First kiss can make or break relationship

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Turns out, Louis Armstrong had it all wrong. A kiss is not just a kiss, at least not when it's the first time. In fact, a new study has found a first kiss can actually make or break a relationship. It's that complicated - and that fundamental.

The findings, published in last month's edition of the online journal Evolutionary Psychology can be boiled down to this: Guys, when you pucker up, you could be mucking it up.

Poor you. It hardly seems fair that you have to worry about the quality of a first kiss when you're already obsessing about first impressions and when to plant a kiss in the first place, right?

But there you go. Researchers based at the State University of New York at Albany found even though over half of you guys consider a first kiss a mere stepping stone to sex (you dogs, you!), women are more sensitive to such things as texture, smell and taste. They will make snap decisions about whether you're worth it based on, say, the amount of your saliva and how much pressure and tongue you use. It's all apparently part of an evolutionary checklist developed over thousands of years in which we, the fairer sex, use kissing to determine the fatherhood potential of guys we date.

Really. Maybe it was the first kiss that made me agree several years ago to a second date with a man who had just licked off his butter knife in the middle of a restaurant, a disgusting public display if I ever saw one. (Well, I can't think of another reason!)

In all, 1,041 college students filled out three questionnaires that measured such ephemera as kissing preferences and styles. Students who admitted they had never kissed someone in a romantic or sexual manner were excluded, as were those who indicated a preference for kissing only, or mostly, members of the same sex. Gosh, I suppose same-sex kissing would prove rather problematic for the researchers' hypothesis, for it would be out of the realm of evolutionary possibility, where everything has a reason, no?

Better, perhaps, to listen to Gordon Gallup, the evolutionary psychologist who headed the study: he says that subconscious and near instantaneous assessments are made through "vigorous tongue contact and the exchange of saliva."

Certainly, the description leaches all the excitement and joy out of kissing, an act that I consider to be the most romantic of all. Imagine having someone say at the end of a first date, "May I engage in a bit of vigorous tongue contact, then?"

Like, no thank you.

Of course, Gallup is right in one respect. An informal poll of my women friends proved as much. We all dreamed when we were younger of that first kiss, we all remember when it happened and we all believe that if a partner is a bad kisser, then the sex will probably be bad, too.

"It's the first body fluid you exchange!" said one, who added her first kiss, which happened when she was 12 years old, was so awful, the budding relationship went belly up. "I thought, 'Omigod, I just caught germs and I'm going to die.' "

Another exclaimed: "Of course, it's important. And most men don't know how to kiss, while most women do. We have to teach them, so maybe it's not the quality of a first kiss so much as it is the sense that they are open to learning."

Grumbled a third: "I don't want to teach them. I want someone else to." I cut her off because she was getting off topic.

In the end, what do women like in a first kiss? Something soft, firm and short. Something that's not so wet that we feel like we're going through an automatic car wash, but not so dry that there's no hint of passion. Something in which a tongue behaves itself and doesn't move invasively to the back of a throat.

Something, then, that is a prelude to a relationship that may last a month or a lifetime of them.

C'mon. Did we really need a study to tell us that?

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© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007