7 Reasons That Social Kissing is a Minefield
I’m perplexed by social kissing. I’m referring to non-sexual kissing here, the sort that goes on all the time on all manner of occasions and at every gathering. I’ve been trying to make some sort of sense of it since 8:30 am. On a morning in 1985. As an Englishman, I just find it all a bit fraught and overwhelming. Anyway, here’s what I’ve got so far. Here are seven reasons that social kissing is a minefield.
1. Straight Men. Social kissing, if you’re a heterosexual man, is fraught with myriad rules and conventions that must be strictly adhered to. In truth, it’s a bit complicated. As a straight man, you can kiss any unrelated woman socially, except for the Queen and ones that smell really bad and keep pigeons in their hats. You can also kiss any related woman socially: mothers; sisters; aunts; nieces; cousins; in-laws; grandmas; that woman you’re told is an aunt but no one can remember how the family know her (she probably just latched on to them at a christening in 1974), they’re all fair game. You can’t, however, kiss any unrelated man unless a) you are both professional football players in the act of celebrating a goal or b) you are more drunk than you have ever been in your life and it is your wedding night (I played the role of surprised wedding guest in this scenario, I don’t recommend it) . Related men are simpler. You can kiss both your father and grandfather up to the age of about twelve and you can kiss babies (but not excessively, and once they can walk unaided that has to stop or you’ll get a bad reputation). Oh, and uncles should never really kiss anyone, ever. All clear?
2. Straight Women. The etiquette for straight women is more straightforward. Heterosexual women can kiss any unrelated woman, also excepting the Queen (though they will kiss the smelly woman with a pigeon in her hat because they’re generally kinder than men). They can kiss any related woman (probably including the Queen, should they be related). They can also kiss all men (both related and unrelated). In short, they may kiss pretty much everyone apart from the dead (and even then it’s acceptable for the first few days).
3. Gay Men. It’s more complicated for gay men. The same rules that apply to straight men kissing relatives apply to them but, in the case of unrelated men, things are a little different. The football celebration exemption that applies to heterosexual men doesn’t apply to them, because there are no gay professional football players. At all. None. No! But gay men can kiss each other socially (should they feel comfortable doing so), unless they are in a location where such activity may attract a crowd/mob. They are also not allowed to kiss socially within the pages of the Daily Mail, unless accompanied by some sort of lurid headline about declining standards/moral turpitude/Britain’s going to hell in a handcart because we’re so against modernity that we won’t even put it in a metaphorical car.
4. Gay Women. Exactly the same rules apply to gay women that apply to straight women, with only one important exception. Under no circumstance can a lesbian ever kiss Justin Bieber. That would just be too much confusion for anyone to bear.
5. The French. Now, the French have their own unique approach to social kissing. French men and French women (of any persuasion) can kiss absolutely anyone they like (except for the Queen and my writing partner, Jon), as long as they do it twice. Once on the left cheek and once on the right.* You can see this demonstrated at civil ceremonies throughout France as various mayors and civic dignitaries present medals for courage in the face of extreme paper cuts to postal workers and the highly-prized and hotly-contested croix de blanc, which is annually awarded to the first person to surrender their town to any approaching army (or a passing traffic warden should there be no invading army available at that moment).
6. Transsexuals. Okay, the rules are really blurred here. But, as far as I’m concerned, transsexuals can kiss anyone they like, except for the Queen and me outside York Minster at midnight on New Year’s Eve 2004 just when I’m moving in to kiss my wife and am off-guard. Yes, I concede that it would have been very funny had it happened in a sitcom or to someone else, but sadly it didn’t. Oh, and when you’re saying, “I bet you didn’t think you’d be kissing a transsexual at midnight”, try not to do it in a tar-soaked scouse accent, because that just made it feel dirty. Try it in lilting Irish next time, or a West country burr. Then I’ll probably feel better about the whole experience.
7. Eskimos. Eskimo kissing is weird. I don’t know which Eskimos can kiss other Eskimos. I also don’t know how Eskimo gender affects which Eskimos can kiss other Eskimos (or how they can tell what gender the other Eskimo is under all the layers of clothing and the furry hood). I do know, however, that Eskimos aren’t Eskimos at all, they’re Inuits, Yupiks and Aleuts, but they don’t Inuit, Yupik or Aleut kiss, they Eskimo kiss (oh, and they don’t live in igloos**). I’m sure it’s quite acceptable for them to Eskimo kiss other Eskimos (who also aren’t Eskimos) though, but probably not seals and definitely not polar bears. Just as long as they don’t come and rub their faces against the rest of us without warning really, as it’s bizarre behaviour. And by the rest of us, I mean me. I seem to have enough problems with social kissing as it is.
*If an English person says that you can kiss them on an additional cheek, they are insulting you.
**Except for the ones that do.