He used to kiss her on her lips, but it’s all over now 

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One of the great movie kisses of all time… Rhett Butler kisses Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind” with the words: “You need kissing badly”.

“The mouth has a higher count of microbial flora (bacteria) than the anus. Someone who hasn’t regularly brushed and flossed their teeth might well have more bacteria in their mouth than there are humans on this planet,” writes CLIVE WILLIAMS in a column of whimsy…  

AUSTRALIANS seem generally confused about kissing protocols, possibly because of multiculturalism and different ethnic norms. 

Columnist Clive Williams.

Kissing can of course take several forms, including cheek-kissing, lip-kissing, and air-kissing. 

It has become common in Australia for a male to kiss a female on the cheek on renewing acquaintanceship and when parting company. 

In some ethnic groups a single kiss is the custom, while in others a kiss on each cheek is the norm or, in extreme cases, three or four kisses on alternating cheeks.  

The air-kiss is becoming more common, presumably due to American influence. This involves embracing the person and kissing the air near the cheek, while the cheeks themselves may or may not touch. 

Following a first date, it’s common for a couple to give each other a quick kiss on the cheek (or lips) to indicate a good time was had by the kisser and kissee – and perhaps to indicate an interest in a more intimate relationship. 

Kissing does have some health benefits. It stimulates the production of hormones responsible for a good mood: oxytocin (releases feelings of love), endorphins (releases happiness feelings) and dopamine (stimulates the pleasure centre in the brain).  

Regular kissing is said to protect against depression. Kissing studied in a controlled experiment showed that increased kissing in marital and cohabiting relationships resulted in a reduction in perceived stress, an increase in relationship satisfaction, and even a lowering of cholesterol levels. 

However, greeting-kissing can have some adverse health effects. Most notably for the kisser when infected by a virus implanted on a warm cheek or lips by someone else’s kiss. Kissing on the lips can also result in the transmission of various diseases, including infectious mononucleosis and herpes simplex.  

Mononucleosis can cause a high fever, swollen lymph glands in the neck and armpits, and a sore throat. The infection is typically not serious and usually resolves without treatment in one to two months.  

There’s no cure for herpes simplex, but the good news is that resultant cold sores often clear up without treatment.  

Hollywood has perpetrated the notion that kisses should involve lots of tongue-in-mouth activity. The so-called French or Hollywood kiss is one in which sexual partners use their tongues energetically to stimulate each other for mutual sexual pleasure while simultaneously tearing off the other person’s clothing. 

Disturbingly however, the mouth has a higher count of microbial flora (bacteria) than the anus. A typical human mouth contains billions of them. Someone who hasn’t regularly brushed and flossed their teeth might well have more bacteria in their mouth than there are humans on this planet.  

COVID-19 has, of course, limited much of the “normal” kissing activity, but it might be prudent in future to only “greeting-kiss” the cheek of relatives and air-kiss the rest. 

As for kissing the lips and mouth, regular partners probably already share the same microbial flora so no harm done, but new-relationship kissing should probably be conducted with caution until the oral hygiene habits of the prospective partner have been established. 

Clive Williams is a Canberra columnist

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