Rwanda: What’s in a Kiss Anyway?

I always watch as parents – in Africa – fear to kiss in the presence of their children. I also watch when on a date couples shy away when the waitress/waiter walks in on them kissing or people with whom they are seated watch them in disbelief. And then there is this couple too afraid to kiss each other goodbye at the airport! And this guy who wants to kiss a girl he has met and flirted with for a few minutes in club on a night out and kisses her sometimes against her will. And all this gets me wondering, what’s in a kiss?

When growing up most of our parents taught us that it is bad. I watched as my own parents discouraged my baby sister from kissing among others my father something he himself had made her used to. Apparently she was growing and would soon begin misusing the kissing other people and it would then be BAD. But our colleagues in the western world don’t think so. They teach their children at an early age that kissing is the currency of affection. Their parents will freely kiss in their presence and so kids will learn that people who love one another always kiss.

When people exchange vows, they are told to “kiss the bride” signifying that their commitment has been sealed with a kiss. Parents always kiss their babies from the day they are born to express their love and adoration for them. There is always that first kiss that brings most couples together after which they never look back about the way they feel about each other. But why must people think a kiss is such a big deal sometimes seen as an abomination or an unholy act.

“Get a room already!” is a sentence that couples kissing on a date will most likely hear being whispered in their direction or sometimes being expressed on their neighbour’s faces. But one thing you should understand – if you are one of those who will say this – is that some people like to flaunt their being in love and do not care whatsoever about public displays of affection. Many people say couples who are all lovey-dovey in public often have a torrent private life filled with more bad than good moments. But I beg to differ.

For all you know, that couple on the next table behaving like brother and sister, could have worse upheavals. Just because you are not physically expressive does not mean one has to look for something else to do with their lips when they want to plant a kiss on their beau’s cheeks. President Obama and his wife Michelle do it in front of millions of people! You just have to find a way to deal with it. What they are doing is not illegal; they are adults, and that is just the way they are. And as Africans we absorb cultures into our own like no other race in the world I know.

So if your argument is really about kissing not being alright with society, then your argument is rendered null and void. And if it is children we want to protect – rated PG – you must know one thing – affection often happens on the spur of the moment, so one is not going to first look around and look for a safe zone in order for them to be affectionate.

Besides, that child you are hiding from probably knows a lot more than you think – have you thought about that? Kids are not so innocent these days.

Married couples will know that the steam in their relationship is dying out when the kissing is no longer that intense or has altogether stopped. A new survey from the British Heart Foundation found that one in five married couples can go a whole week without kissing each other at all — and it gets worse as you they get older. Only one in five married people over 45 years of age manages more than 30 kisses a week. What are the other 80? per cent of married people doing? Certainly, it is dangerous to the health of a couple to let the kissing stop. The loss of kissing is the loss of intimacy. When it stops, you can blame the other person or you can take a hard look at yourself.

Kissing stops because of anger, because of resentment, because of boredom, repulsion or sheer habit. The absence of kissing can be a darker message, too. Maybe the non-kisser is kissing someone else? Thus when couples want to resuscitate their marriage, they start again with the gentle give-and-take kiss. Now, that’s how important a kiss can be. Many of my friends have confessed that they can’t date a bad kisser.

I have had trouble trying to get Charles – a friend of mine to understand kissing in public. He argues that: “In Africa we don’t kiss to express love. The few who do don’t do it in public.” he says. “How do I explain to my three year old daughter what I am doing to her mother and why?” he asks. And he maintains that his standard reference, which has never disappointed him, is that every publicly kissing couple is either foreign, recently married or not married at all. He even says that there are exceptions where a rival may be in the vicinity and a statement has to be made by either partner.

It is a shame people want to throw stones at a kissing couple but will care less about a partner who abandons their child. So until you can give me a valid reason as to why people should not kiss in public, I will always applaud their braveness after all what’s in a kiss. As a matter of fact leave people to enjoy themselves, I let them.

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