Last week I was tripping around the internet, visiting some of my favourite blogs, and I came across Margaret's little treatise on hugging over at Nanny Goats in Panties. She's a hugger - a real hugmiester. She says some people dive right into hugs, squeezing like all get out. I commented that I was more a tentative huggy type. I wait until I can gauge the strength of the huggee, before I, the hugger, commit.
Now this whole hugging thing got me thinking. In my world we go a bit further. In my world hugging is accompanied by kissing. Now, now, c'mon, we're not all perverts, running around kissing and hugging everyone every chance we get. Especially me. Let me explain.
I'm an Anglophone. I grew up shaking hands and giving the wolf cub three-finger salute. Manly stuff, right? Affection? English people don't demonstrate affection. However in the 10 years my Francophone wife and I have been together I've learned an awful lot about affection. Yes, Mrs D is very affectionate, and no complaints there, but that's not quite where I'm going here.
You see the French are very passionate. After all, they're responsible for the french-kiss, now aren't they? They hug and kiss when they meet, when they part, when they purchase a baguette at the bakery... well you get the idea - a lot. Now this took some getting used to for a mere Anglophone hand-shaker. It was downright daunting. And it wasn't just an "air-kiss" or just a little cheek to cheek action. The French engage in a lusty, if not lascivious, double cheek osculation. I mean they really love to plant a big one on each of your cheeks.
It wasn't so bad with her uncles and male cousins. No, handshakes work for these guys just like they do for me. Which I was relieved to learn. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course, if you're into that sort of thing. But none of her male relatives were into that sort of thing. But when I first met female members of her family I'd stick out my hand and mumble an "enchante". But that just wouldn't do. These women would pull me to their bosoms, hug the life out of me and plant one on each of my unsuspecting virgin cheeks.
You know I've been suffering through these greetings for 10 years now and I still haven't got it right. It's damn awkward. It's the double cheek thing that always throws me for a loop. I never know wether to start with the left cheek or the right cheek. Some greetings are more a dodge and dart effort. I'll go left, they'll go left. Pull back. Go right. Look out. Uh-oh.
Others are kind of sloppy. I'll overshoot right, she'll overshoot left, look out she's nibbling on my ear. And if I kiss women with glasses I usually end up with an eyeball imprint on the inside of mine. And, believe it or not, purely by accident, I'll go one way, and the kissee will go the other and - horror of horror - we'll end up kissing on the lips. Ew! And then we both act like that's exactly what we meant to do. Yeah, right.
You know they say this kind of social greeting is actually a sign of respect and reverence. That may be. But it's not a perfect science. In fact it's a real art. Unfortunately, I just can't draw.