invented French kissing (sucking lips, moving tongues) but today the bitter truth is that a French man can ‘drive safely while kissing a pretty girl because he is unable to give the kiss the attention it deserves.’
The Japanese remote kissing device, a motorized box, resembles a police Breathalyzer used for finding out if a driver is or is not drunk. It converts circular movements of one’s tongue through motors into a kiss that can be felt across the seven seas. I would much rather prefer a kiss that can be felt across one’s entire body.
Now let us look at the Kiss Machine. When one manipulates a plastic tube on one device using the tongue, a computer program stores the movements on a computer and transmits them to another device, causing its tube to move in the mouth of a distant loved one. The inventor actually wishes to rescue long distance relationships with this ‘kiss transmission devices’ (KTD) by transmitting the tactile sensation of kissing from one person to another. The information can be saved and replayed repeatedly.
The researchers seem to realize that most people might not exactly find licking a plastic tube a sensational replacement for the real thing because even the worst kiss comes with a sense of taste, breath noises and plenty of moistness produced by interactive tongues. The inventors aim to re-create all of those wonderful feelings. Will be soon have wet mouse-pads, speakers that make wonderful ‘mmm’ sounds or inflatable dummies to do our bidding? Are we being changed to hide behind our computer screens?
Just as there are full-contact Karate competitions, in the near future we might have full-on person-to-person experience over the Internet. The inventor of the Kiss Machine dreams of having popular entertainers use his device to record kisses that could generate global interest and profit. I do not think all our social ills and financial woes will evaporate once we begin to swipe our tongues over plastic straws.
There are more serious issues such as how might one decide if the person on the other side is experiencing kissing for the first time? In 1948, the Ladies Home Journal insisted that ‘it takes a lot of experience for a girl to kiss like a beginner.’
Kisses too, like most other things in life, have been categorized into types such as adolescent, sexual/romantic, non-sexual, affection, religious, peace, respect, friendship, and those shown by the entertainment industry.
Once the Japanese start rolling out from their factories the new clever invention, we will have a new breed of kiss criminals (kissminals), or simple people who get caught in the act by their loved ones. The need of the hour is to start cooking the right excuses immediately, such as: honey I was just improving my tongue’s motor skills; sweetheart I was NOT really kissing another woman but rather just a straw; darling I was going to try this on you once I was finished here; or as Chico Marxsaid, “I wasn't kissing her, I was whispering in her mouth.”
Ladies and gentlemen, in the near future, if you find your spouse innocently tonguing a straw late into the night imagining you might be asleep, consider my simple recipe: don’t argue, don’t destroy the crockery, but firmly plant a kiss on his lips that does not taste like plastic because ‘a kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.’
©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2011
©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2011