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In the Beginning: Why Can't it Be Out Already?!

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Our new book In the Beginning's hitting stores in a week, and we can't wait to show it to you. Here's one of our favorite origin stories. And if you pre-order it today, we'll send you an autographed book plate (see details below).

The Kiss (and tell)

Preludes to a Kiss

kiss.jpgIf you believe F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous quote, kissing "originated when the first male reptile licked the first female reptile, implying in a subtle, complimentary way that she was as succulent as the small reptile he had for dinner the night before."We're hoping he didn't mean that, if only because we don't want to think our significant others are subconsciously ruminating on last night's meatloaf when they lean in for a smooch. However, there's a grain of truth in Fitzgerald's reptilian scenario: The "lizard brain," or the most primitive part of that organ "“ the cerebellum, medulla, spinal cord, midbrain, and pons "“ is responsible for lust. And it's pretty similar to what the "first male reptile" probably had. So fine, we'll give the lizards the benefit of the doubt and say they technically invented the kiss.

Still, the animals we're really interested in here are the primates. It's their penchant for grooming each other as a form of social bonding that probably laid the foundations for pq1.jpgkissing. Touch was important to early human ancestors, too, but of course they had less hair and thus needed less grooming. What they did have plenty of, though, were sensory nerve endings in the lips, for tasting various foods and determining which ones were nutritious, poisonous, and so on. Perhaps it just felt all nice and tingly to put their super-sensitive lips together, although a number of scientists don't buy the "if it felt good, they did it" theory of the origin of the kiss. Here are some of the less obvious factors that might also have contributed to the rise of kissing:

1. The "chew on this for a minute" theory.

Early human ancestors had to make their own baby food out of sparse and tough raw materials "“ and, not having Gerber-esque factories at their disposal, they probably did it with their mouths. Like mother birds, they may have chewed up their own food and spat it into their babies' gaping maws, and then kept touching their lips to the infants' because it was comforting "“ in the same way a pacifier is, well, pacifying, even though it doesn't
yield milk.

>More kissing theories and the origin of the French kiss all after the jump...

2. The "it's totally natural" theory.

Kissing, like the fight-or-flight response, could be instinctive. Many animals rub their noses together to express what looks like affection, in a sort of "butterfly-kiss" way. And bonobos, those wild-and-crazy primate relatives of ours, are known to lock lips for just about any old reason: making up after a fight, bonding with others in their living groups, and apparently just for the hell of it. The idea that kissing is completely a natural human instinct, however, doesn't hold up to close scrutiny: at least 10 percent of cultures worldwide don't engage in any kissing at all.

3. The "nose knows" theory.

Okay, it's not really the nose, per se, but the most widely accepted theory of how kissing started does relate to pheromones. Getting up close and personal for a kiss allows two people to suss out each other's pheromones, chemicals that undoubtedly play a major role in attraction. Women, for instance, tend to prefer men with immune proteins that are slightly different from their own "“ the better to give their future offspring a fighting chance against various pathogens "“ and they can tell who their best mates would be, assuming that's the only criterion, simply by kissing. So as foreplay, smooching makes a lot of sense "“ if you're going to be exchanging genes with someone, better to check
them out first with a big wet one.

The French and Kissing

We admit that the French are responsible for a lot of the wonderful things in this world, but really? The French kiss? As it turns out, the old slip of the tongue isn't from France at all; it's a slur against that nation. First popular in the 1920s, it gained a foot- hold among the English, who thought the French were just the kind of louche people who'd go around
sticking their tongues where they didn't belong. (They had some basis for thinking this: the French were the first Europeans to accept kissing in public as dances in the 6th century often ended with quick makeout sessions.) In the French language, however, there's no such thing as a "French kiss," any more than there's "French toast" or "French fries." The
language of love refers to the French kiss as, of course, something far more romantic: "soul kissing." As for who came up with the actual act, we're betting it was the Indians. The Kama Sutra refers to at least 250 different ways to kiss your lover.

51yai+MKH5L._AA240_.jpgCan't wait the week for In the Beginning? Pre-order your copy at any of these fine stores today: Amazon, B&N, Borders, Books-A-Million. Oh, and if you e-mail us your proof of purchase at newsletters@mentalfloss.com, we'll send you an autographed sticker to place in the book!

