The cooties question


I sampled a spoonful of pudding from my brother’s bowl one day, meriting a disgruntled response on his part.

“Ew Alex. That’s gross.  We just exchanged so many germs..”

While laughing maliciously at my snack stealing tactics, I began to wonder about the particulars of his statement: How many germs did we actually just swap?

So, taking advantage of our electronic age, I Googled it.

An estimate by Dr. Julie Segre from the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute places the number at one million bacteria per square centimeter of skin. There are over 6 billion bacteria in one’s mouth at any given moment of time. This means that the spoon touched his lips, went inside his mouth, touched his lips again, and then touched mine. My brother and I exchanged an extraordinary number of germs.

The transitive property from geometry then led me to ask another question: How many germs are spread while kissing?

“Between 10 million and 1 billion colonies (groups of bacteria) are swapped with each smooch,” stated the doctor.

And that’s just with a quick smooch. There is no telling how many germs are swapped while partaking in an all-out snogfest.

This led me to the shocking conclusion that kissing is actually kind of…gross.

Disclaimer: I mean no offense by this article.  I am not insulting anyone who participates vigorously in this activity. When I say it’s gross, I am referring to the cold, hard facts of the germ swapping situation.

While researching, I was struck by the hypocrisy of many students at this school. Avid hand sanitizer users, double-dipping prosecutors and public bathroom toilet squatters seem to have no problem kissing.

Mackenzie Robinson, sophomore, fits this mold perfectly.

“I have two hand sanitizers in my purse, one squirt and one spray. I don’t let anyone touch my water bottle and I don’t drink after people. If someone touches my food at lunch I won’t eat it. But kissing my boyfriend just seems natural, I guess I don’t really think about it,” she said.

The majority of students at Leesville seem to agree.

“Kissing and sharing a spoon is completely different,” said Kelsey Hounshell, junior. “The spoon has time to come into contact with more germs during the airtime in the transfer from one mouth to the other. It’s revolting.”

But then again, kissing introduces an entire time frame of constant contact. So which is more repulsive?

“Sharing a spoon is definitely grosser. I feel like if I don’t know the person very well and their spoon is in my mouth, it’s way more disgusting than kissing someone who I’m close to,” said Robinson.

This journalist disagrees. I think that they are the same. Multitudes of germs swap bodies in both situations; the context of the exchange is irreverent.

In the words of “germophobe” Joey from the hit TV show Friends, “Did you just drink from my cup? Ew, that’s like kissing. We just kissed!”


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