Generally speaking, I’m not an awkward person. I handle social situations well, can survive small talk (though rarely willingly), don’t mind shaking hands and exchanging banal thoughts on the weather in Cleveland this time of year.
But I hate kissing.
Not everyone. I’ll kiss my wife and my mom and my mother-in-law and longtime friends without problem. But what has always troubled me is that moment when you do or don’t kiss someone on the cheek. My mom’s friends, for example. The mothers of people I grew up with. Friends of my in-laws who, despite having met me once or twice, insist on slathering up my cheek. Really smelly people. I instinctively recoil, then realize quickly that I’m trapped in some sort of social vortex of hell. So I lean in, keep my lips as far away as possible from skin, make a slight puckering noise (solely for affectâ€”or is it effect?) and hope for the quickest escape.
My wife and I continue to joke about our wedding nearly eight years ago, when a couple (neither of us particularly liked, for the record) damned us with the nastiest, sweatiest cheek smooches of all time. F***, I still feel the gooey saliva dripping down my face. Thing is, it makes no sense. With all the germs and nastiness out there, why do we still consider the cheek kiss a social staple? At the aforementioned wedding, I probably received, oh, 75 cheek kisses. If you think about it, that translates to my mother kissing my aunt kissing my best friend from college kissing the grotesque sweaty people we didn’t even like. Saliva meeting saliva meeting saliva. Why not a handshake? Or, better yet, an appreciative nod?
So … what to do? I don’t know. For years I’ve tried avoiding these sort of kisses altogether, but to no avail. I’m 37-years old, and probably about 10,000 regrettable kisses into life. If the madness hasn’t ceased yet, it never will …