Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mwah, Mwah!

When and why did large swathes of the British population adopt the habit of kissing not just family but friends and acquaintances on meeting and parting?
The only theory I can think of is that it started when people began taking holidays in continental Europe.

If I dislike the habit, it's mainly because I'm very clumsy at it. When that head-bobbing ritual starts I often end up head-butting people. That would be fine if I lived in Glasgow, but I don't.
Even if I avoid knocking someone unconscious, I'm never quite sure who is supposed to be doing the kissing.
I assume that in mixed sex greetings the man kisses the woman but you occasionally find women who do the kissing. I don't know whether this is down to feminism, an assertion of dominance or the fact that they don't get much physical contact and are gagging for it.

Then there's the problem of not knowing whether someone is a one-cheek kisser or a two-cheek kisser. If you do one cheek and they're left proffering the other while you've returned to nibbling a breadstick, it implies either over-eagerness on their part or personal dislike on yours. Or possibly that they have a personal hygeine problem.

Conversely, if they proffer one cheek and you then make a secondary strike on the other one, you feel you're being over-familiar and that's also the scenario where noses and skulls clash together. In this situation, it's customary for you both to give a little laugh and the kissee might say: "Ooh, another one! Gosh! ha, ha, ha, ha."

Some people are only up for an elaborate piece of mime, also known as air-kissing. But you don't usually know this until you've already transferred several grams of powder and foundation from the woman's cheek to your lips.
Unless, that is, she's one of those women who grasps your shoulders firmly at the start of the ritual and moves your head to the regulation six centimetres from her face on either side before thrusting you back into a vertical position, rather as though she were manipulating a ventriloquist's dummy.
Your relationship with such a woman should be terminated at that point or she'll have her hand up your back and you'll hear yourself saying "You can move in at the weekend and I'll get my will changed on Monday."

Sometimes the air-kisser will exclaim 'Mwah, mwah!' in your ears. This might have been funny the first time anyone did it. But now it's your cue to say there's an accountant with a speech impediment on the other side of the room with whom you are eager to discuss the history of diesel-electric locomotives on the former British Railways Western Region.

Why don't we stop the whole silly nonsense? In my view, we don't need an unnecessary and confusing mezzanine floor of body language between the handshake and the full, tongue-on-the-tonsils snog.
Let's keep our lips to ourselves and our hands in our pockets and stick to the admirably succint working class greeting 'All right?'


Another newish habit is putting '...ster' on the end of people's names, so John Briggs becomes 'The Briggster'.
When did that start? What's that all about? What the fuck's going on there? Where did it come from?
Don't tell me. America.

Are people too bloody lazy to think up nicknames any more? I've always been a compulsive bestower of nicknames and some of them have stuck with people for life. Nicknames can be affectionate, sarcastic, witty or vicious - or even a combination of all those. But 'the Briggster' is an attempt to turn someone into a 'character' without any wit or thought and without any reference to any of their personal characteristics. Maybe it's the perfect solution for someone who doesn't have any distinguishing features.

But it doesn't work with all names. I think that ideally the name has to be one syllable and end with a consonant. It doesn't work with 'Willie' and not very well with 'Lupin'. Nor does it work with my real names.
So there's no danger of:
"Hi! I'm the Lupinster!
Mwah, mwah!"
Or the only appropriate response:
"Fuck off, dickhead."


At 1:26 PM, Blogger zaphod said...

I shall just keep calling you Mr Lupin then. After all, I call Mrs Zaphod by her proper name. Mrs Zaphod.

(Don't like to be too informal)

At 4:54 PM, Blogger Urban Chick said...

it's just not cricket, is it?

these past few months i have kissed ears (ugh), shoulders and hair...

and then there are the two times on each cheek type of folk (aspirant-french expat types in my experience): alright, alright! hurry up and let's cut to the 'what aperitif would you like?'

er, 'kir royal' please (because i'd like you to open a bottle of the fizzy stuff Just For Me)

the urbster

At 5:54 PM, Blogger Wyndham said...

I'm ill-at-ease in social situations as it is, but cheek kissing - or even the threat of it - just sends me to pieces. I invariably get it wrong. Most of the time, I'm pulling out with relief from a single cheek kiss (almost but not quite placing my lips on flesh) when I'm suddenly dragged in to moisten the other cheek. Other times I'll think it's the double cheek kiss popular in France (notice I didn't write the French double-kiss)when I discover the person recoiling from me in exactly the same fashion. It's no wonder I never go out.

