Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's the Deal with the Cheek Kiss?

"Everybody needs a hug. It changes your metabolism." ~Leo Buscaglia

Admittedly, this blog post has little to do with writing. It's just something that's been on my mind lately.

The cheek kiss. Now, I'm not talking European or Latin/South American culture, where it's the norm to give a kiss (at least one, usually two) on the cheek(s) for greeting.

But it wasn't until I moved to the NYC suburbs about 11 years ago that I really discovered the novelty of the cheek kiss in this country. See, where I come from originally, anyone who's saying hello or goodbye to good friends or family gives hugs. Big, warm, two-armed hugs. It's rather nice. This remained true when I moved to Ohio; mid-westerners hug too.

When I moved to downstate NY, I discovered that most people around here don't hug. Instead, they give kisses on the cheek. While this may sound like a relatively minor difference, I gotta tell you, it took some getting used to. I'd lean in for a hug, and instead I'd get a cheek pressed next to mine, with someone's lips making a kissing sound in the air beside my face. It's sort of embarrassing, when your arms are hanging out there, ready for a big ol' embrace, and the person has already moved on to air-kiss someone else. OK, once in a while, lips do make skin contact, but not that often. Mostly we're kissing the air and making smacking sounds with our mouths as a way of saying "Hey, so great to see you," or "Take care now - see you soon."

I've gotten pretty good at negotiating the cheek kiss after all this time. I've mastered the position and the timing like a native down-stater. However, I still refuse to kiss the air if I can help it; I swoop in for an honest-to-goodness peck on the cheek as often as I can.

Still, I miss the hug, I really do. There's something much warmer about that kind of greeting. It's a whole-hearted, whole-bodied commitment to the expression of hello or goodbye.

What about where you live? Cheek kiss, hug, or something else? Or nothing at all?


Marianne Arkins said...

Where I grew up in CA ... we hugged. BIG, two-armed hugs with warmth and meaning.

Here in NH, it's the cheek kiss. All my in-laws do the cheek kiss. Still bugs me. What's wrong with a warm hug????

Must be a New England thing?

Liz said...

I lived in NYS all my life and always been a hugger.

Mary Ricksen said...

I had a friend whose ex-husband has a beard, and he drank a lot of beer. So her would always kiss sloppy wet on my face, that's if I was quick enough to turn it. Then if I wasn't ugh!
Maybe it's some American take on the double European air kiss. But God, give me back the hug please! Or at least a wave.
I never noticed it especially in New York, I think it's a Northern thing coming our way. I thought I left it up there?

Dru said...

We hug down here and it's a quick hug.

Kammie said...

I'd say hugs where I'm at...although not many. lol With my family, it's both.