When my Italian, Spanish, Irish and Basque friends greet or part with me, they kiss me. That is, their lips smack into my cheek full on, like a firm cushion. A solid, present, committed kiss. My English friends*, for the most part – no doubt as a sign of immense deference – choose to kiss the air next to my face, instead. In their eagerness to plant their pursed lips on that elusive point in space, they either press their cheek against mine for a nanosecond, or collide with my cheekbone. It leads me to suspect that these people do not really want to kiss me. They just need my cheek as a springboard.
For all our croissants and cappuccinos, we are not “Continentals”. Being tactile does not come naturally to the English*. It does not sit well with centuries of emotional reserve. Until we can find the misplaced keys to the cellar where our emotions have been carefully bottled up, any adventures in the land of cheek pecking (for it sure isn’t kissing, yet), will involve nothing but embarrassment, clumsiness, and that very English brand of self-consciousness.
I am going to get a T-shirt which says, Don’t kiss me unless you mean it.
Why do people here feel the obligation to kiss, anyway? Let us just shake hands. I like handshakes. They help me form an opinion about people. Firm handshake? Warm? Sweaty? Crushing? Hasty? With straight eye contact? A popular national style*, however, – especially among women – seems to be the fingers only handshake. No matter how fast I try to catch the proferred hand mid-flight, it escapes me, allowing me only a squeeze of the fingers. Then there are those who are so skillful at the game, the have perfected the art of the top two knuckles shake. What is it with this palm and dorsal shyness?
I am going to get a velcro, hand-trapping, glove.
Hugs should be the physical equivalent of chocolate. Belgian chocolate. With praline. Rich, warming and comforting. The majority of English hugs*, however, fall into the following categories:
The Crustacean Hug: A hard collision between shoulders or collarbones, while the soft and unprotected abdominal areas are kept wide apart. Better keep them safe.
The Tapping Hug: I always wonder why some people feel the need to tap you on the back as soon as they hug you. Are they worried physical contact with them will trigger a coughing fit? Or is the light tap, tap, tap aimed at stopping you from getting too comfortable? There, there. Don’t go reading anything into this hug.
The Back Rub Hug: A couple or so single-handed, light strokes on your back, as though they are brushing off dust. Do they think you are a baby who has just drunk too much milk and needs to have air expelled to avoid hiccups?
I am going to take up a subscription to Italian, Spanish, Irish and Basque kisses, handshakes and hugs – until my English* friends commit to a given choice of physical contact.
* Usual exceptions apply. I just wish I could name them.
© Scribe Doll