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Steve said...

It tends, air kissing that is, to be perpetrated by right-on types - yes they still exist, intent on trading the adventure of higher education off against a fully fledged membership of the middle class.

You wouldn't find an arc-welder doing it - unless, of course he was an avid abstract-expressionist and you a prospective patron.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger cello said...

I rather like doing it but not to people who are clearly ill at ease. So that would be all of you lot. Must remember just in case we ever meet.

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I seem to have struck a chord with some of you. I'm considering doing a self-help website with a forum for the thousands of people who, like Wyndham, lead a restricted social life from fear of aggressive cheek kissers.

I excluded family from my strictures and I would also exclude close friends. I think, Cello, it's a matter of proportionality. If your host introduces you to his brother-in-law's next-door neighbour you shouldn't have to go through all that ducking and diving and physical contact (unless he/she is 'well fit', of course).

I've since remembered that some air-kissers, instead of saying 'Mwah, mwah', say 'Kiss, kiss' which is even sillier, if that's possible.

zaphod, feel free to call me Willie. The internet preserves us from any more intimate contact, one of its many advantages. But you'll always be Mr and Mrs Zaphod to me.

chickster: Kir Royal? They'd only get tea or a mineral water here, if I could be arsed.

steve: your comment made me think of Billy Connolly, who used to be a welder. I'd love to hear his thoughts on this topic.

This long reply may not have left me time to post today. If so, mwah, mwah till tomorrow, Commentsters (vomit).

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Urban Chick said...

just checked and wahey:

is available

what a service you will be doing to the non-social kissers of the world...

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

uc: many thanks for that.
I've been thinking of having some lapel badges made that non-kissers could wear to parties, receptions, etc. They will, of course, be market-tested on my blog.

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Alan said...

What was wrong with a firm handshake. I like firm handshakes. Because I've got a firm handshake and therefore hold higher social status than those with limp or sweaty handshakes. But I'm not on such sure footing with the cheek kissing thing which puts me on the back foot. So perhaps your website can include a "Campaign for Real Firm Handshakes" page.

Regarding nicknames. They were much more sophisticated in my day. We'd never have put "ster" on the end of a surname. Oh no. We put "-y" on the end instead.

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Merkin said...

I don't really have a problem with single cheek kissing of women - they seem to expect it these days - as long as everyone knows it's right-cheek-to-right-cheek. There must be a rulebook these days, because it's always right cheeks that touch for the "Mwah" moment.

But certain female acquaintances of mine, and it's always those who are of the 'rapidly-getting-above-their-own-station' variety always come back for the double. As far as I can see, the double kiss is something only Higher Rate taxpayers do. Maybe the Inland Revenue send out a little reminder with the P60?

Dear Miss Merchant Banker

As you now choose to give 40% of your income to His Toniness, you are reminded that it is now mandatory for people such as you to socially kiss acquaintances on both cheeks. Non compliance will be met with a £100 fine and a visit from Ann Widdecombe.

Yours etc

G Brown

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

alan, a limp handshake can certainly permanently colour your perception of someone.
I would expect you to have a very firm handshake because I understand you enjoy clinging to the sides of mountains.

The problem with the -y suffix is that it excludes people whose surnames already end in -y, and we're all for social inclusiveness here.

merkin, it could be simply your looks and charisma that make those women go for the double.

If we're going to involve the Inland Revenue, what about tax credits for people who eschew social kissing entirely? Gordon's very keen on tax credits and that one would definitely redistribute income from the poncy middle classes to the lower income groups.

At 9:06 PM, Blogger Merkin said...

But doesn't the -ster suffix discriminate against people whose name already end in -ster? Like .. er ... celebrity drink driver Nigel Dempster and deed-poll-tastic-comedian Freddie Starratemyhamster?

You did (luckily for your blood pressure) miss out the even more annoying son of the "-ster". The "-meister" suffix. Originally from a 1990s US sitcom, in the more backward states of the USA (ie where my brother lives) everyone under 30 calls themselves (pour example) "The Lupinmeister" or "The Toddmeister". Fools.


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