There are certain things a woman likes to hear after she kisses a man on the mouth: “Wow … please … more” and “Sweet cheeses, I’m in love” and “You taste like Wildlicious Pop-Tarts.”
But even “What do you think you’re doing, you trollop?” and “That is a LOT of saliva” would be preferable to what I hear after I kiss my husband: “Ewwww.”
The aspersion comes not from my spouse but from our 7-year-old son, an undersized-and-outspoken Puritan who finds even the chastest of our amorous embraces repugnant. Mind you, this child is not easily made queasy. He mixes fruit punch with Dr. Pepper and spoons applesauce onto his chicken nuggets, and I’ve seen the kid blithely pluck a strangled, desiccated lizard from a soccer net with a monkey wrench. Yet he finds nothing so disgusting as my lips touching his dad’s.
“Yuck.” “Nasty.” “Not again. Seriously? Come on!” It’s tough not to take that personally. I mean, why the horror? “Because the sound is gross,” he says.
Unfair! Sometimes we’re completely, no-slurping silent, I swear. He still cringes. “It just makes me … (sigh) … It’s just gross!”
And he’s not alone. My friends’ kids say they hate it when their parents kiss — for similar non-reasons:
“Because it’s kind of weird,” says Noah, 4.
“Because it’s like you guys are too in love,” says Leah, 8, “like you’re gonna ‘have it’ right there!”
“It’s the visual equivalent of seeing monkeys play with themselves at the zoo,” says Kyler, 15. “It stays with you for the whole day.”
Oh, the shame. It seems like only yesterday I was feeling guilty and dirty for making out with boys in the driveway of my parents’ home; now I’m made to feel equally, awfully pervy and penitent for pressing up against my husband in the damned kitchen. Who knew there was such a narrow window between being naughty kids and being labeled naughty by your kids — such a short span of time when you could kiss your partner openly, passionately, and without being likened to promiscuous primates by pint-sized prudes?
The irony, of course, is rich. Parents’ propensity to pucker up is the very reason these kids exist. A kiss provokes a moan inspires a grope incites a tumble begets a babe who, I’m sorry, ought to have some instinctive reverence for the romance that engendered him. If a smooch is the spark of life, shouldn’t our kids exalt our procreative passion instead of rolling their eyes and wrinkling their noses at it?
Maybe there’s some other scientific reason for children to recoil when mom and dad make googly eyes at one another. Maybe they see it as a threat: Somewhere deep in their genes, they’re programmed to thwart any parental flirting, lest it sire attention-hogging siblings; they’re biologically predisposed to ruin the mood whenever possible by reminding us how revolting we are.
Child psychologist Fran Walfish says I’m not necessarily revolting. But I am wrong. “The reasons why a child is grossed out by a visible demonstration of affection between his parents is developmental rather than biological,” says Walfish, author of The Self-Aware Parent. “The disgust is usually an indication that the child is unconsciously dealing with, or struggling with, sexuality. Often this begins as young as age 7 and can go through the adolescent phase of development.”
I see. Well, that makes perfect sense. So our son will stop being nauseated by the sight of our rip-roarin’ lip lovin’ right about the time he becomes a sexual being himself, and … er … begins making out with girls in the driveway of our home.