So, I got to thinking about the way people tend to greet each other here in the states. The manner in which people respond to introductions in America correlates very much to the situation (friends, business, bar, etc) and also the age of the people involved. The younger the people are and the more casual the situation is, the more likely people will respond with a ‘hey’ and a head nod. Maybe it’s because I’m older now, but I’m beginning to find the head nod really annoying. Why can’t we do something more…I don’t know…just more? This train of thought lead me to review what other countries tend to do when greeting people, and there was something present pretty much across the board. A kiss on the cheek (or at least touching cheeks)! In pretty much every other culture it is not only accepted, but expected that people get in real close and personal when saying hello, or even when being introduced. The gender of the people involved matters not, nor the age. One is expected to overcome concerns of foreign saliva and bad breath to truly greet the other person. As it stands, I’m becoming a big fan of a hand shake and a ‘nice to meet you’. Yes, I’m one of those people who will judge a person based on their handshake. If your hand feels like a limp rag, it’s gonna take a while for me to get over that first impression. I mean, come on! Is it really that hard to grip my hand with some semblance of (non-competitive, non pissing contest) firmness? The answer: NO.
To get back on topic, this all brought me back to the summer of studying in France. Some U.S. students and myself were hanging out in the dorms with a French guy we met, and his neighbor came in. The guy introduced us to his friend and we all said ‘hey’, but the girl (while not native to France was not American) looked confused. To the French guy she said, “Faire la bise?” (She asked him if we were supposed to kiss cheeks) And he said in English, “Oh no! They don’t do that.” As he said that, I remember thinking, “Why not?” So, America, what’s wrong with us? ….Wait, hmmm….that’s too general. Why are we so standoff-ish when it comes to greetings? Not only do we prefer not to touch each other, but if we have to, we must stand 4 feet apart as we do it!!! So, what’s the deal, I wonder? America has its roots in different countries and cultures..so how is it that we held on to the puritanical reserved exterior? I personally would like to bring the embrace back to the greeting. Of course, if someone comes across as a bit of a letch, I’ll reserve the right to invoke the 4 feet rule, but otherwise..let’s get personal, people!
I don’t mean the fake southern, keep space between us as we air kiss kind of embrace either! I mean honest to goodness, cheek to cheek action! (Bah-chika-wawa!) Is America too homophobic as a nation to embrace embracing across the board? Wait…yes. I forget how some people are….But really, if I kiss a woman’s cheek as a greeting, will people jump to conclusion that we’re lesbian lovers? (I guess if they’re men, then that would be a fantasy come true anyway..) And does the same go for men? Seriously! Big manly Italian, Muslim, and Greek men embrace and touch cheeks when they greet each other! No one accuses them of being gay! Of course, I bring this up as the nation seems to be taking steps back…what with people wanting to out-law abortion again. While we’re at it, why don’t we just bring back segregation and make it legal for men to beat their wives? …Sorry folks, off topic. But really, why are we Americans such cold fish? As it was, after 5 years or more of knowing them, I’ve only now started ending my conversations with friends with an “I love you”. God knows I’ve loved them for much longer….but it didn’t feel okay to say it somehow. Maybe if we felt more comfortable with each other (as a nation) we could eliminate a lot of hate. Dear Vagabond readers, I’m sending out some cheek kisses to all of you! Muah–kiss noise!