Yes, in spite of the cold, nasty rain here in Northern Virginia and the five-plus inches of snow in points north, it is Spring. And in the Spring, we clean.
Spring cleaning is almost a stereotypical activity at this time of year ... the time when we throw out old things, set up yard sales, freshen up the old homestead, and get ready for the happy days of Summer. It's the time for renewal - for jettisoning things that have outlived their usefulness - which is why I try to stay out of Agnes's way as much as possible, not wishing to tempt fate.
One of the quasi-traditions of Spring cleaning is the annual Washington Post Outlook Spring Cleaning, when commentators suggest things we should clear out to improve the coming year. This year's list, which appeared this past Sunday, includes these ten items:
The All-Volunteer Military;
Home Equity Loans;
The 3PM School Day;
The Social Kiss;
Each of these could be the takeoff point for a lengthy blog post in itself, but for now, let's just limit ourselves to a discussion of the Social Kiss.
Writer Meghan Dunn thinks the Social Kiss has outlived whatever usefulness it may have had as a way of expressing greetings or moderate affection, mostly because - unlike our more sophisticated European cousins - we really don't know how to do it. She notes that,
"Other cultures have achieved consensus on a particular style, be it one, two or three (sometimes even four) kisses. But Americans are all over the place. We miss the mark and wind up grazing lips. We lean in for action but, sensing possible non-reciprocation, abruptly abort the mission. We change horses midstream, trading the kiss for a half-hearted hug, only to force the other party into a kiss-hug combo that really works only for mothers with small children and lovers saying goodbye at the airport."
True enough, in many cases. Some men view the Social Kiss as an opportunity to cop a minor feel, and many ladies would rather not have men of brief (and possibly alcohol-lubricated) acquaintance planting wet lips on their carefully-applied makeup.
I, myself, like the Social Kiss*. Of course, having lived in Europe for many years, I managed to absorb some of the unwritten rules of how and when to apply lips to cheeks ... as Ms Dunn noted, various cultures have different approaches, and it's important to know the rules before you go for the Happy Peck.
The Social Kiss and its close relative, the Social Hug, are also common features of the ballroom dance culture, and so most dancers are better at them than the average Joe or Jane.
Kiss or not kiss? Hug or not? It depends. If you're going to deliver a Social Kiss or Hug, here are Uncle Bilbo's Recommended Guidelines:
1. Don't hesitate. Decide you're going to do it, and do it. Don't make your intended kissee wonder what you're going to do.
2. Make it quick. You're saying hello, not trying to set up a horizontal encounter. Well, not yet, anyway.
3. Don't slobber. Nobody needs a damp smear as a lingering reminder of your inept Social Kiss.Easy enough, right?
No charge for the advice, which will help you avoid having that Social Kiss result in an anti-social slap.
Have a good day. Apply those kisses sparingly, men ... most ladies will thank you.
More thoughts tomorrow.
* A variation of the Social Kiss is the "klinkety-kloonk," which occurs when two people exchanging a kiss rattle each others' eyeglasses. I know all about this one.