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job secrets
11 Secrets of Matchmakers
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In an age of dating apps and casual hookups, matchmakers may seem like a relic from another era. But although they've been bringing people together since long before we were swiping right, matchmaking as a profession is still alive and well. We spoke to several matchmakers to get a glimpse at how their job really works, from their sixth sense for making matches to how they deal with picky clients.

1. THEY’RE ALWAYS ON THE CLOCK.

Whether they’re shopping for groceries, waiting in a doctor’s office, or traveling on vacation, matchmakers always have their eyes peeled for ideal partners for their clients. “Being a matchmaker is not a 9 to 5 job,” matchmaker and dating coach Bonnie Winston tells Mental Floss. “24 hours, seven days a week is more like it. My employees go home, but I never close!”

Winston, who often works on weekends and evenings, also gives her clients dating advice before, during, and after dates. “It is not unusual that clients call me with inquiries about what they should wear before certain dates,” she says. “Or, I’ll get calls in whispered hush tones—secretly from bathrooms in dining establishments—to ask me questions on etiquette, or if they can hook up with their date because they have great chemistry,” Winston says.

2. THEY HAVE A SIXTH SENSE.

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Romance is mysterious—no one can predict whether two strangers will meet and fall in love. But successful matchmakers possess a high level of emotional intelligence and intuition that guides them in their work. Winston, who made her first successful match when she was 16 years old, says she just has a natural sense of which people would be good together. “Matchmaking isn’t something that can be bought or taught,” she says. “I will meet someone and just know when they are a good match for one of my clients.”

3. THEY’RE PART THERAPIST/LIFE COACH.

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Matchmakers meet with clients, interview potential matches, dispense dating advice, and attend networking events. But some also perform background checks, administer personality testing, and build psychological profiles of their clients. The best combine a therapist’s listening skills and objective perspective with a life coach’s ability to motivate. Matchmakers may also interview their clients to determine why past relationships have failed, and help them formulate a strategy to achieve their relationship goals.

4. THEY’RE MASTERS AT NETWORKING.

The most successful matchmakers love people. Meeting people, listening and talking to them, and ultimately pairing them together excites and inspires them. In a Reddit AMA, three matchmakers at Three Day Rule explained that successful matchmakers are extroverts, and highly confident when approaching new people. “You really have to be able to walk up to anyone. We go up to people on the street all the time and say ‘Hey, are you single?’ so you have to be ok embarrassing yourself a bit,” they write.

Besides speaking with people they encounter in daily life, matchmakers may also rely on their networks of family and friends. “My mother is one of eight siblings and I have literally dozens of cousins who are well aware that there is a ‘yenta’ in the family. I tap into those resources, too!” Winston says.

5. THEY WISH PEOPLE WOULD BE WARY OF PHONY MATCHMAKERS.

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Although some reputable organizations offer courses and certifications in matchmaking, matchmakers don’t need any formal training to do their job. “Some [of these organizations] are legit, but others are just about the revenue,” says Jamie Rose, the founder and CEO of Rose Matchmaking. Similarly, some matchmaking companies are more about maximizing profit than helping people find love. Scammers who start these matchmaking businesses take advantage of desperate, lonely people looking for love.

So how to tell which businesses are legitimate? Watch for these red flags: matchmakers who won’t meet you in person, companies that have recently changed their name (perhaps to evade detection or create distance from angry former clients), sites that don’t have testimonials (or where the testimonials seem fake), and companies that have many negative user reviews.

6. OVERLY PICKY PEOPLE FRUSTRATE THEM.

Matchmakers get frustrated when clients have unrealistic expectations about love. “There is no such thing as a perfect match, and some people come in thinking that there may be,” Rose explains. Clients may also have emotional blocks that get in the way of finding love. “Some people say they want to get married but they don’t really want to,” Winston says. “They turn down every potential date for a ridiculous amount of petty and inconsequential reasons.”

Jennifer Hayes, the Director of Operations for South Carolina Matchmakers, adds that because bad relationships tend to harden people, matchmakers must encourage clients to keep their hearts and minds open to love. “One of the biggest hurdles we have as a matchmakers is encouraging clients to stay open to the possibilities of finding love,” she tells Mental Floss.

7. SOMETIMES THEY HAVE TO BE BLUNT.

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When a date goes poorly, matchmakers must walk a fine line between being honest and being tactful. “My least favorite part would be telling one client that another client wasn’t interested in them,” Rose says. Although most people don’t enjoy getting rejected and hearing about their off-putting habits, it’s essential that matchmakers be blunt with their clients. By speaking the truth in a kind yet firm way, matchmakers can build a trusting, productive relationship with their clients.

