Growing up in a Frozen Tundra just a bit more frozen than that of which MckMama blogs, etiquette was a different world than anything I’ve encountered in the last ten years away from “home”. A nod and a smile was a proper greeting to anyone, and maybe, only maybe, a handshake. But it wasn’t required, especially for women. Saying ‘hello’ simply didn’t require any bodily contact. The same rules apply for ‘good-bye’.
The first time anyone other than my mother or father – and I do mean anyone – kissed my cheek, I was many miles away, eighteen years old, far from home in an East Coast world which promptly told me how different
it I was. Everyone pulled you in for a cheek-kiss – then switched cheeks and did it again. The first person who attempted that must have wondered where on earth I hailed from when I fumbled, thinking it was supposed to be a hug. I got kissed squarely on the ear and we both backed up wondering what on had just happened. Or at least I wondered – and felt slightly assaulted in the process. Or maybe pickpocketed, I wasn’t sure.
I got more accustomed to it all after that, watching and learning. It’s just not normal though – of this I’m convinced! In my world of the Frozener Tundra, such affections were shown, well, I suppose perhaps by the Proper Courtier or the Doting Father. Certainly not the Next Door Neighbor, greeting you in passing as he mows his lawn and you mow yours. No, you can keep your grass and sweat scent to yourself, thank you. Make certain you don’t bear make-up lines, because they are going to be inspected closer than you imagined. That Mary Kay lady in the Frozener Tundra who said to inspect yourself with a hand mirror at arm’s length since that’s the distance people see you from never met an East Coast Cheek Kisser, I assure you.
So now, living in the North of the South, you meet many varieties. Bodily contact is almost always involved, ranging from the handshake to the side-contact hug to the full-body hug with a quick cheek kiss included. I have yet to meet the two-cheek kisser apart from someone who hailed from the East Coast, but the rules here are hazy at best. Strangers hug – sometimes. If you got a hug on the way in, make note. You’ll get one on the way out as well, I assure you. Best be prepared. If it’s a good friend, hugs are mandatory. Usually. Lots of handshakes. The occasional cheek kissed. It’s impossible to know for sure. The heat seems to limit bodily contact – something that baffles me. Surely social decorum isn’t dependent on the weather? “If it’s above 85 degrees, nod and smile. You simply do not want to find out, once entering another’s personal space, that deodorant was forgotten, after all.” It is an interesting concept, I suppose. There are a fair share of people who forget the deodorant, I assure you. I manage to land behind them in the grocery checkout line on a regular basis, testing my ever-present oh-so-pregnant gag reflex. I know.
But me? I’m the one on the sidelines at those social functions (wearing deodorant, hopefully!), feeling socially awkward in a world of North of the South rules that I haven’t learned yet and just not quite sure what’s expected. I rather liked the nod and smile. Simple. Something about personal space and the five littles who don’t understand respect for such space who hang on me most of their waking hours, I suppose. But if I ever pull you in with a handshake to a full body hug and kisses on both cheeks, know I’ve lived in too many places to know what is considered ‘normal’. And watch out. The baby will likely kick you in the process. Won’t that be awkward?