This summer my nine year old grandson was with me for ten weeks. As I tucked him in bed one night, he mentioned, “Mommy and Daddy think it is odd you kiss me on the lips.” It certainly is not odd for me! I began thinking about the customs of kissing and how different kissing is from culture to culture.
When we moved to Canada a couple dozen years ago, I was taken aback by the kissing culture I encountered there. Even though we had lived in the same vicinity before, I had not experienced this “new” kissing culture. Particularly in the social life of the business world, it was expected that you greet others, sometimes strangers, with a kiss on one cheek or sometimes both cheeks. I was very uncomfortable with all this kissing of men and women! I never knew on which cheek I would be kissed first, or if it would be a two-cheek kiss. Sometimes, it was a touch cheek to cheek with a kiss into the air. My assumption is the different methods came from different countries of the world – mainly from Europe. When to do what? Then the embarrassing thing would happen once in a while (usually with a man!) that you would guess wrong on which cheek to peck and you would end up kissing on the lips inadvertently! Ick!
In my hometown culture of rural NY State, you did not kiss anyone but relatives and very close friends. Parents and children kissed going off to school or maybe to other activities. Other kisses happened when you were parting, not just for a day, but for a period of time. And these kisses were on the mouth! I mean, why kiss if it isn’t on the mouth? You might kiss a sleeping baby or your young child on the head, forehead, cheek, or whatever as a love pat. But a kiss meaning you had deep regard and friendship-love for that person was on the lips. My brother eleven years older was very kissy-wissy to my chagrin! I was his “Honeybee.” Oh, my. He was always kissing me. I remember telling him I preferred candy kisses to his kisses!
Kissing did not happen between genders unless within the immediate family. It was woman to woman kissing. Though I do remember my mother kissing a traveling evangelist who usually stayed at our house when he came to town. As they cheerfully greeted each other, my mother quoted scripture (I Thessalonians 5:26) “greet the brethren with a holy kiss” and planted one on him. There was nothing sexual about it. It was simply a kiss of joy.
All of these kisses are stiff, hard, quick kisses, not soft mushy ones which are reserved only for those who are in love. I kissed my parents on the lips to their dying day. I also kissed my Canadian in-law parents. No one else in the family kissed them. For me, it was the natural thing to do.
I thought some explanation was necessary for Kevin’s parents since they think I am “odd.” His mother told me, in her homeland of Poland, a greeting is three kisses — first on one cheek, then the other cheek, and a third kiss back on the first cheek. NO one but lovers kiss on the lips.
Though I am a kiss-on-the-lips person, there aren’t many to kiss on the lips anymore. It has been five years since I kissed my daughter, and I last kissed her on her marble-cold lips before the casket was closed. My son tries to avoid even cheek kisses, but he does accept hugs. It is a new world having an alien spouse. I don’t expect or want kisses from him though greeting and saying goodbye is just awkward. I saw him recently for the first time in almost a year. He is still in the Canadian culture of kissing cheeks. He went for my cheek, and I averted. When he left, he planted a peck on my lips in front of our kids and grandkids. I am happy to be in Texas where you greet with a “howdy” and a hefty handshake! My three youngest grandsons are still kissable! We also do butterfly and Eskimo kisses too! Their kisses are the BEST!
Please tell about your kissing customs!