Monday, 2 April 2007

To Kiss, Hug, Shake Hands or What?

Should I kiss him? Should I shake his hand? Would a hug be appropriate? Maybe if I just pass by the whole physical contact no one will notice... Jump right into conversation? A jovial pat on the back?

I remember the first time I saw men kiss male friends. I was 18 and a uni student, I wasn't sure if I was gay, but somehow I'd gotten invited to dinner at the home of a gay couple my mum worked with. They lived in Ashfield in inner west Sydney and for the time being I was boarding with one of their parents... (this world is indeed convoluted)... anyway... I arrived and was shown around the house, "this is our bedroom, here's the..." cut, wait a second, I'm still absorbing the whole one bed thing... of course they share a bed - but this is Gay Ed. 1.01 for me, my memory imprinting is in overdrive...

A doctor friend of theirs was also there for dinner, me being the first year Med student I guess they wanted to find some kind of match, but I knew nothing, nothing about anything it felt. The dinner was immaculate. He was a lecturer in fine arts, and he was a ballet dancer… The conversation cultured beyond me, and then on departing they kissed the doctor farewell, end of a dinner party - usual thing – it was warm and heartfelt... I'm sure my jaw didn't drop, but in my head it did. I went home thinking my mum must think I’m gay!! … But that kiss… it was just a routine departing kiss, but it was man with man… brand new to me. I was thrilled and stunned all at once. Some evening that turned out to be.

But for some reason – I’ve never really gotten the gist of the whole kissing thing. And to make it more complex – everyone seems to have a different take on it. Some people kiss on the cheek, and when you live with a Frenchman both cheeks enter the fray… Some kiss on the lips, some the air… With one friend (you know who YOU are) we exclusively shake hands; I mean I kiss his partner, but it has been a thing that we just shake hands, and I REALLY like it. It seems to say more to me because it’s different, and special. But it’s always a conscious thing for me. I have to think about how I greet whom and if I kiss or hug, or shake hands, or run a mile. It’s never automatic. I don’t want people to think I’m cold – a greeting or departing contact adds warmth I know. How well should I know someone before I go in for the kiss? Is a handshake too, um, cold?

And then to make it more complicated if you’re outside the gay-friendly zones, there is a sensed need to be careful and filter your level of contact – although even then I think I SHOULD help the rest of the world get over homophobia… but do I want to be the one hit over the head because of it? Oh and it’s not just men now either – some of my best female friends never get a kiss from me on greeting or departing.

Maybe it’s just me – maybe I should invent a whole new greeting that’s uniquely me? Next time I walk up and gently scratch the back of your neck, it mean’s ‘Hi great to see you again, or sorry to leave you but it’s been great’… Better still, you take the initiative. I’ll take it like a man.


Biby Cletus said...

well its an excellent post you have here on kiss,hug , shake hand it nice to shke hand like gentle man. i really enjoyed reading it, will be back soon and i especially liked the photo you'd posted.Do keep up the good work
regards Biby - Blog

Craig said...

I think a kiss followed by a long, non-patting type hug works best for you and me. It has only taken me 12 years to train you to give me non-patting type hugs, but they are most excellent when they are dispensed.

...and then there is Sylvain... and his French kissing... where does that fit in?

le x

Martin said...

I always face the same dilemma - some friends kiss, some don't, and the worst is when they change which they do from time to time... I prefer the double cheek kiss, with a slight squeeze of the upper arm.

lynnette said...

yeah I never even get a hug from you! I'm definitely a hugger. But maybe they work better for long goodbyes?