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Phillips, A. (1988). On kissing. Free Associations, 1(12):52-59.

(1988). Free Associations, 1(12):52-59

On kissing

Adam Phillips

Friar Laurence: These violent delights have violent ends, And in their triumph die like fire and powder, Which as they kiss consume.

Romeo and Juliet

An eight-year-old girl tells me in a session how much she loves being in the countryside on holiday. I ask what she likes doing there and she replies, with a kind of blithe indifference, ‘Oh, sometimes I just go out looking … for cows, birds, kisses, things like that.’ ‘Kisses?’ I ask. You know, lovers I hate it when people kiss, their mouths get muddled up.

A boy of seventeen who has been trying for weeks to work out what it is about his girlfriend that is ‘driving him mad’ — the frustration, that is to say, for which he uses her — arrives at his session in an unusually bumptious mood. He has realized, he announces to me triumphantly, what it is about her: ‘She doesn't kiss properly’. He mooches around in his mind for more to say but to his own surprise he is blank, so I offer him a suggestion: When people kiss they've stopped talking, if her kisses were words what would they be saying to you? You can't really love someone that you don't love kissing, he replies as though oblivious to my question.


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