When I was ten years old, I lived with my parents, my sister and brother in Berlin. It was an exciting life, seeing new sights and having amazing experiences. However, I do remember from those many, many years ago something that disturbed me very much and that I did not understand then, as I do now, as a cultural difference. My mother let other men kiss her, not on her lips or her cheek as my father kissed her, but on her hand. I watched as a male friend bent slightly from the waist, my mother extended her hand, and that hand, my mother’s hand, was kissed, not only by one man, but a number of men on different occasions. I remember crying almost every time I witnessed this behavior.
Little did I know then, as I do now, that people kiss in different ways in different places in the world. Kissing the back of the hand was a common sign of respect in Victorian England as well as all over Europe in genteel circles.
The Eskimos, Polynesians and Malaysians rub noses rather than kiss lips as a way of showing affection and sexual interest. By the way, the Eskimos call making love laughing time. Among many Indian tribes, hand pressing was more a part of courtship custom than kissing. The Japanese male considered the nape of his partner’s neck more erotic than her lips.
Even in our own society, until TV and the movies glamorized kissing and gave everyone permission to copy what they saw, kissing was not as common among the less educated segments of society, whereas the more educated spent more time kissing and less in explicit sexual activity. Times have changed this!
The different ways in which societies view kissing certainly demonstrates the way sexual behavior is shaped by culture. If I had known that those kisses planted on my mother’s hand all those years ago were a sign of respect, rather than desire, my ten year old self would have been spared a lot of tears.
For those who enjoy the erotic pleasure of kissing someone they love on the lips, I say, "Vive la Difference."