I was reading a chart on the history of the earth and the organic material upon it as a lead up to the 2.8 million years of the history of humanity. Early on in this big timeline came the phenomenon of yawning in vertebrates. Yawning! Yawning started 420 million years ago—and remember we are less than 3 million years old. We know little about yawning except that it is contagious, but there is more.
Did you know that yawning brings a group together? Yawning is a product of and produces circadian rhythms and these organize our lives together. They set and mark our sleep cycles. When you think of it, the first rule imposed on us when we were children was: “Go to bed!” “Why?” “Why? Because I said so.” This rule has typically to be imposed, for the child’s early natural instinct does not include the following of rules. Just ask any new parent. “Rules? What are they?” asks each infant. Well, rules are ultimately what keeps a group together as a group. Without them, you have no group. You can tell if a child has dutiful rule-providing parents by asking if there was a bedtime in the household. Mine had one: 9 o’clock, and all the kids had to be in bed. And what did we hear when American society began to fall apart? “The kids in there stay up ‘til midnight.” What’s the first thing you want to know about someone’s baby after sex and health? Is she a good sleeper? That we have sleep patterns is one of the most important things in our lives—and to think, it came from yawning
It was the jawed vertebrates amongst the fishes in the Late Silurian Period that brought yawning to us those 420 million years ago—and we hardly know or thank them. They were busy differentiating between cartilaginous and bony structures—but they were also yawning. This brought them together. We are still together now, despite the lockdown. We live in groups. In fact, you can assess your social condition by asking whether you have people to yawn with. People who live alone typically do not have fellow yawners unless they yawn on the phone. But among the rules that got applied to us when we were younger was, “Don’t talk while you yawn,” and “Cover your mouth when you yawn.” It’s funny: yawning makes a group, but we also put restrictions on it as if yawning is to be done in private. How very anti-evolutionary of us. It could be argued that we should yawn together.
When you are newly with someone in romance, one of the first telling behaviors is that you yawn together; it’s not only ok, it is rather sweet. We do not mark it in a diary as we do the first date, first kiss, “our song,” the ring, and whatnot, but our bodies deeply know the shared yawn. Maybe that’s why we have the rules about not doing it in public, with your mouth open, or when you are talking. When you yawn, you are to do it fully, completely, privately—unless you are in love. Then you can yawn together.
Here’s hoping that you find some cute vertabrate to yawn with.