Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Public mushiness

Clever Elsie's very thoughtful comment on my last post got me thinking about public displays of affection. I mentioned that my S.O. is relatively affectionate and I like that. I don't think we ever act inappropriately but I can definitely imagine others thinking we are too mushy. Let me be clear - I absolutely believe there is a line for acceptable behavior and it makes me really uncomfortable to see people totally making out in public (if I had to be totally blunt, I think I'd say that if tongue is involved, that's over the line). But when I see people holding hands, or with their arms around each other, smiling at each other and maybe sneaking a periodic smooch, my personal reaction tends to be, "awwww" (again, sucking face with tongues down each other's throats is a whole different scenario). When I really started thinking about it, it occurred to me that my reaction is not that different from when I see people playing with their dogs. I think it's sweet, it makes me happy to see that tail wagging and the smile on the owner's face.

I know that when some people object to PDA, they are thinking of the "get a room" type of behavior that makes most sensible people uncomfortable. But there are some people who think any PDA is inappropriate and that's what I don't understand. That is, I get that some people are, themselves, not touchy-feely people but what I don't get is the objection to other people being touchy-feely. To me, it's just a difference in personality - some people are physically demonstrative and others are not. As long as someone isn't being physical with someone who is an unwilling participant, why is this behavior, in itself, a problem? If a particular couple is being affectionate (in an appropriate way), why is that any more objectionable than a puppy running around wagging its tail?

Maybe I'll feel differently in a few years (though I've never been particularly bothered by others' PDA). We recently went to dinner with some friends who were celebrating their seven-year anniversary (and they've been together more like thirteen) and as they were walking up to the restaurant (where my S.O. and I were already waiting at the bar), the wife said to her husband, "You can tell they haven't been together that long - they're still holding hands." For the rest of the night, we kind of joked about that but it did make me wonder. Right now, I love that my guy always holds my hand, partly because my previous boyfriends never did and it always bugged me. I've always been a physically demonstrative person and touch is important to me. But I'm sure we'll eventually reach a stage of our relationship where we'll be less affectionate than we are now, and maybe that's why some people think that PDA is a sign of insecurity (as suggested by one of the commenters on the Bella DePaulo post I mentioned last time) - the longer a couple has been together, the less likely they probably are to be affectionate in public. But the same could be said for any physical contact - lots of couples also tend to have sex less frequently the longer they've been together but does that mean that any couple that is still having a lot of sex is insecure?

I guess the main point I wanted to make is simply that for anyone who is bothered by public mushiness, I'm sorry you feel that way but please try to keep in mind that maybe what you're witnessing is simply two people in love. Instead of being offended, just think of it as puppy tails wagging and then ignore us...

1 comment:

Clever Elsie said...

Thanks for the shout out! :) I'm glad I was able to communicate what I intended in that comment without being offensive. I was really concerned that it might come across that way, which wasn't at all how I meant it.

I totally agree that there's nothing annoying about holding hands, walking arm in arm, or sharing the occasional hug or kiss in public. And I know it's not always about being insecure. Actually, I think couples who indulge in a lot of PDA are less likely to be insecure than they are to be very infatuated and want to constantly express their affection for each other, regardless of who might be watching.

An onlooker's comfort level with different degrees of PDA seems to depend on a lot of things, not least of all on his or her own beliefs about when it's appropriate to express affection and what constitutes indecent behavior. I think it can also be influenced by one's attitude toward the human body in general and sex more specifically. And then, of course, just like there are couples who really do engage in PDA to show off, there are surely some sour-grapes singles who would rather be coupled and feel pangs of envy and resentment whenever they see happy couples. Hopefully, those kinds of singles aren't representative, but I'm sure they exist!