ONE SIDE OR TWO?
by Billee Sharp
On Friday night Pixieman and I drove down to the Ferry Building to pick up a friend I hadn’t seen for twenty years and he’d never met. As the Amtrak link bus barreled into sight I spotted Sophie by her signature immense fro. When she came down the bus steps towards me I had one of those moments: the kiss dilemma – would it be one side or two?
Using powers of deduction augmented with background deets courtesy fakebook I figured I should be prepared for the French double style, this because the lady has worked in theatre and is technically foreign ( her family came from Germany to England in the Thirties) I was wrong –we did the easier, more English, one cheek peck and hugged more convincingly.
Social etiquette seems a dreary and old school consideration but while we live together in our huge societies and in our local communities our social terrain will continue to be raked over and rightly so. The kiss dilemma is obviously a frivolous example but operates on a number of levels: most nuance has a social relevance and where I come from (England) kissing both sides is posh, or foreign and likely both. Our West Coast sensibilities seem to allow for an easy-going interpretation of customary practices, we pick up on the language and gestures we like and adopt them readily. Sometimes too readily, I fought a long teen battle over the ambient usage of bitch and ho but I’m invigorated by their prolly and the ubiquitous bro. I’m veering into linguistic semantic territory now which must be Sophie’s weekend legacy as her dissertation, on linguistic something-or-other and Battlestar Galactica has been covering a modest third of our kitchen table for the last couple of days. In our house, this is good social etiquette: if you are staying here, find a space to do your thing and this works well.
The only questionable point of social etiquette in my last few days was the conversation I had with a Seventh Day Adventist on Easter Sunday, I wonder if I offended him. I didn’t mean to, but everything I said made him look like he was either going to hit me, vomit or have a seizure. I was being really nice too, really gentle and explaining how I had this perspective on all religions having the same divine aspirations. He cut me off right in the middle of my spiel about how we’d brought our boys up to recognize Jesus as a very cool teacher , he made that ominous wince I mentioned and then quoted Jesus-from-the-bible: nodding sagely and resonating he let everybody there in the kitchen at Mamsan’s know that Jesus said I DO NOT COME IN PEACE, I COME WITH A SWORD , there was an aside about cleaving the truth but the crazy downer bible quote had me spiraling. Seventh Day dude went on to reveal that Jesus had also said that when all the nations are howling for peace that is when some sudden bad shit will be coming down (not exactly his words but apocalyptic tattle of the first degree) I told him that I thought it was really sad that a Christian guy like him was so pessimistic about humans and our potential to live in peace, maybs that what Jesus meant I added—that when all the nations were doing that howling for peace maybe the sudden change would be apocalytically good , something like the consciousness shift we so badly need to improve planetary well-being. Seventh Day dude gloomily listened to me recommending Buckminster Fuller to him for about three nanoseconds and our exchange tapered out over the arrival of a banana pudding.
For me the wretchedness of the exchange was the wide gulf of understanding that was between us over a perceived equality of religions, but I don’t think it was bad etiquette to talk religion on Easter Sunday, Jesus, I believe, would’ve approved.
The etiquette that seems to worry me most is what social parameters exist online. This interconnectivity we have with media and information exchange has to be discussed openly and keenly. Cyber-bullying is unacceptable and the culture of fail.org seems basically incorrect. When we use real-life material for gratuitous entertainment we need to examine our values again. When shocking viewing can be had at a click it is not only children at risk, desensitivity is not desired. We make our own world online especially through social networking, last weekend we had consternation over “adding” Granddad, my son didn’t want Pops to be mortified at his photos. Gradually we are discovering what over-sharing means and how being connected to friends is not necessarily what we experience as we like & tweet & comment.
Eco etiquette is always on the social correctness agenda I realized as I forced myself to do the right thing and practice Clancy’s eco dishwashing regime this morning: wash everything with soap and then rinse everything in just one bowl of water at the end.
But back to the kissing: I just messed up a two cheek kiss with visiting techno hero Thomas Fehlmann – “I can’t believe I did that” I said after planting a clumsy smacker on his nose, “ I’m just writing about kissing and social etiquette”
“Never mind,” he said, “ Its worse in Switzerland – they do it three times.”