January 22, 1995 in Features

This Kissing Thing … Where Will It All Lead?

Celia Rivenbark Wilmington (N.C.) Morning Star
 

I don’t want to be accused of being jingoistic, literally “someone who doesn’t like people from other countries who jingle,” but this whole European kissing thing is just silly.

This business of kissing everyone you meet (and, if you’re extremely pretentious, pulling their shoulders to you and then air-kissing them behind either ear while loudly going “MWAH! MWAH!”) is something we can blame the French for.

It has reached our shores and I say we send it back pronteau.

This is the kind of thing you didn’t used to see anywhere except in the movies, but now everybody, even good Southerners who should know better, are puckering up and smooching one another willy-nilly.

As my late Uncle Beauregard would say after eating those instant grits with the little imitation hamtype product bits in ‘em: “It just ain’t natural.”

I got to thinking about this the other night while attending a party with friends. We see each other every few weeks or so and it used to be that a simple handshake or warm hug was sufficient as a greeting, depending on the degree of familiarity.

But lately, I’ve noticed more members of our little group are kissing cheeks or (very briefly) lips as if we are all lovers in a Gerard Depardieu movie.

Now I know the French have many fine qualities. Hats off to whoever first eyed that stale bread and thought “Mon Dieu! S’il vous plait! C’est le makings of a fine breakfast!” and dipped it in egg and milk, fried it in butter and named it French toast.

And the French are huge on culture. You can’t throw a rock without hitting an art lover in France. Go ahead. Try. It simply can’t be done. The French have more museums than ticks on a coon dog. If you’re in a hurry and you need your culture in 30 minutes or less, you can even drive through the Jiffy Louvre.

Or something like that.

And need I remind you that French dressing is not only delicious and nutritious but is also orange.

But it’s that kissing thing they started that simply must be stopped.

Kissing isn’t a spectator sport. It is a personal expression of affection for the closest and dearest of friends and family. At the rate we’re going, soon I’ll be expected to kiss the mailman, the bag boy at the supermarket and the Roto-Rooter guy. Heaven knows what my personal banker will expect.

The whole kissing thing has been on my mind for a while, having had a holiday season full of being kissed by near-strangers, none of whom were from France.

A few were from the North, however.

And this is where the whole Euro-kissing craze is coming from. A good friend who married a Yankee man introduced me to her husband over the holidays. He smiled, and while I politely extended my hand, he zoomed in on my lips with the fervor of a dalmatian who has smelled Liv-ASnaps on the fireman’s breath.

Like any good, repressed Southern girl, I simply don’t believe in kissing someone I’ve just met, even if it’s the briefest of busses.

It’s not the Southern way. Perhaps it’s the French way, and obviously, it’s the Northern way and probably the touchy-feely West Coast way. But it’s simply not Southern.

If I go to kissing strangers, next thing you know I’ll be using Miracle Whip instead of Duke’s in my deviled eggs and wearing white shoes after Labor Day.

Make the madness stop!

It was only after seeing Robert Altman’s long-awaited, and truly dreadful “Ready To Wear” the other day that I realized we can lay the blame for this foolishness at le French doorstep.

Oui, we can.

About the only way to stay awake during this movie is to amuse yourself by counting air kisses and the models’ ribs. Both are in evidence in every scene.

Everybody kisses everybody in this movie. The Americans, including a ditzy TV fashion reporter and a cross-dressing department-store mogul, fall right into the trap. “It’s (smack!) so (mwah!) wonderful to see you, John Clawd.”

I have a feeling this is a losing battle. We are being besieged from all corners and I might as well get used to it. And stock up on Chap Stick.

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