Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor and BJ Novak as her sometime-boyfriend Ryan in The Office. Photo: NBC
Is kissing cheating? This is the pulchritudinous posit actor Mindy Kaling poses in a recent piece for the New Yorker. Reading like a Kickstarter pitch for her pending patent of an electrical Kiss Monitor, the article defended the right for an individual to mash lips with other people, even after the act of matrimony. The Kiss Monitor would be a regulation device which would allow 90 seconds of side-dish-kiss before emitting an electrical pulse.
Almost immediately Ms Kaling makes the point that ‘kissing new people is one of the greatest joys in life,’ which is fairly hard to argue. I adore kissing. Ever since Ryan Francis took my chubby, fifth-grade cheeks in his sweaty hands and affixed his lips to mine, I was hooked. I have taken philematology very seriously since then and when I say that a small sporting arena could be comfortably filled with the amount of people I’ve locked lips with, I sincerely mean it.
The act of kissing is loaded with sensory stimulation. Our lips are the cushy home to touch and pressure receptors which fire off messages to the brain to tell us straight away whether this is a kiss from a friend or a lover or an overenthusiastic Jack Russell terrier. When we kiss a new person who we like, those receptors light up like an aerial map 15 minutes after Earth Hour.
Mindy Kaling gets her pick of love interests (including Seth Rogen) in her sitcom The Mindy Project. Photo: NBC
Ms Kaling rallies that because ‘Kissing in and of itself can’t create offspring or cause life-threatening disease,’ that it should be ‘treated like any other enjoyable (but legal) vice, such as alcohol or gambling. In other words, it just needs to be regulated‘. The suggestion being that kissing is like a flirty handshake and not a gateway to sex, cheating or heartbreak. The idea is that you can look down the long corridor of monogamy and still see some first-time kisses along the way.
However, the biggest problem with the argument that kissing doesn’t count is that the sting of infidelity isn’t really about the physical acts we use to define it. Cheating isn't about kissing or sex. It's about the shared intimacy that comes with the exchanging of fluids. It's having the ‘Don't you have a girlfriend?’ conversation and either lying about or blithely disregarding the answer. It's the in-jokes, the ‘How was your day/ Thinking about you,’ text messages or the body knowledge of another. It's every point in the interaction (whether it's one kiss or an affair spanning decades) when you could have shut it down, could have gone home or text your partner instead, but didn't.
The rub is that it isn't really the kiss; it's everything that led to the kiss and everything that may come after. See, Mindy gets to kiss people for her job with no prelude but a script. She doesn’t meet them at a bar, five pints into happy hour at after-work drinks. Being a beautiful, single, actress lady and having attractive, actor men-types thrust at you is a situation most of us will never be in and thus the plebeian rules and ramifications may be a little different.
Her article suggests a relationship state of pre-scripted polyamory of the mouth only. With a few failed attempts at open relationships under my belt, the only way I would see this playing out well is if both partners were emphatically lip synced on what this actually meant and carefully followed the rules. Only allowed when the loved one is present or only when they are absolutely not? Granted if it’s somebody both of you know, or does it have to be someone you will never see again? Don’t ask don’t tell or full admission?
The thought of being allowed to spice up long-term, committed relationships with the permission to touch tongues with other people is bound to be attractive to many. But, like a lot of theoretical conversations people in love have, saying you’re totally cool with having your person kiss another person is pretty different to seeing your person kiss another person. Like socialism, it works in theory but in practice, sharing can be tough.
‘Just because I want to kiss someone doesn’t mean I want to love that person,’ Mindy explains, and I agree. But I also know that the one thing even better than firing up the old first-kiss-touch-receptors is having somebody who will look at you, first thing in the morning, with your questionable breath and the beginnings of a flu turning your stuffy nose red and still want to kiss you anyway.