Hugging, Vol. 15, Issue 7

Dear Etiquetteer: I just read your piece on the etiquette of shaking hands. It's an issue for not only shaking hands, but hugging. I am a "hugger" and receive great satisfaction from a hug from friends and relatives, but I wonder about your thoughts on the subject. Some people are put off by it and others feel quite natural with it. What do you think?

Dear Hugging:

Etiquetteer has to agree with you: some people are put off by hugging, and others, ahem, embrace it. Successful Huggers have the knack of knowing their Intended Targets - uh, Recipients - well enough to know if a hug will be received in the spirit intended. If you're approaching from six feet or more away with arms outstretched and your Intended Recipient doesn't look quite as eager, you may need to curb your enthusiasm. Making eye contact before a hug will also help you gauge how to continue. A hug in greeting is more a brief clinch. It isn't a "With my body I thee worship" Expression of Affection, with Full Body Contact from neck to knees, which could go on long enough to Excite Comment . . . and possibly much else that is Not Perfectly Proper in a Social Setting.

Huggers also need to be aware of their own hygiene so that hugging doesn't linger unpleasantly. Etiquetteer wrote once about the aftereffects of a sweaty hug. Social Kissing can be just as fraught with peril, too; Etiquetteer's also provided guidance on that topic.

Etiquetteer wishes you Happy Hugging with Equally Enthusiastic Family, Friends, and Acquaintances!


Next week Etiquetteer will celebrate 15 years of writing about Perfect Propriety. What issues would you, Dear Readers, like to see Etiquetteer cover in the next 15 years? What do you consider the most challenging issues of Perfect Propriety? Etiquetteer is waiting to hear from you at queries <at>

A Pre-Valentine's Warning from Etiquetteer, Vol. 13, Issue 19

With St. Valentine's Day on its way tomorrow, Etiquetteer feels it necessary - strictly in the name of Perfect Propriety - to advise you against Popping the Question Publicly. Fictionally we have the example of Vicki Lester and Norman Maine, seen here in the George Cukor film of A Star Is Born:

Now you'll notice that the situation was saved beautifully by Our Heroine who, seeing the embarrassment of her beloved, called out "Oh no, that's much too public a proposal to say no to! I accept!" And those who know the story know exactly what that got her . . .

Cruel Reality shows a different outcome:

But if you are really intent on doing this, Etiquetteer has some questions to ask first:

  • How comfortable is your beloved in the spotlight? Are you choosing to propose in public because she likes having attention called to herself, or because you want to call attention to yourself?
  • Are the manner and location of your proposal what you think she might expect of a marriage proposal? (Reviewing that compilation, and recognizing that Etiquetteer might be succumbing to stereotypes, Etiquetteer finds it hard to believe that most women want to entertain proposals of marriage at sporting events or the mall.)
  • Are you 110% sure that your beloved will say yes? And even then, Etiquetteer thinks you should reconsider.
  • Do you have a Graceful Exit planned in the (to you unlikely) event that your proposal is declined? Even if you're 110% sure your beloved will accept, plan one.

Etiquetteer asks these questions not only for your benefit and that of your beloved, but also for the Embarrassed Spectators who, if they don't want to laugh in your face, will want to turn their backs. Please, Etiquetteer begs you, consider your plans very carefully.

Now of course Etiquetteer expects to hear from several people who did witness Successful Public Proposals of Marriage, and that's just wonderful. Etiquetteer is delighted that you had that experience. Etiquetteer rather hopes that Those Who Popped the Question evaluated their situations intelligently.

You may be sure that Etiquetteer will have Shields Up on St. Valentine's Day, and if one of Cupid's little arrows gets in the way, Etiquetteer will use it as a swizzle stick for a martini.

Social Kissing, Vol. 6, Issue 18

Dear Etiquetteer:

I was taught that when social greeting includes kisses, one starts right to right cheek, not brushing skin, and makes a soft kissy sound or perhaps murmurs something about being delighted. Should the kiss fest continue, both participants then kissed left, and if again, then right to right. This rule as I learned it pertained to any combination of sexes.

At times, the traffic jam can be a bit distressing and can injure maquillage or nose. So, upon what side does the kissing properly commence and how many times are appropriate for whom?

Your response is eagerly anticipated.Dear Blunderbussing:

You have certainly touched on a thorny issue, one in which it’s easy to hurt someone’s feelings, makeup, or nose job. And Etiquetteer knows, having damaged them all at one time or another.

Social kissing, especially for acquaintances, should not involve mouth-to-mouth interaction. You correctly identify the right cheek as the Perfectly Proper place for each person to start. Not everyone is ambidextrous, however (cheekbidextrous?), and it helps not to commit yourself to leaning in too quickly. On the other hand, if you see someone aiming for your lips and you don’t want to get that close to them, most people already know quite well to turn one’s cheek to them.

Errant lip prints lead to misunderstanding, especially between married couples. Ladies with lipstick especially should adopt the "air kiss," when the lips come close to, but don’t touch, the cheek. Indeed, Etiquetteer remembers walking by an Orthodox Church years ago and being tickled by a sign in the doorway that read "Ladies With Lipstick Please Do Not Venerate Icons."

It’s always important to emphasize that social kissing is most Perfectly Proper with dry lips. Those who don’t "air kiss" often forget that no one wants a slug’s trail on their cheek after an Introductory Osculation. And gentlemen most certainly don’t want a big smack of flavored lip gloss on their cheek.

Gentlemen show respect to ladies by not forcing their attentions upon them. Really we all ought to take a lesson from the Viennese, who have developed the handkuss since the end of the 16th century. There it is understood that one does not kiss a lady (or her hand) unless she first offers it. Enthusiastic gentlemen (like That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much) would do well to remember this and not get caught up in the excitement of the moment. Indeed, That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much got himself into quite a bind once by practically lunging at a Female Acquaintance Old Enough to Be His Mother. Mere millimeters away from Epidermal Contact, the lady cried, "Don’t kiss me! I have a cold!" His embarrassment was exceeded only by his inability to stop in time . . . which of course led to sniffles four days later. Gentlemen, let this be a lesson to you.

Another big don’t, having mentioned the handkuss, is that True Gentlemen never behave like Cartoon French Lovers and make those little mwah sounds while kissing up someone’s arm from hand to neck.

Americans seem to kiss only once, as a rule. The French, and those in the arts (dancers, especially, and Those Who Love Them), no matter their nationality, kiss at least twice, once on each cheek. Italians, on the other hand (as explained to Etiquetteer by an Italian-American balletomane) kiss three times in rapid succession, right-left-right.

So, happy kissing! Etiquetteer hopes that you now have enough ammunition to preserve your maquillage, your dignity, and your good humor. Just don’t forget to carry a handkerchief with you in case you have to blot up a mess.

Today is Mother's Day, and Etiquetteer would like to offer deepest sympathy to the family of Peg O'Dowd, who died yesterday after a long illness. One of the brassier proponents of Perfect Propriety, "The Glamorous Peg" had a real knack for the Warm Welcome and for Telling It Like It Is While Remaining a True Lady. Those of us who eagerly anticipated her visits will miss her.


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