Monday, February 14, 2005

The Healing Power of a Kiss

The other day on the WeLL, Judith Newman (author of You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: Diary of a New (Older) Mother, Miramax, 2004) made a poignant comment in the parenting conference. She was discussing her twins, Henry and Gus, now toddlers. "You know what's one of the few things about these early years I'll genuinely miss? The healing power of the kiss."

Judith was talking about bumped elbows and bruised knees, but it made me feel, in a way, a little sad. How is it that we as adults forget the healing power of the kiss?

At 12 or 14, our first kiss is exciting in the mystery and anticipation of where it will lead. In college, we learn a kiss can be equally passionless. Later, we discover a peck on the lips at the end of a date generally means he's not calling, and after a few breakups, we decide a kiss isn't to be trusted. We learn the lesson that no matter how much you wish he loved you, you can't make it true.

In our 20s, we became jaded. We began to think a kiss was meaningless, only about control or need. At some point, we even discovered we didn't even need to love the person whose lips were touching ours. Sex became easy, and kissing became complacency. And worse, we found that a kiss became different yet again. It was harder to give. It was personal. It was the last bit of yourself that you had to share with someone.

In a marriage -- our friends' or even our own -- we watched the kiss that sealed the vow become the blessing on the bargain. Then we watched it devalue it itself as it became an easy way out, an explanation, an escape for everything we couldn't say, understand, or explain. Somewhere along the line, it became easier to kiss the pain away than apologize and give it words. Somehow, without us realizing, the kiss became less about a child's magic and innocent belief in healing and more like medicine, designed to mask the symptoms. We've learned that a kiss can't heal a failed relationship or a broken heart.

I heard a statistic the other day. Children laugh up to 400 times a day and adults only 15. Like Judith's observation, it struck me as incredibly sad. How is it that we lose the childlike ability to enjoy our lives, enjoy our love, and let a simple thing like a kiss heal?

If I were a better Christian, I'd turn a lovely phrase about how love heals all wounds and helps all things. But all I can say today, on this day of all days, is to think about what your kiss can heal, no matter how small. Maybe a bumped elbow or a bruised heart -- even if it's not of your making. Kiss someone today. Make it count. Wish it so. Make it heal.


At Mon Feb 14, 10:30:00 AM, Blogger Doug said...

You know the fun part though? When you have a kid, you get to relearn all about the magic of kisses and laughter.

Last night, my son (about 17 months old) was playing with one of my ties. He was just twirling around his head, spinning around, before falling to the ground, laughing and dizzy. Watching and laughing with him was a great way to spend part of an evening.

Don't get me wrong, there are numerous downsides to being a parent, but one of the important upsides is being able to see the world through their eyes a little bit.

At Mon Feb 14, 12:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting words but, let us not forget the millions of children who never felt the love of a parent. This Valentine's Day, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or sending chocolates to our "special" friends, let's deliver our love to those who need it the most. Hope everyone is well. AEM


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