Wrap your lips around this

21:13, Jun 30 2013
PUCKER UP: Research shows men and women approach kissing differently.

Fifty-eight hours, 35 minutes and 59 seconds. It'sa long time when you think about it. Almost two and a half days. A sort of long weekend. Enough time to bake 58 carrot cakes or walk up Mt Maunganui about 38 times. You could catch up on the first five seasons of Mad Men if you really wanted to.

Or, this coming Saturday, you could celebrate International Kissing Day by breaking the Guinness World Record for the longest smooch - the current one of 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds was set in Thailand on Valentine's Day this year. Two and a half days with your face stuck to someone else's, your tongue tickling someone else's tonsils.

Just to keep the romance alive, there was no stopping during bathroom breaks, either. It sounds like hard work - and kissing kind of is. First there's the basic logistics of when, where, how, why - oh, and who - to think about. Then the physical act of smooching: a masterful feat of muscular coordination involving all 34 facial muscles as well as 112-odd postural muscles.

Making out is quite the workout. And a chemical cocktail - among the many hormones that start flying around when it's good are oxytocin (it promotes bonding), serotonin (increases obsessive-compulsive thoughts) and dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes you want to do it more - a similar effect happens when people use cocaine, apparently. But we all know that when it goes wrong, it stops being quite so fun. And sometimes it happens.

Sometimes you find yourself with a pashing partner who starts wandering down a path that's more dark, dingy alley than stairway to heaven - too wet, too dry, too much tongue, too soon. Too awkward. Luckily someone invented something that can be called onto fix all of life's annoying little problems.

If you Google "kissing", you'll be confronted withan almost uncomfortable amount of How To videos. There are photo galleries that break the art down into blow-by-blow steps. And yes, there is an app for that. It's overwhelming, and a little blush-inducing. Some of these deserve a Not Safe For Work sticker slapped on them, despite many offering hints on that all important first kiss. Seriously, what did kids do before iPads, laptops, and PCs? (Oh that's right, trial and error with the back of the hand - or bike sheds.)

When you put it all together, though, some general Dos and Don'ts emerge. Moist lips - good. Limp hands - bad. Licking of face - weird. Sorry to those of you cracked-lipped, dangly-armed folk who like pretending you're a small animal - science backs this up. And a few years back, one particular study found out something many of us have known for a while: men and women think differently, even about kissing.

The basics are simple: men like wetter kisses, open mouths and more tongue contact. A noisy, sloppy kiss is a good kiss for the boys. Women, on the other hand, want good teeth, fresh breath and soft lips. Oh, and something a little less drooly. And as a relationship progresses the purpose of locking lips, like many things, changes. For women, kissing is used to bond and measure the health of a partnership, while men are more likely to use their lips, rather than words, to try and end a fight. It's not an uncommon technique - bonobos and common chimpanzees sometimes kiss and embrace after arguing, too.

But back to that very first kiss, which can have a profound impact on a relationship's future. If it's bad, a couple might never get to that happy, bickering place. In that study, almost 66 percent of women said if someone was a bad kisser they became less attractive, less desirable. Bad kissing can be a sexual deal-breaker. Meanwhile,it revealed men were initially less discriminating when it came to deciding who to kiss or who to have sex with. The term "opportunistic maters" may have been mentioned. But in their defence it was men, rather than women, who found kissing to be more erotic.

If it is all turning pear-shaped, despite everything else suggesting you are two halves of a whole, not all is lost. You just have to be willing to put in some time, energy and whisper sweet words of encouragement. Dale Cameron, editor of local website Modern Etiquette, says it's always better to kindly point out when someone is making a mistake, rather than letting them go on none the wiser.

"When it comes to someone's quality of kissing, however, it becomes slightly trickier. Kissing is not something we get taught and it's not something which is easy to explain. So how someone kisses almost becomes a personal attribute; and criticism of it can be taken as harshly as comments about the shape of their ears or level of intelligence - not things that can easily be fixed," he says.

His advice to try and fix the situation is simple.

"Try to raise it in a light-hearted way and compliment as soon as they start doing it right. Other than that, all I can say is tread carefully and pick the right moment."

Perhaps try and figure it out before that 58 hours,35 minutes and 59 seconds countdown begins. 


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