'My worst nightmare: The social kiss'


The kiss hello seems to be such an innocuous, brief social moment but it can be fraught with danger. Real danger.

We all know how it works. You’re at the pub with some friends and you hear a female friend , who’s come up behind you, say “hi”. You turn, see who it is, put down your drink and you go in for the kiss hello.

Now despite the fact that the kiss of a friend takes just a few seconds, there are many things that can go wrong and a number of issues which need to be considered at the time.

Which side?

I know things can be a little different in some European countries but when I go in to kiss a woman hello, my face is going to the left hand side every time. I generally expect the woman to also go to the left. If she does, it’s all sweet. If she doesn’t, it can be chaos. If one of us goes left and one goes right there can be facial clashes, mis-kisses, head-butts (in extreme cases) and all round embarrassment. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.

What’s nearly as bad as a left side/right side mix up is somebody throwing the dummy. Letting you think they are going to the left and then doing the little shuffle at the last second which makes you think they are swapping to the right. It throws the rhythm out altogether and can really ruin the moment.


I reckon the use of the hands depends on how long you have known the person you are kissing and how good a friend they are. If you are kissing a new friend or an acquaintance, hands are only permitted to make contact with the shoulder and upper arm. But with a good friend, it is permissible to put your hands on their waist or even lower back. But, of course, you cannot allow your hand to drop too low. Much care is required.


Lip contact

There can NEVER be any lip-to-lip contact. Ever. If your lips end up somehow pursed against your friends lips, even if it was due to an unavoidable left side/right side mix-up, then you are unintentionally saying “I want to make love to you.” This is quite often frowned upon by the kissee and possibly her husband standing next to her. Even the sides of your lips coming in to contact with the side of hers can be interpreted as meaning “I want to make love to you, a little.” This can still be problematic.

The lip on the cheek pause

Once your lips hit the cheek of your friend, you then have to decide how quickly to withdraw. Sometimes you hang around there for a couple of seconds, but other times you are in and out faster than an irate cobra striking at an annoying little mongoose. On this one you need to take the lead from the female you are kissing. Her body language will let you know if you should hang around on the cheek to put a little more feeling in to the moment or if you should cut and run ASAP.

The post-kiss hug

Don’t think that once the kiss is over there are no more decisions to be made. There is the post-kiss hug to navigate. The difficulty with the hug is that you don’t actually know if it is going to happen at all. Once the kiss is over, the hug can be initiated by either party and it can be quite awkward if one person is not ready to reciprocate.

Also, if the hug is on, you then have to speculate on how long it is going to last. There is nothing worse than unintentionally trying to put a premature end to a hug by pulling away when the person you are hugging is still holding on like Jesse “The Body” Ventura (he’s a wrestler from the 80′s). They’ll think you don’t care.

Remember the degree of difficulty is greatly magnified by us only having a few seconds to weigh up all these factors.

How about this? Maybe we should slow the entire social kissing process down dramatically and all take a pause to analyse and prepare. Then, when both parties are ready, like rugby players to the call of “crouch, touch, pause, engage,” we go in. All embarrassment, awkwardness and potential injuries averted.

Jase Gram is a father of two, husband of one, owner of two (dogs). You can follow him and his social observations at his blog.

How do you handle the social kiss? Do you avoid them altogether or give  them no thought? Do you have different tactics for different situations?

00:00 / ???