When A Kiss Is Not A Kiss
The other day I kissed someone's earlobe by mistake. It was an oddly intimate moment and I fear both I as the kisser and the receiving kiss-ee felt a moment of awkwardness. I almost wanted to say sorry. And maybe I should have.
I’m talking about cheek kissing by way of casual social greeting. It is a custom that many people engage in, which can call for one, two, three or even four times back and forth. Or not at all. It’s so hard to know when to do it and if so how many times.
It partly depends on where in the world you are. The air kiss is part of any typical greeting between friends all over Europe, especially France and Italy. Perhaps less so in the more formal Germany. And of course multiple cheek to cheeks are expected in South America. In North America, there is no clear custom. But really, we’ve all gone so global it is acceptable in just about any urban centre.
But it’s at the point now where we have become a world over greeters. Four kisses? Seriously? I’ve been on the receiving end of that and I’m dizzy by the end, having to keep up with the other person’s head swinging back and forth. I would like the world to agree that one air-kiss will do. It would save us all a lot of time.
The kiss greeting is acceptable if we are friends (and I do not mean colleagues), but never upon meeting for the first time. If there are more than two people in a cluster, please do not expect me to take the time to kiss each and every one of them. Especially more than once. And upon arriving at a table of friends at a restaurant? A single kiss blown to the group should suffice.
And then there is the question of lip-to-cheek contact. To play it safe, let’s agree on the cheek press rather than an actual kiss on the cheek. But the danger with the cheek press comes when people (i.e., I) make the kissing sound, which, depending on the size of your head and where my cheek lands on yours, could lead to me kissing your earlobe. And if you’re only my friend I don’t want to kiss your earlobe. My cheek presses are going to be silent from here on out.
The air kiss, where there is no physical contact from the neck up is another good option, especially between women as there is often a lot of hair that gets in the way.
If you cannot join my quiet single cheek-press movement and insist on being an exhausting 4 x air kisser, what’s most important is that you take charge and own it. It’s like taking the lead in dancing the Tango.
And if someone kisses your earlobe? They probably didn’t mean it that way.