Pucker up: Smooching etiquette for friends


Remember the Seinfeld episode "The Kiss Hello"? The hysterical 30-minute segment in which every woman in Jerry's apartment building was puckered up when they greeted him? The one in which Jerry slapped a moratorium on hello smooches?

"Uh, listen. I decided I can't kiss hello anymore. I'm sorry. It's nothing personal. It just makes me a little uncomfortable and I can't do it. I'm sorry," he said, after backing away from a neighbor posed to plant a quick one.

Summer is a time for weddings, high school reunions and bumping into acquaintances on the walking trail. While it might be your nature to greet someone with a kiss, not everyone likes it. For certain, there's no place for tongue wrestling or pats on the behind at social events, but is a handshake too cold? We phoned etiquette expert Trinka Taylor for an opinion.

"Kissing on the cheek is always a warmer introduction than the standard handshake in a social setting if you know the person ... you are greeting well," Taylor said. "Kissing on the lips should be withheld for only those you are in a close relationship with.

"If faced with a bold kisser, turn your head so the offender will miss your lips as a target."

And if you're the overly affectionate one, Taylor suggests you stick to the basic on-the-cheek version.

When it's the first smooch in a romantic relationship, it's hard telling where it might lead. Take former first lady Barbara Bush, for example, who has been quoted as saying, "I married the first man I ever kissed. When I tell my children that, they just about throw up."

Guys seem to be publicly more affectionate toward each other than they were decades ago. Consider the kisses (and ignore the head-butting for a moment) exchanged by the tough soccer players during the final game of the World Cup or "man-hugs" shared by buddies.

But when it comes to hugging the opposite sex, Ian Grissett, a senior at Malone College in Canton, Ohio, has a theory.

"A girl who pats you on the back when hugging, just wants to be friends. One who holds the embrace without the pat is looking for something more than friendship. And a woman who rubs your back during a hug is someone you've been dating a while."

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