Public displays of affection

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

When my children were young, they and their friends strongly disapproved of public displays of affection. No holding hands, hugging, and, certainly, no kissing. American football players were an exception. They could bump helmets, bump shoulder pads, and bump chest pads. Another exception was “high-fives.” People could slap hands together in a show of camaraderie.

The idea of no PDA changed as my children got older, but a major catalyst that increased the change was the arrival of Susanna into our lives. As a good Brazilian, Susanna kisses everyone on both cheeks. And she gives real hugs. Not this stiff-as-a-board-reach-out-your-arms-but-don’t-touch kind of hug, but full contact hugs. Moreover, Susanna and I always hold hands as we walk and sometimes we hold hands during meals. Of course we kiss—even on public streets! I guess my children had to get over the “no PDA” rule or die of embarrassment.

Georgians never learned the “rule.” Men kiss each other on the cheek, even when sober (unlike these two wine-drinking strangers we met during Tbilisoba). Teenagers of the same gender walk together with arms around each other’s shoulders. Adults and their parents stroll along in intimate conversation. Children walk next to their parents rather than two steps behind. We believe such obvious signs of caring and affection are healthy. Moreover, we believe that Georgians have positive interpersonal relationships both between generations and within a generation. We hope that never changes.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011


About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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