Let Me Explain: Not enough ado about something

The Great American Kiss-Off has begun. Let me explain.

We (and when I say “we,” I mean this newspaper’s target audience: 20-something co-eds) put such an emphasis on bumping uglies that we forget an important part of it: kissing. And kissing can be awesome.

It can also be awful, and everyone remembers bad kissers they’ve encountered and hope to forget: The awkward ones who lean left when you lean right, the ones who use their tongue to clean your molars and the ones who smirk, lean back and drawl, “Ohhh, yeeaaahh.” May they die a swift death.

My worst kiss never happened. It was after a dance senior year of high school. Snow was gently falling around us, his jacket was on my shoulders and we had reached my car.

“Well,” he said.

“Well,” I said.

“I guess .” he stepped forward.

“Oh, yeah, the jacket,” I said, offering it back to him.

“I mean, well, yeah, I,” he stuttered.

“Oh. Oh, sorry. I just .”

“OK, well .”

And it went on like this for far longer and more painfully than anyone should endure. It ended up with me driving to a friend’s house with a question mark on my face, throwing open her front door, holding up my hands and asking, “What the hell happened?”

In great literature, the triumph of a relationship arrives with the first kiss: Beatrice and Benedick, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy . The main characters rarely lament a one-night stand, but they do either talk about how they knew it was love with one kiss, or the author decidedly ends the story with the kiss, as nothing greater could be achieved by those two characters.

According to a study in the scientific journal Evolutionary Psychology, women are more likely to use kissing as a way to assess prospective mates, and their taste detection senses are heightened during ovulation. In other words, we are manimals. But at least we don’t sniff each others’ bums to find someone to pay for dinner on Date Night.

Kissing is personal, and the study-“Sex Differences in Romantic Kissing Among College Students: An Evolutionary Perspective”-says that college men and women call kissing on the lips more intimate than cuddling, hugging or “kissing on the face”–which is an accident initiated by the aforementioned bad kissers. The study also says that some prostitutes refuse to kiss their clients in order to avoid emotional attachment, which I can second-not because I walk the streets myself, but because I have seen Pretty Woman.

Our culture seems to have an aversion to affection, or at least to the sentiment attached to a kiss. We don’t want to see a couple kiss in public, and friends seldom kiss hello, except if they’re friends with benefits. American men, especially, don’t want to seem “overly” friendly with their male friends by greeting them with a hug or a kiss on the cheek, but European men are confident enough in their sexuality to be open about their love for a friend.

Why should kissing lead to something? Kissing is not always a seduction, nor does it have to be a prelude to sex. Sometimes it’s just a safe way to get bee-stung Angelina lips without Collagen.

We’re in our 20s. There is plenty of time to sleep with strangers, make love to the wrong people and frantically count the days since Aunt Flo last visited. Kiss and say hello. Kiss and make up. Kiss and make out. Kissing can be just as sensual and exciting as tagging it-as long as you aren’t sloppy.

But if you are, there’s time to learn, grasshopper. There’s hope for you yet.