Air Kissing Etiquette… Pucker Up or Puck Off
Hands up if you have ever been confused by the politics and etiquette of air kissing…
Surely I can’t be the only one who’s confused about air kissing, can I? Put your hands up if you’re confused about air kissing. Yes, that’s what I thought. Okay, hands down.
Air kissing gone wrong #1: Intimate.
So, I’m not a fan of air kissing. I think it’s quite perplexing and should go back where it came from. France, I believe. So, only two hours on the Eurostar. I’ll buy the ticket.
Air kissing seems to be a contrived and contemporary piece of etiquette that we British have adopted from our continental cousins because we think it makes us terribly sophisticated. However, all it actually does is make us look like silly because very few of us know what we’re doing.
Air kissing gone wrong #2: Conflicting strategies.
Back in 1980s Britain, people didn’t go around trying to be all continental every time they saw each other, and everything was fine. In the 80s, people turned up to meet each other (or called the nearest phone box to say they weren’t coming), looked each other square in the eye, said hello, then toddled off for a spot of shopping or whatever they had arranged to do together (no snazzy coffee shops had been conceived by then).
These days, if you don’t immediately air kiss someone when you meet it feels like there is a haunting gap in your salutation. Things feel incomplete. This is because air kissing is a 21st century expectation; an expectation which dictates that if you do not do it then you just won’t feel right. You will start to become critically aware of your whole being, in particular your hands. They will dangle self consciously by your side, like an bad actor or someone telling a lie. And if you choose to try and alleviate this awkwardness by putting your hands in your pockets you will seem guarded and unfriendly to your companion. It’s awful.
Air kissing gone VERY wrong #3: Groping.
To alleviate all haunting gaps, most of us opt for what seems to be the less awkward option: going in for the air kiss. But less awkward it is not, because you, and, let’s face it, your friend, don’t actually know the proper technique for air kissing. Nobody has ever taught you so you have just bumbled along making up your own rules according to what seems right. This foolhardiness has actually exacerbated the huge air kissing problem society now faces. There are too many ways to do it. There is too much confusion.
I have noted 6 different strategies that people use when attempting to air kiss:
- Double sided, no touching of cheeks.
- Single sided, no touching of cheeks
- Double sided, cheeks touching
- Single sided, cheeks touching
- Double sided peck on the cheek
- ingle sided, peck on the cheek
Besides the fact that they all sound a little like photocopier settings (French terminology definitely needed), these are five terms too many for how to air kiss. There are so many ways that it can be done and nobody knows which one to choose.
You might have a personal preference and think you know where you’re going with all this, but I’ll tell you now, it’s immaterial if the person you are air kissing has chosen a different style.
The ‘how many sides to go for’ for thing causes immense problems. For example, if a double sider goes in to kiss a single sider, confusion inevitably ensues when single sider pulls back but double sider leans across to the other side to finish their continental greeting. Single sider then realises they’re dealing with a double sider and so tries to go back in, but this just leads to confusion and head clashing as it’s too late and the rhythm is gone. The scenario ends up like the beginning of a badly timed snog between two nervous teenagers. Highly embarrassing for a couple of platonic chums.
The cheeks touching/not touching thing is admittedly not an enormous problem, but the peck on the cheek thing is. The sticking point being that it is not possible for both parties to be the peckers. One person must be the peckee. But how is this established? I would dearly love for someone to enlighten me on this front because it would lessen a lot of social anxiety for me.
A tipsy person at a party once told me not to always put my cheek out to be kissed when air kissing; this alarmed and upset me. I felt like I had been not only conducting myself inappropriately but doing it in a way to make me come across as a sort of princess type who always puts her hand out to be kissed. This couldn’t be further from the truth; I just don’t know what I’m doing.
I was happy to try the opposite approach – the one this fellow was clearly hinting that I employ – but the problem with that is, you can end up in an even more awkward teenage-kissing-type scenario than the aforementioned. I did try, though. Rather than putting my cheek out to be kissed, I angled it in more and making sure my lips brushed the other person’s cheeks too. On occasion this can work, but if you are both doing this then too much angling inwards actually leads to a corner lip kiss. My friend probably thought I was trying to smooch her. Thus, I came across as more socially inept than in the first instance.
Perhaps if we’d learnt air kissing from a young age we’d be okay. Maybe they could put air kissing on the school curriculum, along with French immersion lessons, and it would engender a whole generation that knows what they’re doing. It would, of course, need to be taught by people who also know what they are doing. Otherwise we just end up with a new breed coming across as wanting to be more than friends, or just as general imbeciles.
Nowadays there are just too many ways to air kiss and unless we can establish one way of doing it and stick with that then, I’m sorry, it needs to go. We’re British; let’s stick with a good old handshake, or a friendly wee hug for close friends and relatives.
And if we can’t even do that properly, then let’s just stay at home and text each other instead.
Air kissing gone wrong: Body language. What is even happening here? Photo: Mark Stewart