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Blow me a kiss from your own bed

Zut alors! What odd times these are in the fair nation of France. In an effort to stop the spread of swine flu, authorities in that most romantic of countries are urging people to stop kissing. Some schools and businesses have even gone so far as to ban “la bise,” the traditional peck-on-both-cheeks greeting that we Americans find so awkward but Europeans seem genetically programmed to do.

Granted, the powers that be in France needed to do something. Some agencies are estimating that France will have 20,000 new cases of swine flu each week until the pandemic runs its course. But is banning kissing really the way to combat the threat? Perhaps an emphasis on better hygiene in general would be a more effective place to start.

I haven’t really spent any time in France, but my wife did a semester there in college, and her host family only allowed her to shower once a week. I’m not saying that’s typical Gallic behavior — I’m sure there are plenty of clean French people, too — but all the mean stereotypes I’ve ever heard lead me to believe that’s typical Gallic behavior. Who am I to disagree with mean stereotypes that I find amusing?

Besides, if the French ban kissing, what will that do to the fabled rite of teenage passage known as first base? In case you’ve forgotten or have yet to get there, first base is French kissing. Since hugging and holding hands aren’t viable substitutes, we’ll have to come up with another name for sticking one’s tongue down someone else’s throat.

“Sucking face,” while an accurate description for such an act, has always struck me as a rather crude term, meaning that we may have to resort to calling it “freedom kissing.” As ecstatic as that would make Rush Limbaugh, I think most of us can agree that it sounds kind of silly.

There are some positives to the proposed kissing ban, however. Should the trend prove successful and spread to other countries, high school geeks around the world who can’t get any girls to kiss them in the first place won’t feel quite so unpopular. I know I would have appreciated a similar turn of events during my teen years. Best of all, though, a worldwide kissing ban could lead to fewer people becoming couples, which in turn could lead to more people getting a decent night’s sleep.

I base the preceding statement on comments made earlier this week to the British Science Festival by sleep specialist Dr. Neil Stanley. In his address to the festival, Dr. Stanley said studies have shown that people who retire to separate beds at night get a better night’s sleep and have overall better health. Why it required studies to show something so obvious is beyond me, but at least now we know for sure.

Some of you might think that sleeping better isn’t all that important, but I would caution you to watch out for such a cavalier attitude. Dr. Stanley went on to point out that poor sleep is linked to depression, heart disease, strokes, lung disorders and traffic and industrial accidents, meaning that if you share a bed and you’re lucky enough not to keel over in the middle of the night, you’re a solid bet to die in a car crash first thing the next morning.

More importantly, if you’re a guy, getting a better night’s sleep could help make you smarter or, at the very least, make you less dumb. In another study conducted by scientists at the University of Vienna, it was shown that men who shared a bed with their partner had increased stress levels and impaired mental ability the next day regardless of whether or not they had sex.

Unsurprisingly, the men in the study claimed they slept better with a partner, meaning that even in the face of contradictory scientific evidence, guys will lie if they think it will help them get laid. This, of course, could easily be chalked up to the men being stupid in the morning.

So I think, though I would never say this to my wife, that we as a species ought to give the separate beds idea a try. If we can all start getting a better night’s sleep, that could improve everyone’s health and boost our immune systems to where we become less susceptible to things like swine flu. Then, hopefully, we can all start kissing again. Let’s just make sure it doesn’t lead to sharing beds.

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Todd Hartley

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09 2009

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