Accidental Mouth Kiss
When you’re a kid, you were probably used to older people—mainly family members—kissing you hello or goodbye on the cheek, mouth, or head. Then we go through a period where the cordial kissing kind of fades out. Unfortunately for the shy people among us, there comes a time, usually in our 20s, when a polite kiss becomes the standard greeting or farewell either between women or between men and women, as if we were all old European ladies from a bygone era.
But how do we know if someone likes kissing or being kissed? And is it a one cheek deal, or both cheeks, or both cheeks twice? Should we actually be making skin contact or is this more of a pantomime?
Things get even crazier when other cultures are thrown into the mix. When I lived in Europe for a few years, life turned into some savage kissing fest, complete with sloppy, unanticipated cheek kisses from strangers, friends, my students, their mothers — the list goes on. More than one of my friends experienced the dreaded “accidental mouth kiss,” when your mouth gets just a little too close to another person’s mouth while crossing cheeks to kiss.
In the grand scheme of things, you might be better off avoiding kisses altogether.
Back when I used to teach English and American culture in Spain, one of the most confusing things I had to explain was simple greetings. First, I instructed that “What’s up?” should always be answered casually with “Not much,” “Nothing,” or simply by responding with “Hey” or “Hey what’s up?”
“How’s it going” and “How are you?”, I explained, should always be answered with “Good” or something equally succinct and positive, because unless it’s a close friend or family member asking, most people don’t actually (a) care how you’re doing or (b) want to hear that you’re not okay, because that’s just depressing for everybody.
So why do we even ask these questions to each other if we have no intention of answering them truthfully or waiting to hear an answer? Even worse, we run the risk with these greetings, which Wait But Why calls “robot phrases,” of automatically responding without fully processing what someone else is saying. Worst case scenarios? Ending up in the “Misery Zones” of giving the wrong answer. Yeah, we’ve been there.
Painfully Long Acquaintance Run-Ins
You probably know the feeling of bumping into someone you don’t know that well but are still friendly enough to interact with. That feeling is rarely a good one. It’s a sort of buzz in your head, pit in your stomach, and sweat running down your back kind of feeling. While trying to think of polite conversation to have with said acquaintance—superficial conversations steeped in banality—you’re also desperately looking for an escape.
Too often, these forced conversations go on for too long, and we end up both asking and revealing details that neither party is probably interested in. Ending these uncomfortable situations can only be made worse by one thing…