In one of the loveliest scenes of Book Club, the newest addition to the Diane Keaton oeuvre, our beloved matriarch sits across from her dashing pilot paramour (Andy Garcia) as the two dine with the hilariously CGI-ed Santa Monica sunset behind them. Their banter is sweet, the current between them electric even though the recently widowed Diane had been apprehensive about returning to the world of dating. When the pilot asks Diane about her first kiss, she becomes suddenly transfixed.
As Diane stares off into the distance, she breathily recalls the moment she shared with a boy named Terry Sanders, who kissed her with passion and urgency even though neither knew what they were doing. Diane seems to blush with her whole body as she tells the story, fluttering her hands up to her own face as she describes the way Terry held it in his awkward, passionate grip. The pilot watches Diane with awe, eventually joking that he wishes he had been kissed by Terry Sanders. Diane smiles, returning once again to the man in front of her.
That is precisely what a perfect kiss does: It transports—in the moment, it whisks the people sharing it to a place only they inhabit; afterward, its memory carries them back. In a Friday piece for GQ, writer Sophia Benoit calls into question the teleporting power of the kiss:
The best parts of kissing are, indisputably, the nonkissing parts. The most memorable part of a kiss is what your hands are doing. The only thing that Arie Luyendyk Jr. (the Second Most Hated Bachelor of All Time) had going for him was the fact that he knew precisely what to do with his hands when he kissed the contestants. All my friends and I talked about during these scenes was his hand placement: None of us cared one iota about what his stupid lying mouth was doing. What was he doing that was so magical that it made all of us horny offscreen even though we hated him? Simply placing his hands on a girl’s face while kissing her. That’s all. Easy. The good part of kissing is, in fact, very peripheral to the actual kiss.
But this reading miscategorizes the movement of Dirtbag Arie’s hands as being separate from the kiss itself. Imagine the inverse of Benoit’s proposition: What would be special about Arie placing his hands on the women’s faces without his lips meeting theirs? That wouldn’t be romantic; it would be strange, clinical. To understand the appeal of Arie’s kisses, one needs to consider the whole constellation of bodily interactions that constitute a kiss. The experience of kissing someone does not end with the joining of lips or the dancing of tongues. A good kiss creates its own small universe.