This weekend I've kissed a number of people on the lips, the eyebrow, the ear and even the forehead. This embarrassing intimacy is all the result of difficult European greeting customs which us Brits should never be subjected to!
In spite of travelling regularly and schooling myself in language and cross cultural understanding, the actual moment of greeting still baffles me. I know it's coming, as they approach and dip their head, I seize up, unsure whether to swerve left or right. Consequently I either meet them full on the mouth, or some awful near miss which more resembles a yuppie 'mwah' than a genuine Italian 'Ciao'.
Returning home on Monday with the scars of fumbled greetings still fresh in my mind, I recalled this old but still brilliant Pam Ayres reflection on the matter. It's still best in her own words:
But Don't Kiss Me..
I want to ask a favour of the friends that I might meet,
To all of my acquaintances who pass me in the street,
Give me a cheery wave: 'Hello ! How are you? Bye! So long!
'But don't kiss me. Please don't kiss me, for I always get it wrong.
I do not want to do it, I would rather pass you by,
I miss, you get a smacker on the ear or in the eye,
I'm standing on the pavement thinking 'Blast! Damnation! Heck !
He went the other way and I have kissed him on the neck.
I find it so embarrassing it makes my knuckles clench,
It's a very dodgy habit we've imported from the French,
What's wrong with 'Oh good morning!' or a handshake if you must,
A lovely smile of welcome or, all right, a smile of lust.
But I do not want to kiss you! I am sure you're very nice,
But I find it so confusing, is it once or is it twice?
I'm filled with apprehension, and a feeling close to fright,
Who leans forward first? Is it the left cheek first or right?
And I feel a strange awareness as we stand around and speak,
That there's a disconcerting trace of your saliva on my cheek,
So don't kiss me, no, don't kiss me, say 'Enchante! Ciao! Good health!
But I'm telling you, don't kiss me, keep your choppers to yourself !
Oh don't kiss me, I implore you, for I cannot stand the strain,
I seldom kiss my husband and you don't hear him complain,
So au revoir! Auf Wiedersehen! Just tell me that you'll miss me
But please if we should meet again, don't pucker up! DON'T KISS ME!