I know that kissing someone when you greet them is the standard here in Lebanon as well as in a lot of other countries. But for this American lady it’s an awkward dance whose moves I still haven’t gotten right…even after a year.
Let me tell you that I have no memory of kissing people except my immediate family members (older ones, not siblings or cousins) when I greeted them back home. They’d give me a real plop on the cheek or vice versa and that was about it. But I’m telling you, those occasions were few and far between.
Meeting new friends at a gathering or in social settings usually warranted a “Hello” with eye contact and if you’re being extra gallant you’ll extend your hand and shake. Finito.
So when I arrived here and learned to jump through fucking hoops to make my face-skin touch every person I meet’s face-skin, I was exasperated. It’s not like I was able to memorize the formula, perfect it, and then mindlessly run through it. Nooooo.
1, 2, or 3…What The Fuck?!
They say in Lebanon you’re supposed to give three kisses: one side, the other side, then back to the original side (which I find totally exhausting). I dove into cultural encounters thinking that and somewhat succeeding, until two weeks later I’d meet some Lebanese person with French style who just goes in for TWO while I’m going in for three. The desperate attempt to finish the final kiss is like losing your balance on a tight rope and splattering onto concrete. You’ve failed but try to salvage it by either acting cool or going overboard with an explanation. Either way you lose.
Then you’ll meet someone who likes to get the kiss out of the way quickly and grace you with only one. You WOULD appreciate it because the faster the better but you’re so brainwashed that there has to be at least TWO kisses so you find yourself in the same position as the French style fakeout! You quietly curse yourself inside while you chuckle on the outside and say “Ohh Lebanon you never know how many kisses!” *face palm*
Americans Abroad and Kissing Your Boss
The best is when you meet another American and you BOTH KNOW this kissing stuff is too mushy for your steel hearts so you just say “Hey nice to meet you” which totally suffices. And the worst is when you have to kiss a fellow American. You both feel uncomfortable like two left-footed tango dancers who end up fucking it up somehow anyways.
What about when your North American boss who lives in Dubai comes around to the ol’ Beirut office? I cringe to tell you. Everyone stands up to greet the visitor who holds your job in his hands and everyone (who is Lebanese since you’re the only foreigner) jumps to kiss him and welcome him. Crawling out from the back of the crowd, you already witnessed how he handled it and secretly knew how he felt about it. Then you had to go in for it. In my case, I always tried to just extend my hand and do the shake but it never worked. Outside pressure pushed us together and we had to do the weakest and most dead fish face kiss. God help me.
Did You Just Pretend To Accidentally Land on My Lips?
Someone once gave me a tip that totally let me down shortly thereafter. They put their arm around my shoulder and said “Adriana, you always kiss first with your right cheek to their right cheek and go from there.” But some people are just rule breakers. And what happens when you both go for the same side? Just the weirdest almost lip kiss that is usually uncomfortable except those times when the innocent kisser happens to be super mega hot.
It’s like when you’re walking down the sidewalk and someone is coming towards you so to get out of each other’s way you both move far to one side and accidentally end up in each other’s way again and hop from one side to the next side two or three times until one of you just bursts through the ridiculousness. Woops (hop again)….ah sorry (another hop)…. omg (violently push the person out of the way).
I’m not giving up on kissing, and I don’t hate it all the time. It’s nice to have contact with people you really care about especially if you haven’t seen them for a while. It’s just not what I was programmed to do my whole life, so this is really how I feel about it. Perhaps if we could go into it with a quick shoutout of the number of kisses your giving and what side we’ll start on — then we’re talking….or kissing.