'Air kissing' is a common greeting in Spain

'Air kissing' is a common greeting in Spain. Archive photo.

14-03-2015T. AYUGA

What to write about today? Will it be about the Duke of York and his current troubles, or perhaps a juicy snippet about the general election - maybe even an update as to where we are at the moment regarding The Crown - which I have been binge viewing since Sunday?

No, none of the above; as today I will be mainly concentrating on kissing and the etiquette of puckering-up. A few years ago my auntie Bunty (btw everyone should have an auntie Bunty!) as she greeted me at her front door I kissed her gently on the cheek. A harmless enough act of affection you might have thought, but my formidable aunt thought it a very “rum do” indeed and spent the rest of the afternoon eyeing me suspiciously over the tinned (pink!) salmon sandwiches.

It seems that this simple gesture was most unwelcome and it was interpreted as a sign that I had given myself some “fancy Spanish ways” and that I should keep my over-active lips to myself. Given the fact that auntie Bunty has four strapping sons, it did cross my mind that that uncle Ken must have fathered them from the next village. Anyway, if you think about it, everyone nowadays kisses almost anyone on sight. It’s true; social interaction and good manners have changed so much over the past few decades as to be almost unrecognisable to an older generation. To kiss or not to kiss, that is the question!

For instance, do you kiss a woman on first introductions, or do you wait to ambush her second-time-around? Indeed, is it absolutely essential that you kiss an occasional female acquaintance at all - given the fact that the poor woman might rather wish that you didn’t? One thing is for sure, kissing each other on a regular and random basis is un-British and our forebears would be horrified.

Personally, I think this newish custom has been encouraged by the type of bloke who couldn’t cop-a-snog off almost any women if she were actually given a choice…what do you reckon ladies? Another potential pitfall is when you come across a group of familiar looking women, by the time you’ve surfaced after slobbering all over them without invitation; it will sometimes occur to you that you have made a ghastly mistake and you have no idea who any of them are - please don’t call the police! Hey, but that’s just women, what about men?

Oh dear, where do I start? I live in genuine fear when meeting some of my male friends; because they seem to have embraced a wholly latin approach when greeting a mate. Come on, is it really necessary to give a full-on man-hug when bumping into somebody you know? A slight inclination of the head would always do when encountering an acquaintance. And if your wife had just presented you with a new baby a brisk handshake might be appropriate, but nowadays it seems to be expected to give a pal a knee-trembler if taking part in anything even vaguely celebratory. I have mates who will chase around a table for a hug in the manner of Groucho Marx pursuing a pretty waitress just because their silly footer team has won an improbable victory over Manchester Rovers. Even my own son practically breaks my back when we meet; with an all-embracing bear hug and a sloppy kiss on the cheek - I do wish he wouldn’t, as it’s really quite embarrassing and I’m easily embarrassed.

As you can probably tell by now, I am a victim of my upbringing. My late father was a fine man, a good father and would be appalled if I were to attempt to cuddle him. In modern terms, my father treated me rather like a ginger haired step-child; that being, with a certain amount of kindness, but at arms length, given my in-built ability to annoy him for no apparent reason. I have to say that dad was’t much moved by undue emotion and he instinctively mistrusted any outward show of affection; thinking it at best “theatrical’ and at worst something done by ”foreigners,” - indeed, probably Italians whom he found particularly unsound. In fact, I chuckle to myself sometimes when I hear fathers and mothers tell all who will listen that their sons and daughters are their “best friends.” Dear Lord, spare me - that’s not in the job description, nor should it be. Discuss!

THE BOOMERANG GENERATION
Talking about parents, I understand that according to official figures, more than a quarter of young people have never moved out of their family homes. That’s 3.5 million of 20 to 34 year-olds who go back to living with their parents after further education, mostly due to the soaring costs of setting up home on their own.This trend has been labelled the “Boomerang Generation” and perhaps surprisingly, I have a lot of sympathy for these youngsters. Sociologists point to a number trends that exacerbate the situation - they include young people delaying marriage and children until they are over 30 or putting off formalising their relationships with partners, another factor could be deciding to remain in education and training for longer. Yes, all of the above - but, these are surely the effects not the reason behind this situation? Mostly it comes down to money and the cost of renting or owning a property - full stop. Without going into ‘old fart’ mode, I still remember the frisson of excitement generated by the thought of living in my-own-place as a young man in early twenties. It seems that young people today can’t even aspire to their own place until a full decade and a half after that, if at all. Perhaps, something for our politicians to think about, as not all young people can rely upon - The Bank of Mum & Dad.

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