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.