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She Went to Kiss Me on the Cheek and I Wasn’t Ready

September 12, 2010

A woman, let’s call her Jane, is about the age of my mother and is on our Development Committee. Jane is married to a doctor and I have known her for about a year or so. When Jane saw me during the reception at our annual fundraiser, she walked over to greet me. And I panicked with fear as she leaned in to kiss on the cheek.

When it comes to greeting Board or Committee members, during social settings like our annual fundraiser, for example, a fine line exists. Men it’s always easy, a hearty handshake will suffice. Maybe, if they are younger, I will do the handshake that transitions into what I call, the “Bro Hug.” The handshake to a half-side-hug, while still grasping the original handshake – it is quick and affectionate, but it remains very manly.

But with women, what the hell are you supposed to do? With some women it has developed into a hug. Because they feel like family to me. I have known them long enough, some of them over four years. Even though our relationship is strictly professional, on occasions that are grand or mundane, I hug them. But I wasn’t ready when Jane from the Development Committee transitioned from the hug to the kiss on the cheek.

I went for the hug with Jane because I knew I couldn’t do the handshake. Shaking her hand was out of the question, we are way past that. So I figured the hug was safe. But then all of the sudden she is placing her head next to mine and we were standing cheek to cheek. Then… Smooch. Thoughts flooded through my mind. “Oh my God, she is kissing me.” “What the fuck do I do?” “Should I kiss her back?” “Wow her skin is soft.” “Are we ready for this step in our relationship?” “Do I have to greet her this way at every committee meeting?” I end up not kissing her back and let Jane do all the work. It was very awkward. It was over in seconds. Her perfume remained on my cheek for hours.

I have always believed that kissing on the cheek is reserved for Europeans and adults. I know I am not European but I didn’t think of myself as an adult either. All through my life whenever I have reached the next stage, there has been some indicator that the previous stage was completed and I was moving on to the next. My diploma after high school, college, and graduate school. A certificate of completion after a training session. My license to drive after passing the test. A ribbon after winning the relay in elementary school. A trophy at the end of the soccer season. Every stage of my life has had an official mark of completion.

But when did my adulthood begin? After graduate school? When I moved to Seattle? When I moved out of the dorms? At 18? And what I realized as Jane was kissing me, there is no formal beginning to adulthood. And no formal end to our youth. Transitions to adulthood happen in moments like cheek-to-cheek kissing; in the random evenings when I realize that I am no longer the kid I once was. As I become married, have kids, and buy a house, I suspect that adulthood will feel more like the norm. But in the meantime, I am going to try to savor my youth for as long as possible and not worry about finding the beginning to adulthood. It will come soon enough.

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One comment

  1. When one of my best friends had a baby AND bought a house this summer, I realized I was a grown up for reals. Not sure why it didn’t sink in when I bought a house, but all of a sudden I was looking at her life and thinking HOLY SHIT WHEN DID I BECOME AN ADULT???



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