September 25, 2019

“A kiss is a secret told to the mouth instead of the ear; kisses are the messengers of love and tenderness.— Ingrid Bergman

According to the Torah, a kiss is more than just a greeting; it represents loyalty. In the book of Exodus, God instructs Aaron to work with Moses to free the Israelites. Aaron greets Moses with a kiss. The kiss signifies their loyalty to each other, God and their faith. By working together, Aaron and Moses were able to free the Israelites.

Kissing is amazing. Almost everyone has done it and has had it done to them. Lovers kiss and mobsters kiss.  Some kisses we like and some we don’t. While I was growing up, my grandmother would put her lips to my cheek and work up a suction that almost took off half my face when she broke loose. I let her do it because I loved her and because I’d get $3 if I let her. 

We kiss animals, gravestones, mezuzots, tzitzit, tallitot, Torahs and even some walls in Israel. We kiss hello and goodbye. We kiss to congratulate, we kiss to comfort. We kiss photos of loved ones who have died. We kiss on one cheek, we kiss on two cheeks. We eat chocolate kisses. Dodger Stadium has the “Kiss Cam.” There’s a rock band named Kiss. There are long kisses and little pecks. There’s kiss and make up. If we don’t want to deal with people, we tell them to kiss off. Some religious Jews won’t kiss for two weeks a month and hardly ever in public. 

When I was a kid, they told me that mononucleosis was the “kissing disease.” I wanted to get mono but couldn’t find anyone who wanted to give it to me. 

I never knew how many kisses I had in me until we had our children. I’ve probably kissed my kids a few hundred thousand times. Any time my wife handed one of them to me, I’d rev up the kiss machine. She once left for three days and I forgot to feed them because I was so busy kissing them. You can do that only to your children and, to some extent, your grandchildren. If my neighbor asked me to hold their baby and I started to kiss him for 10 minutes straight, they would take away the baby and perhaps even move out of the neighborhood. But with my kids, I was unstoppable. 

Lovers kiss and mobsters kiss.  Some kisses we like and some we don’t.

My kids aren’t big on kissing me back. If I want to kiss them now, they’ll lower their heads and let me kiss them on the top of their skulls like they are the pope. 

A few months after my father died, I realized his birthday was coming up. I bought a birthday card and wrote inside, wishing him a happy birthday and that I hoped he was OK and signed it, “Love, Mark.” I put the card in the envelope, sealed it, found a mailbox, kissed the envelope — unaddressed — and dropped it in. 

Most of all, it’s nice to be kissed by someone you love and to kiss someone you love. Years ago, I had a breakfast appointment with my friend Irwin who was in his 80s. Irwin and his wife, Dottie, had been married almost 60 years and lived in a second-floor apartment, up a very long flight of stairs. At this point of his life, it was very difficult for Irwin to walk up and down the flight. Each step was arduous.

We were about a half a block away from his apartment when he said he had to go back home because he’d forgotten something. I told him I’d get it for him but he wouldn’t have it. He had to do it himself.

When he finally got to the top of the stairs, he knocked. Dottie opened the door and said, “Did you forget something?” Irwin said, “Yes. I forgot to kiss you goodbye.”

Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.

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