8. DATING APPS CAN MAKE THEIR JOB HARDER …

Dating apps give people a huge number of potential matches at their fingertips, but most apps don't vet matches—and good results are not guaranteed. “[Dating apps] make things so impersonal,” Winston says. “[Users] are deleting really good people forever so easily in seconds with their fingertips. And scratching their heads [about] why they can’t meet anyone.”

In addition, many dating apps are free, while matchmakers charge for their services. Matchmakers say that free apps propagate the view that finding love shouldn't cost anything, and thus threaten matchmakers’ livelihood.

9. … BUT APPS CAN ALSO DRIVE CLIENTS TO THEM.

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While apps may be many people’s initial foray into the dating world, a disappointing experience can lead unsuccessful daters to a matchmaker. “Honestly I think [dating apps] impact [our industry] positively,” Rose says. “People who try those apps or sites see that they are about quantity not quality, and then they research better options and find me.” Winston adds that matchmakers slow down the online dating process. “People who come to me are sick of swiping, scrolling, sexting and texting, getting poked, and being ghosted. They are burnt out,” she says. “I bring back old-fashioned courtship and romance.”

Matchmakers also lend a human element that’s often lacking in online dating. "We know as matchmakers that setting people up requires knowing them to some extent, and knowing people requires time. Unlike online apps we get to know our clients and build relationships with them so we can effectively match them," Hayes says.

10. THEY MAKE CLIENTS LOOK THEIR BEST.

Visuals and first impressions play a huge role in dating, and good matchmakers help their clients improve their image. “You’d be surprised how many people come to me with terrible selfies to find love!” Winston exclaims. Because she owned a fashion photography agency, Winston stays connected to top photographers and hair and make-up artists, and she provides her clients with professional photo shoots. “I want my clients look their best while showing their authentic selves,” she says.

11. THEY LOVE HELPING PEOPLE FIND TRUE LOVE.

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When matchmakers succeed in bringing two people together, they’re ecstatic. “I am joyful when my clients find joy in love. Especially when they immediately 'click'—I feel like I hit it out of the ballpark ... a homerun!” Winston says.

Rose adds that she enjoys changing people’s minds about each other. “I like when two people originally say no to one another, but you remind them of why they came to you. When that match works out you feel really good about it."

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Scientists Record an Extremely Intimate Look at How Dolphins Get It On
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Mammal sex is simple: The penis fits into the vagina. Right? You might think so—unless you’ve seen a dolphin’s vagina.

At the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association of Anatomists, biologist Dara Orbach of Dalhousie University in Canada explained just why she and her colleagues recently used a CT scanner to image simulated sex between the reproductive organs of dead dolphins.

It may seem obvious that a dolphin penis would fit into a dolphin vagina, but, since dolphins can’t talk about their sex lives, scientists couldn’t be sure. "Whales, dolphins, and porpoises have unusual vaginal folds, spirals, and recesses that the penis and sperm must navigate through to successfully fertilize the egg,” Orbach said in a press statement.

Dara Orbach, Dalhousie University

Orbach and Patricia Brennan, of Mount Holyoke College, used real reproductive tracts they got from dolphins that died naturally. They re-inflated the penises mechanically so that they could stick them inside the dead dolphin vaginas and see exactly how they fit together. ("My collaborator, Dr. Diane Kelly, designed a system that pumped pressurized saline into the penis so that we could adjust the pressure and the rate of inflation," Orbach elaborated to mental_floss in an email.)

They also created silicone molds of the genitals to study how the mammal’s penis and vagina structures might have co-evolved, especially considering that marine mammals have some interesting challenges to deal with during sex—for one thing, they have to be swimming, and for another, no one wants salt water in their bicornate uterus. As you can see, the dolphin penis navigates those twists and turns pretty well, despite the challenges.

This research isn’t just to satisfy scientific curiosity about how dolphins manage to get it on, though that's great, too. Understanding how actual dolphin sex looks could potentially help dolphin breeding programs figure out how to optimize artificial insemination processes in favor of conception.

Dolphins aren't the only ones with complicated reproductive tracts, though. Brennan has previously studied the sex lives of ducks, who have co-evolved genitals even more complicated than the ones dolphins are packing.

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