Kiss and Tell
Every so often, one of my friends calls to tell me she's metsomeone new and is utterly smitten. What happens after she makes thisannouncement follows a certain pattern. I offer congratulations. She expresses guarded optimism. I ask what the new guy is like. And then, if the report isfavorable, we get down to the real nitty-gritty: can he kiss? Now, ifthe friend and I were fictional characters - in the movies, or on TV- we'd probably never raise the kissing question. Instead, we'dconsider trivialities, like whether the guy is cute, or rich. We'danalyze what make of car he drives, or whether he's "good in thesack." Little-known fact, however: none of the above counts nearly somuch as kissing. If you're evaluating a potential mate, the kissingquestion is where it's at. Sharon Stone may realize this. It was Stone, I believe, who ina recent interview complained that kissing is tragically underrated.She's correct (and no doubt has done her homework), but I suspectshe's speaking of the mere pleasure of kissing: kissing asbutton-pusher. When my friends and I discuss whether someone can kiss, that'sonly part of what we mean. We're also assuming (based on our ownhomework) that kissing ability is the key to a person's character, ametaphor for how the kisser acts in non-smooching situations of allkinds. We've often found, in other words, that unless it'smanufactured by Hershey's, a kiss is not, as the old song goes, justa kiss. A kiss is a little dossier you can read, if you'rekiss-literate. Sadly, much of the population receives little or no instructionin kiss literacy. Young unkissed people routinely write to AnnLanders and Dear Abby pleading for instruction, begging to know howto kiss. But the advice columnists pussyfoot around the specifics.Back before my first kiss, I could never understand their reticence. Now, of course, I do. A good kiss is part technique, partinstinct: you can't write a prescription for it. "Can he kiss?" I askmy friend. And if she answers in the affirmative, I require nodetails. We make sounds of approval and say nothing more. The man inquestion is a good kisser: therefore, he's probably sensitive,thoughtful, attentive, and (added bonus related to coordination) anexcellent driver, to boot. A good kisser gets the benefit of the doubt. Case closed. A bad kisser is a different story altogether. Bad kissingcan be analyzed endlessly. And it frequently is analyzed endlessly,since analysis is the only pleasurable thing that can be done withbad kisses. So rampant is bad kissing that, with a little help frommy friends (especially one West Coast blonde with whom several meneach month fall in love), I've been able to identify certain kissingdisorders - disorders than can be loosely correlated with characterweaknesses. Let's begin with the messiest. Disorder: Salivary Abundanosis "The kiss," according to F.Scott Fitzgerald, "originated when the first male reptile licked thefirst female reptile, implying in a subtle, complimentary way thatshe was as succulent as the small reptile he had for dinner the nightbefore." But F. Scott Fitzgerald was writing about tasting someone,not sloshing the person with spittle mid-kiss, which is what kissersafflicted with Salivary Abundanosis do every time. Prognosis: a slobbery kisser will likely turn out to be anuntidy person who crumples the pages of your magazines. Never quiterinses food down the disposal. Can't remember where he put the rentcheck. Very bad omen. Disorder: Fidothrusticus Abnormalis A person afflicted withFidothrusticus Abnormalis kisses like an excited dog, tongue first.This is invasive, illogical, and upsetting. Prognosis: may signal that the kisser possesses littlesubtlety or understanding of personal space. Possible tendency toread your mail, speak ill of his mother, and criticize the way yourfurniture is arranged. At the first signs of FidothrusticusAbnormalis, evacuate yourself from the relationship. Disorder: Draculitis Common name: biting disorder. Rememberhow, in Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts refused to kiss Richard Gere atfirst, even though she was a prostitute servicing him in severalother capacities? Julia was probably worried that Richard might haveDraculitis. To kiss someone is to make yourself vulnerable, and abiter (or someone who lets his teeth pinch you), takes advantage ofthat vulnerability. Prognosis: might in the long run permanently "borrow" yourCDs, or make offhanded but hurtful remarks about your wardrobe. Run,don't walk, from a person with Draculitis. Disorder: Proboscal Impedimentoria Designates the type ofkisser who can't ever seem to negotiate whose nose goes on whichside. Endearing at first, Proboscal Impedimentoria eventually grateson the nerves. R Prognosis: a person with P.I. can rarely make decisions,lead, or successfully compromise. Tread gently. Disorder: Proboscal Accompanoia Indicates those who breatheloudly or whistle through the nostrils while kissing, providing anunintentional soundtrack to the action. Prognosis: prognosis not really necessary in this case, I wouldthink. Disorder: Cinematosis A/k/a Warren Beatty syndrome. Aperson with Cinematosis moves his head about excessively whilekissing, as if performing for a hidden camera. Prognosis: never passes a mirror without checking hisreflection in it, always plays the car stereo too loudly, talks aboutwhat a "cute couple" you and he make, and wears designer socks.Disaster waiting to happen. Disorder: Hoover's Syndrome Roughly the opposite of Salivaryabundanosis. A person with Hoover's Syndrome exerts a powerfulsuction force throughout the kiss, stealing the kissee's breath andbruising her lips. Prognosis: possible precursor to selfish transgressions such asasking the kissee to pick up every tab and making the kissee alwaysbe the one to clean the tub. Disorder: Digestitoria Controlexia The second-most-dire kissingdisorder yet identified, in which the kisser, in the middle of anotherwise sublime kiss, burps. Prognosis: isolated episodes forgivable, but regularoccurrences merit medical attention. Disorder: Fireworkicus Combustularia Listed last because it isby far the most insidious. A kisser with Fireworkicus Combustulariatries to make every kiss a major event, and often succeeds, therebyblinding you to his other faults. We must all be on special lookoutfor kissers with F.C., as they are so easily mistaken for truly goodkissers. Prognosis: a person with F.C. has many tricks up his sleeve -tricks you do not want to experience first-hand. Listing the above disorders on paper makes it seem all the moremiraculous to me that good kissers do exist. And it is miraculous.The ability to kiss well is a rare talent - perhaps learnable,perhaps not. "Can he kiss?" I ask my friend, as delicately aspossible. And she answers with care, knowing how intently I'mlistening. Will it be . . . Cinematosis? The dreaded ProboscalAoaoccompanoia? You can't predict these things just by looking at aperson, or observing how he acts; often, the most unlikely peopleexhibit a flair for kissing, while the likeliest do not. Never in a trillion years would I ask one of my friends ifher new fellow is "good in the sack." Never. But if she's looking forsome insights into the suitability of a match, the kissing questionmust be broached. The answer to it, just like the kiss in the fairy tale, canturn a frog into a prince. Or vice versa.