by Jennie S. Bev
A kiss is not just a kiss. It is more and sometimes it is less than itself. A kiss may mean many things, yet we all are so infatuated with kisses. We kiss and are kissed.
We love watching kissing movie scenes and cheer whenever we see lovebirds kiss each other. Kisses make us happy, meaningful, accepted and –occasionally– betrayed. Most kisses are warm and cheerful, but others are dry, cold and dreadful. While kisses make things happen, they also kill.
What a kiss means at any given time depends on how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. A kiss has the power to heal and to sicken. In a romantic relationship, a kiss is the arrival of two souls, two hearts, two minds, and of course, two warm lips.
Other kisses aren’t so literal or physical; some even are utterly vague, giving away no hint of sincerity. A kiss can be deadly too.
A mother kisses her baby as soon as they are born, signifying unconditional love and promise as a parent. A courtship is started with an anxious kiss. A groom kisses his bride to mark the beginning of their lifetime relationship. Friends kiss to greet each other.
Human conception is usually started with a kiss between two lovers followed by something else. Some kisses are wet, others are airy, telling of nothing more than selfishness.
Many cultures adopt kissing as a way of life. The Maoris of New Zealand, for instance, use their nose to kiss in friendly greeting. Among my friends, the gay ones give the best camaraderie kisses.
They give away a good amount of warmth and touch on the cheeks. Sometimes they greet me with a “Hello, Sweetie,” and a big smile as well.
New Yorkers are known to like kissing people they meet and have just met. Californians are more of huggers. They hug and, sometimes, they kiss too. The kiss, however, is slightly different. Californian kisses are more relaxed, while New England ones are quick, brief and oftentimes quite airy.
Indonesians don’t kiss much, as they are likely to be reserved in public life. Kissing hands, however, is strictly reserved for younger people toward their elders and wives toward their husbands. What an opposite to English gentlemen, who kissed ladies’ hands in the olden days. No “enchante” gesture for Indonesian ladies.
I recall how I “accidentally” grabbed a religious leader’s hand for a shake, which was quite an embarrassing incident. In his belief, touching a woman is considered sinful. I couldn’t change what happened, so I just wished that this sin of his be transferred to me, as I didn’t mind carrying it on his behalf. Then I wondered how heavy his sin could have been if I had accidentally kissed him on his cheeks. I didn’t want to know, to be honest.
Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, a deadly one. The type of kiss we don’t want to encounter ever. Yet we do stumble upon such a kiss from time to time. Whenever we are betrayed, we feel like a part of ourselves has been hammered into pieces.
A kiss from someone we love who is having an affair usually does it. But Judas’ kiss was much more than that. It was a kiss from a trusted friend.
Marilyn Monroe, the ultimate femme fatale, once said, “A wise girl kisses, but doesn’t love. Listens, but doesn’t believe. Leaves, before she is left.” Such a kiss is a loner’s kiss. Monroe was a lonely woman despite the admiring men around her and alleged affair she had with an American president. She died alone in her bed at a young age of 36. A wise girl’s kiss might have been the culprit of her loneliness and lonely passing, but who am I to think so?
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt is an example of the immortalization of a kiss in painting. This masterpiece is illustrated in gold and bronze, sprinkled with mosaics. The lovers are depicted on the edge of a bed of flowers.
The locking embrace makes this painting complete. The elements of trust and lust create an ambience of fairytale romanticism, hence the female lover is believed to symbolize a femme fatale. The sensuality of The Kiss travels beyond the canvas, building a tension of wanting to kiss and be kissed. A kiss can be divine too.
A kiss is a kiss, but it might not just be a kiss. A mother’s kiss is the purest and the most unconditional. A lover’s kiss completes our desire to be wanted.
A lonely soul’s kiss is a cry for sincere kindness from others. And whenever it is time to leave this world, we will receive kisses of farewell, other than a kiss from the Angel of Death.
Life is a series of kisses. Indeed.
The Jakarta Post, January 10, 2010