A pucker starts with 34 facial muscles, plus a few muscles in your head, neck, and shoulders as you tip your head forward. Your jawbone dips, lips touch, and your brain produces four different chemicals that can create a whirlwind of emotions. Heart rate races, oxygen enters, at least 26 calories evaporate. There, you’ve just kissed.
Kissing is an expression that most people have experienced since they were babies, but the intricacies of a romantic smooch still baffles the uninitiated. “Every kiss from infancy on reverberates with deeply felt echoes of attachment, pleasure, feeling good, and gives kissing its emotional power,” writes Leonore Tiefer of the Kinsey Institute. “The lips and tongue have large representation in the brain — every infant must suckle to survive. As we suckle, we feel, and we don’t forget.”
A kiss’s meaning might sound intimidatingly primal. For some down-to-earth advice, Violet Blue, sex educator and the author of “Seal It With a Kiss: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques for Delivering the Knockout Kiss,” has some tips. A kiss can be a barometer of chemistry, and Blue gets many questions from people who want to maximize their odds — for instance, how to improve kissing, what’s the best kissing trick, and the worst kissing mistakes.
For starters, practice is key. “If you don’t have anyone to practice with, you can experiment with testing smooch sensations on the sensitive palm of your hand. But please wash it first,” says a fastidious Blue. Once you’ve practiced on your own, it might be good to try with a willing participant. But how do you know if the person wants to kiss you?
If they’re tight-lipped, forget it. A more welcoming sign, suggests Blue, is “if their lips are relaxed — they mirror your body language.” She suggests that you nibble on some mint leaves, sip delicious coffee or tea, or even scent your breath with the essence of chocolate. Avoid these faux pas: “smelly breath, scary noises, lots of drool, or face-chewing like a zombie.” Noted.
So, to review: a sensitive palm for practice, plenty of fresh mint leaves, and enough facial muscles to pull together a pucker, and you too can find an answer to “how to kiss.” Who to kiss, however, is another question altogether.
Before joining Yahoo! as a Search editor, Eugenia Chien was a reporter at New America Media in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, on KQED, and on KALW. She crushes on geek heroes, transit enthusiasts, and animal lovers.