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Right in the Kisser

by Stephen Lautens


XXX

March 31, 2000

Dr. Judith Lapierre, a Canadian space researcher, announced earlier this week that she is withdrawing from a Russian space isolation research project.

She had spent 110 days with a group of male scientists in an isolation chamber designed by the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems to imitate conditions on a spaceship.

Then, during a New Year's Eve party in the isolation chamber, Dr. Lapierre said one of the Russian scientists dragged her off into a dark corner and kissed her, forcing his unwanted attentions - not to mention his tongue - on her.

No doubt he murmured the Russian equivalent of "theoretical astrophysicists from the former Soviet Union need love too".

The Russians have said here was nothing sexual about it. They just like to kiss each other, and we should just loosen up.

Lapierre has a doctorate in public health and social medicine, and so I'm inclined to believe her when she said it was sexual harassment and not just a friendly smack among fellow scientists.

Personally, I'm not even that big a fan of social kissing. I don't know what it is about people who barely know you who want to kiss you.

In my family (Protestant, awkward with our bodies) there was a great deal of love and affection, but it mostly manifested itself in hugs.

A hug on the way out the door or when coming home from a trip was just fine. But hugs are a nice, dry, Canadian way of showing affection. It's reassuring and allows you to share body heat.

Dad was big on hugs, and we got to the point as adults that we would hug at the end of our regular Wednesday lunch before we headed back to our offices.

But kissing wasn't something that was casually thrown around in my family.

Don't get me wrong. I like kissing plenty. I just restrict it to my wife. In fact, our friends can't believe that my wife and I show so much affection for each other after 10 years or marriage. There's still lots of hugs and pats.

But it's not that embarrassing kind of affection - the kind where you should either get a room or a tetanus shot. No one - myself included - wants to watch some couple playing tonsil hockey in public.

I also don't want strangers and distant relatives planting big wet ones on me. I get this moment of panic when someone in a social situation starts moving in for a "social" kiss.

I'll gamely offer up a cheek, but some women home in on your lips like a cruise missile. No matter how you try to dodge and evade, they'll hold your head and follow you in for a direct hit on the lips.

Usually I'll end up mashing noses, since I freeze and don't tilt my head to one side to make the approach any easier. My lips disappear into my face, and I never know what to do with my hands, so I either stick them straight out or let them dangle at my side.

My eyes will dart back and forth looking for an escape, pleading with my wife to save me, at the same time reassuring her that I am not having any fun.

And that's just with the women.

Needless to say, I don't initiate social kisses, but I have it on pretty good authority that I give a heck of a handshake.

XXX

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