Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kissing in Public

There's something lovely that doesn't happen very often in the streets and parks of Toronto.  It's kissing.  As one of those things you don't notice at first but which slowly bubbles up to the surface of your awareness, I have lately realised how little kissing goes on around me as I move through this city.  

I think that I could count on one hand the number of times I've seen a couple kiss in public in Toronto, which strikes me as unusual given the other places I've lived.  In Montreal, you couldn't get on the subway without seeing smooching couples snuggled all around.  In parks, people were cozied up everywhere, kissing and talking low.  In cafes you could count on seeing at least two couples, any time of day, whether accompanied by dogs, children, or other adults, kissing each other - not always full-on making out of course, but kissing affectionately.  

Even in Switzerland, which is a very conservative place in many ways when it comes to social customs (c.f. stores closing at 7, everything closing on Sunday, abundance of stay at home mums, wariness of outsiders, etc), I could not get on a tram when I was living in Geneva without being confronted by lovey-dovey couples everywhere.  This was extra-painful to me because Drew and I were managing a long-distance part of our relationship and there were some days when I missed him *so much* and all I saw all around me were happy couples holding hands and kissing.  I wasn't grossed out by this; on the contrary, I was so envious that they got to be together.

Drew and I have always been comfortable with kissing in public.  We've spent a lot of time apart, and sometimes the only moments for a kiss, or the times we feel so much happiness and affection, just happened to be when we were out of doors.  So we kiss, unabashedly, in public.  Montreal and Geneva didn't slow us down either.  Being surrounded by kissing couples encourages one to join in - because really, who doesn't like kissing?  Now that we're in Toronto, we still act like we're in other places with more of a romantic spirit.  Toronto isn't a naturally romantic place, but one can make it so if one tries.

The other day, Drew came to my work for lunch because he was passing through Toronto on his way to his parents' place in another city, and as we were walking back to my office afterwards we kissed on the street (still in motion, we're super good at that).  A cab drove by and someone whistled out of the window, and it so happened that the cab was full of my coworkers.  I discovered that they'd seen us kiss when I went back into the office and a few people brought it up - two people even made gross-face as they mentioned that they saw us kiss. 

This puzzled me.  Not only was I not used to kissing being a big deal, but I really wasn't used to it being gross-face-worthy.  These people of Toronto-culture just weren't feeling the kissing in public, and I think on some level they thought that what I was doing - kissing - was inappropriate.  Ok, to each her own, but I ask myself, what is it about kissing that would prevent a culture from embracing it?  Is it a general fear of displays of physical and sexual desire?  Is it an ingrown and outdated chunk of protestant morality?  Is it hyper-vigilant worry about making others uncomfortable instead of trusting them to handle their own feelings?  It might be all three of these in combination, or something totally unrelated.  

In any case, I think Toronto needs to get over it.  I think people here need to get out of their bedrooms, into the parks and cafes, and kiss.  KISS.  It's wonderful, and I strongly believe that there should be more of it in the world.

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