If you’re kissing me, you’d better be naked

January 5, 2009

I wasn’t breastfed as a baby. Maybe that explains why I don’t like to be touched. Which probably also explains how I managed to emerge from high school virginity intact.

Or maybe I just haven’t been touched by the right people. Starting with —  oh I don’t know — Jessica Alba.

An essay by Leah McFall (“Lip service,” Sunday magazine, Oct. 26, 2008) got me to thinking about how to greet people while also preventing them from going all Israeli army on my personal space. Ms. McFall talks about dating a farmer who acknowledged passing mates by simply raising a finger. I’m assuming she meant the index finger.

I’m all about the long-distance thing. As a teen in the ’60s, we flashed the peace sign. Later came the thumb’s-up (before it was invented by movie reviewers). During a recent jaunt to Tahiti, I was pleased to see the “hang loose” thumb-and-pinkie waggle is still part of the South Pacific’s universal language.

That’s right, it’s all about the digits, baby. I can tell you I’m doing just fine, thank you very much, from the other side of the street. Just keep walking, friend. No need for either of us to stop. 

A year spent in Rarotonga revealed how the locals communicate with little more than expressions, a talent I dubbed “face-talking” in Brown Girls (used copies of which are still available through Amazon. You know, just in case you were wondering). A tilt of the head. A cocked eyebrow — they all speak volumes. And, yes, from the other side of the street.

I shake hands with reluctance, but acknowledge it is a manly art, passed down through the generations from father to son.

“A firm clasp is important,” my father told me. “No one wants to hold a limp dick.”

OK, I might have paraphrased that last bit but it makes my point. You don’t have to crack my metacarpals but nothing says Planet Loser faster than your hand lying lifeless in mine, a dead fish bereft of personality or character.

Oh, and nothing says “precious, pretentious prick” like a two-handed clasp. Wipe that faux-sincere look off your face, buddy, and give me back my arm.

I admire a woman who shakes my hand. I admire her more if she applies pressure. If that pressure means she’s in the process of handcuffing me to a bedpost, well, that just proves there is such a thing as love at first sight.

But if you try to kiss me, then we’ve got a problem.

Older women are the worst. Aunt and grandmothers and other relatives of the female persuasion — you haven’t seen them since last Christmas and now they’re putting on a pucker? I don’t think so.

In that situation, the best defence is a good offence. I go in fast and tight and hard. Get in close, bury my face in their shoulder and squeeze. Yeah, I’m left with a noseful of lavender, but they’re left kissing air. I win!

You can do that with relatives. They’ll shake their heads, wonder where your parents went wrong raising such disrespectful urchins, and then take an eraser to their will, wiping out any chances you had of inheriting that cherry 1986 Betamax player.

But there are some instances where you just have to bite the bullet, swallow hard, close your eyes and go for it.

In the Cook Islands, for instance, men and women greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. They do the same here in New Zealand. To not participate in this ritual is to risk being considered rude. Or contagious. As a foreigner, I’ve already raised suspicions; why risk deportation as well.

And so I lean in and make wet, smacking noises by their ears. Sometimes with disastrous results.

I once steadied myself against an older woman, only to pull away and discover my hand cupping the side of her breast. Yup, wasted  my best move for a lousy peck. The Karma Bank owes me big time.

The real scary part about Leah McFall’s essay is how Kiwis, having returned from wandering Europe and hassling their sheep, have brought home the habit of kissing on the lips to say hello.

I’m sorry, but on Planet Man, lip kissing means one of only two things: “I’m staying for breakfast” or “Do you have change for a hundred?”

That’s not “hello,” it’s “I’m almost there.”

If forewarned is foreplay, then you might want to write this down: If you’re going to kiss me on the lips, then you’d better be taking off your clothes at the same time. The invasion of private space is about to become mutual.

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One Response to “If you’re kissing me, you’d better be naked”

  1. megan said

    you just have to slip someone the tongue once and it will be the end of it.

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