Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Sunday, 2 October 2011

One way out: a coughing fit

Social kissing: it’s a gender conundrum, a class thing and a north-south divide thing. In the US, the world’s kissingest country, my West Riding upbringing was a millstone which left me confused, terrified. Since terror still surfaces – at age 76 – I will go to my grave bedevilled by uncertainty.

Emerging from a Continental Trailways bus in Pittsburgh in late December 1965 I knew all about real kissing. It was a publically permissible analogy for sex. I didn’t need to understand it because I’d been married five years. Immediately, and for the six years that followed, American women social-kissed me. Some I disliked (which isn’t to say they were unattractive) and this presented problems. Some I liked which raised even bigger problems.

It’s odious to explain why so I’ll resort to examples. Mrs Thatcher was thought to have sex appeal (by Alan Clark among others) but I’d have fainted had she approached me. If Vera Farmiga appeared willing I’d also faint – this time out of presumption. Putting it delicately, social kissing is lose-lose.

In Bradford the lower middle classes (my lot) didn’t do it; those higher up did it a bit. The Home Counties did it more. A callow youth, informed only by movies, about to be social-kissed, was entitled to ask how this fitted in with closeness being regarded as a good thing.

Have I betrayed those women who have social-kissed me? No. I’m gratified they were prepared to try: good sports. Etiquette has to be the reason, there can’t be other benefits. I’ve also sympathised with women who actively avoid social-kissing me. I admire their toughness. No hint I might do the initiating. I’m a Bradford Grammar School old boy. Hand-shaking I do.

Pic note: Not social kissing but she looks like Stephanie Flanders