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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Okay, gulp. You can see the signs of Valentine's Day everywhere today. Jewelry ads, heart-shaped chocolates, long-stemmed roses. Suddenly there goes your whole economic stimulus check.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

But Alex, what's that adage? The best things in life are free? One of our producers, Vanessa Romo, came across a gift that's delivered for free but comes at a price.

VANESSA ROMO: I've never understood grand romantic gestures like sky writing your Valentine or popping the question on the Jumbotron at a Laker game. But the other day I saw something truly impressive. Smiling behind the counter of my local Starbucks was a barista with a hickey on her neck so big, it looked like a map of the former Soviet Union. That's right, a hickey. I've always had a really strong aversion to hickeys.

Unidentified Woman #1: Gross.

Unidentified Man #2: Hickey? A visible hickey.

Unidentified Woman #2: I dated a guy with the last name hickey.

Unidentified Woman #3: But not a serious hickey.

Unidentified Man #2: I guess it depends on the size of the hickey.

Unidentified Man #3: Love bites are great.

Unidentified Woman #4: Tiny little bites on the neck.

ROMO: Ooh. My first thought was...

Unidentified Man #4: Ick!

ROMO: And apparently I'm not alone.

Unidentified Man #5: I start to begin to wonder.

Unidentified Woman #5: This is really gross.

Unidentified Man #6: It's some kind of sucking monster, I don't know.

Unidentified Man #7: It says I have absolutely no class.

Unidentified Woman #6: A certain like...

Unidentified Man: #8: Lack of privacy.

Unidentified Woman #7: Forethought.

ROMO: But then I thought, how does that happen? I mean really, what's happening physiologically? So I called a doctor. Hi, Dr. Syd.

Dr. SYDNEY SPIESEL (Yale Medical School): Hi. How are you?

ROMO: That's Dr. Sydney Spiesel, DAY TO DAY's resident medical expert.

Dr. SPIESEL: What happens is actually pretty simple. The administerer of the hickey applies lips to the neck and produces a vacuum. The little capillaries in the skin break and they cause what doctors call ecchymosis and what normal people call a bruise. This is really a little bit of blood deposited under the skin.

ROMO: Sounds kind of gross.

Dr. SPIESEL: Not to the people who are participating in it, I imagine.

ROMO: So basically this souvenir of a moment's passion, a long moment's passion, this ecchymosis, is actually a physical injury. And yet upon closer examination, is it possible there's a sweeter side to a minor hematoma?

Unidentified Man #9: It's a natural thing, you know.

Unidentified Man #10: For the next day or two that person will...

Unidentified Man #9: If two people are in love...

Unidentified Man #10: Have to explain who you are, what you mean to them.

Unidentified Man #9: Why shouldn't it be shared?

Unidentified Man #11: You know, displaying affection and having...

Unidentified Woman #8: I really hate them.

Unidentified Man #12: I think we're going to have a difference of opinion about this.

Unidentified Man #13: It's really fun. It's one of the best things in life. That's why I live.

ROMO: That's why he lives. Well, whatever side you're on, here's one popular remedy.

Unidentified Man #14: Get you a nice silver spoon, let it get real nice and cold, and apply it on your neck with some pressure for about five to 10 minutes.

ROMO: But does it work? Here's Dr. Syd's prescription.

Dr. SPIESEL: There are two ways of dealing with this. One is a very high collar. And the other is very good covering make-up.

ROMO: So there you go. And if none of these work, just stay home...

Dr. SPIESEL: Probably somewhere between one and two weeks.

ROMO: Listen to the doctor. Happy Valentine's Day, everybody. For NPR News, I'm Vanessa Romo.

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