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First Kisses, Stolen Kisses And A Racy Version Of Spin The Bottle

June 22, 1987

PARIS (AP) _ Bjorn Borg did it on the Wimbledon Center Court. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman did it on the silver screen. French people seem to be doing it everywhere all the time.

Kissing his trophy showed the cool Swede’s joy in his tennis victory, and the Grant-Bergman embrace in Alfred Hitchcock’s ″Notorious,″ ranks among the longest and most passionate kisses ever filmed. But for the French, the kiss is simply a way to say hello and goodbye.

In a country where greeting a roomful of people can take five minutes by the time everyone’s cheeks get pecked, kissing is serious business. So serious, that a university professor and journalist have written a 294-page book on the subject.

″Le Baiser,″ (″The Kiss″) by Xavier Fauche and Christiane Noetzlin and published last month by Stock, tells everything anyone might ever want to know about kissing - from first kisses, stolen kisses and warm-up kisses to the germ content of saliva.

Historical documents, literary references and scholarly opinions abound. In the chapter on maternal kisses, psychoanalyst Francoise Dolto warns that small children confuse kissing with cannibalism and urges mothers against smothering.

The French may be Europe’s busiest kissers. Families kiss when they come down for breakfast and again before they leave for school or work. They greet friends with a kiss - two or three depending on age and region - and again when they part. And it starts all over when they get home and go to bed.

Young girls are trained to proffer the right cheek, aim away from the mouth and never make the first move. When it doubt, it’s forehead first.

The book also looks at kissing through the ages. In 19th century France for example, ″maraichinage″ - a French kissing game something like spin the bottle - was a socially accepted practice that allowed young girls to try out the techniques of their potential husbands.

Held only on Sundays, it involved deep tongue kissing between at least 10 or more couples who changed partners weekly. In some parts of France, the ″tongue dueling,″ which often led further, took place outdoors, behind colorful parasols stuck into the ground, which the authors described as ″intimacy in public, outdoors.″

In other regions, ″maraichinage″ took place only in church, with couples sitting opposite each other on narrow benches. Clergymen banned the practice in 1864.

″Maraichinage was completely devoid of love, It was kissing for the pure pleasure of kissing,″ Fauche and Noetzlin wrote.

Despite its suggestive title, much of ″Le Baiser″ reads like a doctoral thesis, with long chapters on kissing in sculpture, painting, opera and on the silver screen.

For Fauche and Noetzlin, Gustav Klimts’s art deco painting ″The Kiss″ and Auguste Rodin’s life-size marble couple locked in tight embrace are exceptions.

″The rarity of kissing in the arts can be explained by the incompatibility between doing it and showing it. Cinema can show the before and the after, but the arts are condemned to perpetual immobility,″ they wrote. ″And the more intense the kiss, the harder it is to grasp graphically.″

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