Saturday, February 26, 2005

Hugs and kisses

Some people are huggers - when they meet friends they give great big bear hugs. Other people are kissers - they either kiss you on one cheek, or go all Continental and kiss you on both cheeks, or maybe even kiss you on the lips. People in my family are neither - it doesn't matter if you're going overseas for two years, you aren't going to get anything touchy-feely from the family. Hugging and kissing comes so unnaturally that I just tend not to do it to platonic friends.

Over time, I have become better at reciprocating displays of affection. But now I find it hard to predict whether someone is going to hug me or kiss me, and how I should "reply". Because if I try to hug someone whose about to give me a peck on the cheek - or vice versa - messy lipstick stains could ensue.

And here's another thing - if you know someone is about to kiss you on the cheek, do you kiss them on the cheek at the same time (which means one of you is going to miss), or just after (requiring speed and agility)? Or do you just take the kiss and not give back?

These, and other questions, plagued me last night when I attended a big dinner for an old friend of my brother's. This friend has been living in France for years, so he does the Continental kiss. The rest of the crowd - the ones who know me, anyway - alternated between huggers and cheek-peckers. Until the conversations started, I was a little out of my element.

16 comments:

The Editter said...

A woman from the UK came on her first marae visit with us and found it so hard to predict whether she was gonna get a kiss on the cheek or a hongi (where you press noses) from the line of people greeting us that she kissed a guy on his nose! It was one of those times where you have to suppress hysterical laughter due to the formality of the occasion...

gerbera said...

A friend (who used to be a hugger) scared me late last year when she leaned into kiss me and I did the same to her (surprised but playing along) but while I made contact with her cheek, she just "air-kissed" me. It quite freaked me out and I felt daft about "doing the wrong thing" for ages. I lean towards not hugging or kissing, but I have tried to change that because it seems so important to some people. A friend at school was very into hugging, which i hated. Some of us nervous huggers found it hilarious when she got herself a badge saying "hug therapist". therapist was badly split into 2 so it was
"hug the" above and then
" rapist" below.

blue2go said...

My family are not huggers, either. But I am trying to get them to be more demonstrative by hugging them! So far they seem to like it.

Frally said...

My family was never touchy-feely either so I tend to overcompensate as I am a very affectionate person. I loves to hug. However, I did realise that I made quite a few of my friends uncomfortable, and that kind of defeated the whole purpose of the hug, so now I just don't hug people like I used to. (sigh - I need a hug)

EB said...

I'm not generally a hugger or cheek-pecker and not very social either.

Maybe it is more important to let the hugger or kisser complete their manoeuvre safely than for you to reciprocate perfectly.

I once tried to do a return cheek-peck and lipsticked someone's nice white suit on the shoulder instead. It seemed a case of misjudging the physics of the thing on my part having had little practice.

When people have "air-kissed", I've assumed that this a return cheek-peck.

A Continental Etiquette link follows for interest only as it doesn't simplify the situation:
http://www.blistex.com/Global_lips.htm

Nigel Patel said...

I'm a stutterer beset also with tics so I freak people out a bit and I rarely even have to shake hands.
Do non-americans shake hands? Here they say that Jefferson invented that gesture.

Violet said...

I can relate to the hongi experience - apparently only the older Maori press noses whereas the younger ones prefer to cheek peck.

Gerbera just introduced yet another variation to be wary of - the air-kiss. One can always pretend to air-kiss the cheek-pecker. I once saw a library book called Therapist, and it had a space in the wrong place - it certainly made me glance twice!

And here's a big hug to you all, esp. Frally who needs one ({})

Jon said...

I don't think there's any Asian culture where people hug or kiss. I always get amused watching Japanese tourists getting kissed on the cheek in France. It makes them SOOOO uncomfortable! Me, I put on my anti germ glove and then give a firm handshake (and then burn the glove and wash my hands as a precaution) ^_^

Make Tea Not War said...

(Buffy reference alert) I cheered when Kendra coldly said "I Don't Hug." Me neither!

I don't think the handshake was invented in the US. I think its an Anglo thing and have a vague memory that its from a more violent time and something to do with swords/weapons. If you are shaking hands you are signalling peaceful intent and not about to stab someone.

Violet said...

Jon: So it's an anti-germ thing? You're probably right; I know my mum thought kissing a wierd thing to do with relative strangers.

Make Tea: Yes, I remember that thing about shaking hands to show you don't have swond in your hand. Which might be why us left-handers viewed with suspicion...

tindallk said...

I hate being hugged and kissed too - could be because I'm English. You need to stand like an iceblock and not respond - people soon give up the idea. I think the Amercians invented everything including the handshake, the kiss, walking, running, breathing....

Violet said...

Tindallk: you know that's not true - the Chinese invented half of those things, just not the touching stuff.

verbs said...

It's taken me years to get a grip on the hugging thing. I used to never hug, but then I started hanging around a group of people who had to hug every time they saw each other...hugging then started to feel natural.

Desiree said...

OK - Trivia time!

All you needed to know about:

History of handshake:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handshake

The perfect handshake:
http://www.askman.com/money/successful/success5.html

And according to Wikipedia, International Hugging Day is December 4.

Hugging is a big thing for me - what cracks me up is every time my fella goes to hug his male friends/brother there's all that back slapping to go with it - I mean, what IS it with that (lol)! Anyone interested in hugging and techniques I highly recommend "The Little Book of Hugs" - 8-)

The problem arises when faced with friends from the Continent who instead of hugging/cheek peck do the grasp shoulders/kiss soundly on left cheek/kiss soundly on right cheek/if you're really lucky kiss on the left cheek again, all whilst hugging at the same time! There is no such thing as personal space in this regard.

I'm off to hug a tree...it's safer!

Wicked said...

I never used to be a hugger, but of late I have become a firm believer in the importance of touch.. people just don't DO it much anymore and it's very nurturing... it's only social conditioning that leads us to feel uncomfortable. So now I hug as often as I can, because I'm sure - unconsciously - it gives us warm squishies. :)

On the hongi vs. kiss front - you will usually see men/men = hongi, men/women = ke kisses her cheek and women/women = kiss on the cheek. This can be mildly flustering when on the marae, receiving a kiss from a rather lush-looking man... oh for opportunities. :)

Violet said...

I agree hugging is very nice - but it sure is a minefield.