On International Kissing Day we recall the kisses we best remember, writes Rita de Brún.
Kisses travel. From lip to lip. Lover to lover. Mother to babe.
They’re fire on a rainy night. Joy on a sunny day. Ask anyone for their most memorable and chances are you’ll see a faraway look and a smiling mouth from which a much cherished tale tumbles out.
Ask radio and TV presenter Ruth Scott and she says: “The famous scene in The Notebook. Ryan Gosling grasped Rachel McAdams and says: ‘It wasn’t over for me. It still isn’t over.’ Then he mows the face off her.
“They were madly in love. This was their time to active it. I saw them recreate the kiss on stage for some TV award ceremony. It was cheesy. But I love it. I absolutely love it.”
She’s even more delightfully exuberant when recalling her own most memorable kiss: “It was the first time I kissed my husband, Rob Morgan. We’d gone on many, many coffee dates. He’d be asking friends: ‘Is this a date?’ They’d chorus: ‘Yes, it’s a date.’
“Eventually, I invited him to a ball I was MCing. That was the night we had our first kiss.” What does she remember about it? “That it was magical.” As she talks, it’s clear she’s really happy and in love. Listening to her reminisce is a treat.
Must we guess who initiated the kiss?
"He did, of course. We laugh about it now. We say had he not, we might still be just friends today."
Mr Morgan will doubtless be pleased by that anecdote.
The same may not apply to the spouse of vet, broadcaster and author, Pete Wedderburn on reading about his most memorable smooch.
“My wife, Joyce, won’t be impressed I’m sure,” he says with an enormous grin. “But my most memorable kiss was with Kiko our cross-breed terrier.
“She doesn’t normally sit on my lap, or at my feet. Around the house we’re not a family to pick up, kiss and cuddle our dogs. So one day, we’re sitting on the Virgin Media TV sofa together, Kiko and I, and I’m chatting about animals…”
Is your sitting with Kiko a security for her? I enquire.
“No. For me,” he laughs. “I like having her with me. She’s like my little security blanket.
“She has to sit with me on the sofa as she won’t be seen if she’s on the floor. She’s not used to sitting so close beside me. So this time, she leaned in and licked my lips. It was such a shock. But so memorable.” Has she kissed him since?
“These days, now that I know she’s prone to lip-kissing, I hold her quite tightly with my arms when I look down at her. So she can’t,” he laughs again.
But she has kissed him again? “She does do it quite a lot. She’s a bit promiscuous that way. But I wouldn’t recommend people let dogs lick their lips. Dogs put their faces into all sorts of horrible stuff.
“Take Kiko for instance. She has a predilection for picking treats for herself from the cat litter tray.”
Veteran actor and director Alan Stanford has no hesitation in naming his favourite movie kiss: “For me, the greatest of all screen kisses was in fact, technically, only half a kiss. The movie was To Have and Have Not. The actors were Bogart and Bacall.
“The moment was when she asked: ‘You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.’ And in that moment, her perfect mouth formed the perfect half of a perfect kiss. Heaven.”
He’s right. It was an iconic cinematic moment, an echo of which emerged years later. At the funeral of her husband Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall placed a whistle in the coffin. A touching reference to a beauteous line.
There are many reasons why we kiss. One of the more ‘out there’ among them, is to acquire the gift of eloquence. While that’s the traditional reason for kissing the Blarney Stone, most Americans do so to get the gift of the gab.
While telling me this, Paul O’Sullivan, marketing manager at Blarney Castle and Gardens, displays an extraordinarily chatty demeanour.
How many times has he kissed the Stone? “Hundreds.”
Did he become chattier as a result? “I did,” he says, grinning.
Smooching is less popular than you might imagine. Apparently, it’s not even a global phenomenon. 2015 academic research found that ‘romantic sexual kissing’ was widespread in only 46% of the 168 world cultures studied.
We can ponder these puzzling statistics, wondering whether or how much closed or minority cultures would open up to researchers on such an intimate topic. But the finding is there, for what it’s worth.
Other kissing statistics doing the rounds are clearly tripe and trumpery. We’re supposed to believe the average person spends around two weeks of their lives kissing.
This is codswallop, when you think how much smooching is done by new couples, honeymooners and the millions of high-libidoed lovers in thriving sexual relationships.
Kissing is usually a feel-good topic. But when it comes to kissing in public, there’s widespread awareness there can be unwanted repercussions, depending on who’s watching and where you are.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website advises that there have been ‘several arrests’ in the UAE for kissing in public. Public displays of affection in Bahrain are advised against.
Caution and discretion is recommended for travellers to India as ‘conservative attitudes’ towards homosexuality exist in parts of that country.
Click on ‘Romania’ and you’ll read that inappropriate or insensitive behaviour or activity in public is likely to offend others and risks prosecution or even a violent reaction. The list goes on.
International kissing etiquette is a bit of a quagmire. Take France for instance. A 2014 online study found kissing both cheeks to be the norm in Paris, compared with three in Provence and four in the Loire Valley.
In Brazil, as in France, the number of cheek kisses depends on the region you’re in. But in Argentina, Columbia, Chile, the Philippines, Belgium and Mexico, one cheek kiss is allegedly the norm.
The diversity of custom is enough to make the most enthusiastic of smoochers refrain and extend a hand to shake instead.
Unwanted kissing is universal. In recent weeks Miley Cyrus was grabbed and kissed by a stranger in a most distressing manner.
In recent months, it became apparent that ring-kissing is a papal nuisance, or so it seems from the somewhat hilarious online video which shows the Pope vigorously defending his digits from wannabe papal ring kissers.
Fear of germ-spreading was the official reason later given for his kissing avoidance manoeuvres.
A case of papal altruism then. Not philemaphobia (fear of kissing) — an image of phlegm conjuring, kiss-halting word if ever there was one.