Sunday, January 27, 2013

Get A Room! What Do Public Displays Of Affection Say About Your Relationship?

Get A Room! What Do Public Displays Of Affection Say About Your Relationship

Watching people involved in too much PDA is not unlike driving by the scene of a traffic accident: one cannot help but look.

I wish I had a dollar every time I had to watch my brother and his girlfriend make out on the couch just before some Sunday family dinner. Although nauseous, I would be rich.

We all know people who seem to have no idea that they are in public. There is a difference between people who like to have furtive outdoor or public sex, and those who seem to have no clue that they are as good as having public sex. And nowhere near as furtive as we the audience would like.

There is another side of this PDA coin. Those partners who may as well be your sibling for all the affection they show you in public. I will tackle the former first. Those people who should really get a room.

So the question is: just how much display is too much for public consumption? Oh yes there are laws about what you can do in public, but I'm talking more about the general social understanding of what makes the rest of us cringe, not to put too fine a point on it.
When (and Why) is there Too Much PDA?

I am fairly certain there is no law against heavy duty French kissing in public, at least where I live in Canada. It's pretty cold here so we need to do what we can to keep from freezing up. But really, isn't that something best left for more private space? I think when public displays of affection go from affection to arousal (and moaning) there's a problem.

One of the questions which comes to my mind is why do so many people err on the side of excess? Is it a way of showing their free and easy carefree nature, and joie de vivre? A way of expressing that their partner is so attractive that they cannot control themselves in public? Sometimes I wonder, and I don't think it's too far off base here, if it's also a way of showing a "fuck you" to their usually unwilling audience.
I take my brother Henri as an example. As I've mentioned before, I have an awful lot of siblings. This comes in handy as they are all so completely different that I essentially have one for any topic I will ever need to discuss. Henri has always been erring on the side of far too much public display of affection. This is hardly surprising in our family of heavily repressed Catholics. I went to a convent school. Henri was taught in a Catholic boarding school. So what does this tell us? I became an erotica and romance writer, while my brother makes out with abandon in front of my parents on their plastic-wrapped Chesterfield. Obviously there are more than just hormones at hand here.

Our parents were born in the 1920s (yes, I was adopted when they were much older). They were married for 62 years. I saw them hold hands once: for a family portrait. I saw them kiss once: when they renewed their vows at their 50th wedding anniversary the world’s coldest cheek-peck was exchanged. So lots of repression. And from us kids, a lot of rebellion.

So what I am suggesting here is that excessive PDA may be more socially induced than hormonally based. While I cannot deny there is a lot of fun in watching and being watched, those are other fetishes for another day.

How to determine if you and your partner are offering up too much PDA:

1.    People are watching (you are putting on a show)

2.    People are looking away (you are putting on a really good show)

3.    People are taking pictures (this is something which has never been seen before)

4.    People ask who your chiropractor is (Wow, just wow. Contact me via the link below)

5.    People are arresting you (better hope that person in the cell with you didn't see that YouTube video I just uploaded)

Watching people involved in too much PDA is not unlike driving by the scene of a traffic accident: one cannot help but look. Yet often you pay for it when you do: curiosity did kill the cat after all. You end up seeing way more than you bargained for.

Ultimately it’s like shoes, you may not be able to say why they are good shoes, but you know them when you see them.
When (and why) is there too Little PDA?

There is one aspect of public displays of affection which is often overlooked, and that is the lack thereof.

Years ago I dated a fellow for three months and he never indicated publicly that we were together. In fact, I used to get hit on when we went to parties together. We never held hands, never exchanged even a peck on the cheek. He told me he did not like to make a scene. I thought he was just a modest guy and didn’t push it. After all, my parents were never demonstrative.

I eventually came to realize another thing: that he simply did not want to acknowledge our relationship. Whether it was because he was hoping for a better offer (did not wish to be attached to me publicly and thus destroy his chances), or because he did not want to give me any greater signal that we were simply dating casually, I cannot say. All I know is that I once grabbed for his hand and he dropped mine as though it were covered in hot dripping snot. I felt terrible, rejected, hurt. I finally told him and he gave me the gears, clearly angry at me. Chastised, I apologised. Eventually though, I did ditch him.

I think there is a problem with extremes in general. Too hot burns and too cold freezes. It's kind of like Goldilocks and the porridge. This is not to say tepid, lukewarm, room temperature is a good thing. You can only take analogies so far. It’s just that just right is just right. It is all about balance.

Anyone would agree, I think, that public mauling is simply not appropriate. I think to not even hold hands or show even the slightest bit of affection is cold at best, unless there is some cultural reason for it. I think anyone would agree that handholding and some small amount of kissing is fine. Occasional caresses, the bit of a flirty grab once in a while is appropriate and downright fun. Only the inebriated and exhibitionists seem to be blissfully unaware or indifferent to social propriety.

When all is said and done, use the following rule of thumb for PDAs:

1.    What is your comfort level? If you wish that you and he were more demonstrative in public, then perhaps there is a problem. Unless of course demonstrative means contortion.

2.    What is our comfort level? If you are overly demonstrative, then please consider our comfort level. Some people enjoy watching, some people enjoy performing. Hopefully these people find each other and get a room.

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