Try to think of how often you have seen a character in a film or TV show, or a real person, say to another ‘come here and give me a kiss’. So many times that you probably can’t even remember.
It was even a kiss that made Romeo and Juliet the most famous lovers in the world, because they were prepared to sacrifice their lives to defend that kiss.
And then the world turned upside down and for a year and a half this most common of actions was one of the most dangerous things that anyone could do.
It wasn’t the philosophers, the influencers, the moralists who said it, but the doctors themselves, because kissing, hugging and close physical contact could lead to people dying of a virus.
We peered intently behind the masks, sometimes trying to figure out who we were looking at because we could only imagine a face, and we felt very isolated.
ACTIVITY – How much did you miss the routine acts of friendship with your classmates during the pandemic?
And yet art and literature have helped us, they have taken us by the hand and ferried us to the other side of the river, where once again two arms reach out and say (cautiously, maybe, but they do say it) ‘come here and give me a kiss’. Yes, of course, it wasn’t a book or painting that allowed this to happen but a vaccine, but emotions and imagination also travel far from the medical reality.
Do you know the painting that the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt created in 1907, at a time when much of Europe was experiencing great creativity and a desire for change? It was called The Kiss. It depicted an embrace between two people and was full of colour, tranquillity, tenderness and hope for a love that would never end. If you look at it, you can see that the author really wanted to highlight the beauty of communicating without words, through our deepest emotions.
ACTIVITY – Surf the net and find The Kiss. Look at it carefully, then send a text to a friend expressing your feelings about the painting.
From Klimt’s colours, we try to place ourselves on the same bench where Rochester asks Jane Eyre, who works for him as a governess in an early 19th century England where it was usually women who asked questions about their appearance: “Do you think me handsome?”. It’s a simple question (let’s add a small spoiler – she will answer him “no sir” but the story will end rather well), but it manages to convey an idea of shy desire for an embrace and a promise of emotions that helped us not to lose hope when we had to maintain social distance.
In literature, a kiss has often solved a lot of troubles and broken spells that kept human beings at a distance from each other (doesn’t this remind you of something that just happened?).
In Beauty and the Beast, a fierce character that everyone is afraid of turns out to be a person capable of deep feelings and emotions. He in turn manages to give confidence and arouse love in a young woman who cares little for his unassuming physical appearance and who, when she kisses him, watches in disbelief as the beast is transformed into a very handsome man (Rochester might have been envious). This, too, tells us that a kiss can change the world, be it near or far.
ACTIVITY – Are you more like Rochester or more like Belle? Justify your answer
Not only a kiss, but also actually seeing the other person, talking to them, paying attention to them and leaving your phone in your pocket for a moment. After all, there is always time for communication at a distance, while with face-to-face communication it is not always like that.
For a long time we have been forced to keep our distance and be content with messages, phone calls, maybe some books to help lift our spirits, or a film to make us laugh and wait less anxiously for the worst to pass. So, now that life’s returning to normal, let’s not forget how important it is to communicate in the right way with the people we know (and with those we don’t know). Let’s not be like those people who, when confronted with Frankenstein’s creature, mistreated him and pushed him away just because he was ugly, and didn’t even ask if he needed help after he himself had actually come to the aid of a little girl.
Let’s certainly not be like Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a character so negative and unlikeable that he seems destined to live alone and forgotten by everyone.
There are many hugs ready to be given and many kisses waiting for their moment.
We think that each one is a gift we are giving ourselves by saying to the other “you are there, how nice!” and by saying to ourselves “thank you for being there, how nice!”.
A hug will be the cure, after the pandemic, to let those we want know that we are there and we have been waiting for nothing more than to finally be able to say it.
Klimt would be proud and, quite possibly, even Rochester too!
TO GO FURTHER
Surf the Black Cat’s Graded Readers catalogue 2021 and find at least three graded readers covers that talk about love or affection. Then write a letter to a friend or to a person you love and say the reason you chose that book and why it gives you the idea of sending a hug or a kiss.