I think you have to be over forty – maybe even more – to be aware of the difference in our behaviour to each other over the last few years, in this country. We kiss. We never used to kiss. You had to be quite close friends even for a peck on the cheek when arriving for dinner, but now we do it all the time, quite often lip to lip. Indeed, today I kissed three colleagues whom, a few years ago, it would not have been appropriate to have more contact with than a handshake (two women and a man, since you ask). Two of them lunged forward first and the third was a mutual thing, by the way, I haven’t been having a startlingly exuberant day at the office.

Then there’s the signing off of emails – oh, how simple it was when the choice was between “yours faithfully” and “yours sincerely” – because there was a Rule. Nowadays, though they still cut it for a letter, it seems to have moved to “kind regards” giving way to “best regards” – and where exactly does “best wishes” come in to play?

Not that we should forget those who opt out with “take care” or “cheers”, or simply “best”.

Of course, and I go back to the kisses again, it doesn’t take a much closer friendship to sign off with love … but how many of those x’s* to put? I’ve got x friends and xx friends, a couple of xxxers and a XXX. It always seems polite to reciprocate. While I was on a committee with one of the xxxers, it seemed slightly too close to do the same, so I generally restricted myself to Zxx, but now we’re not on a committee together and see each other less often, I’m more relaxed and follow his lead (it’s true, darlings, don’t try too hard and I’ll follow you anywhere).

I’m not terribly Continental by instinct – I go along with the multiple cheek to cheek kisses of course – oh, that question of whether to go for the third kiss – or worse, a fourth which always catches you out – but I’m actually more of a ‘one kiss with hug’ girl for someone I’m fond of, which I feel is more close and friendly than the impersonal double mwah. It isn’t necessarily impersonal of course, but air-kissing someone you don’t know very well or air-kissing a good friend feels much the same.

It has to be confessed, I do usually touch the cheek with my lips, which probably shows my general oikiness. And then, of course, there’s the matter of lipstick. Is it polite to rub it off? And how intimate is that? It feels more personal than the peck on the cheek, but on the other hand, it surely isn’t quite on to leave the imprint.

Lots of love, darlings


* whilst not, strictly speaking, a place for an apostrophe, I tried xes and exes and xs and they didn’t work.

19 comments on “Mwah

  1. Wendy

    It’s a social minefield. *sigh*

    I have a large ‘no-entry zone’ around me and if someone tried to kiss me on my mouth I’m afraid I would turn my head to the side and avoid it.

    And yeah I would wipe lipstick off, and a damp kiss on my cheek will get firmly rubbed away. Otherwise I would likely puke.

  2. savannah

    around here, it’s much easier, sugar! kind of hard not to kiss when the greeting amongst friends and associates is hey, baby, how y’all doin? xoxoxo

  3. Z

    It’s my lipstick on someone else’s cheek that seems rather forward to wipe – though I have been known to kiss a second time on the other side to match up. Only if I’m flirting, of course…

    Ahem. I think I’m giving the wrong impression of me here.

  4. Z

    It was only about 20 years ago when my girlfriend from early schooldays and I first looked awkward and puckered up, not having seen each other for several years – we’d never kissed each other in our lives before. Now, of course, it would be odd not to kiss – but the reserved nature of the English has only recently changed.

  5. mago

    I am not familiar with the greeting-formulas in English letters, “sincerely yours” seems to be a good option.
    I guess the “best wishes” are a direct translation of “Beste Wünsche”, usefully only when one is actually sending wishes for birthday, christmas, convalescence … I would sign a “Beste Wünsche”-letter with my family name, friendly but with a distance.

  6. martina

    More of a hugger here. The kissing thing makes me very uncomfortable. I reserve the kisses for elderly relatives and the fella. Emails to friends or family are signed with hugs and love and my initial.

  7. Dave

    As you know, there is a fairly obvious force-field around me which deters anyone from attempting anything of that nature.

  8. Roses

    As I’m tactile by nature, I generally greet everyone I like with hugs and either touch cheeks or kiss.

    As I’m also contrary, I always try and give Dave a hug and a kiss. It’s fun seeing him squirm.

  9. Blue Witch

    More and more teachers and headteachers in schools ar kissing me. I hate it. Not at all professional.

    Last week a father of a kid I was seeing kissed me. I’d never met him before.

    I always think, ‘Best regards’ is very American, To me, it equates with, ‘Have a nice day’ which, in my mind = “F*** off and die.” (as when said by waiters or cashiers because they ahve to). therefore I tend to use either nothing, or ‘Best wishes’.

  10. Marion

    No kissing by adults here. Hugging, however, is taking us by storm. We used to clasp hands when we ran into people we knew, but now a hug is a normal greeting and the normal end to a conversation. I don’t mind the “have a nice day” by staffers even tho it mostly mimics pleasantry. It gives off a small spark of contagious good will, as opposed to just a sullen look.

  11. Anonymous

    I do not enjoy shopping at large grocery stores, but sometimes it is necessary. Local Safeways are especially over focused on friendliness-to the point of meddlesome. All staff, from stockperson to checkout clerk and courtesy clerk ask every customer if they need help, to have a nice “one” etc. It is done out of requirement, not because they really care. Guess I should just be glad they don’t give hugs and kisses.

  12. Z

    Well, as far as staff and the “have a nice day” (sometimes) unmeant overfriendliness is concerned, I remember the 70s when surliness and complete unhelpfulness hit a low, unmatched before or since. So I bear it with good will because at least it’s polite.

    The few teachers who greet me with a hug or kiss have become good friends and it’s meant, and taken, in that spirit. There were particular reasons for Friday’s kisses – I’d gone out of my way to be supportive and it was appreciated and quite appropriate.

    In emails, my friendly default is now “kind regards”, moving to “best wishes” one way or “yours sincerely” the other. More casual or affectionate exits as appropriate. Friends get love – which isn’t in quotation marks here as that made it look strangely insincere.

  13. Fulcrum

    I’ve noticed more and more of my US based colleagues and customers sign off their emails




    I know a Dave, but I don’t know who minus dave is (capital letters!?, what are they)
    It all seems very negative! (no pun intended, this time 😉 )
    I make a point of signing my emails individually, the auto sig just puts the company blurb on. It may not be appreciated, but I like being personal to people.


    Only joking, lots of luv from a old/new follower x (PS we don’t mention him anymore)

  14. Z

    Hello Fulcrum and welcome back – now I’m going to have to work out who you are!…how embarrassing if I can’t.

    I haven’t come across that – the minus little dave, that is. If it’s in America now, can’t be long before we’re all doing it.

  15. luckyzmom

    Just catching up on blogs after returning from a reunion in Washington DC where I dealt with “to kiss or not to kiss”. For me it was handshakes for most men, hugs for women and those warmly remembered and kisses for the closest. It was sometimes uncomfortable to know which way to go.


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