PDA or how I learnt to ignore nagging fears of germs and greet with kisses

Posted on May 1, 2007


I confess, I hate germs. Actually, I’m really a germaphobe. I’m anal about keeping my things clean, dust, and germ-free.

“Antibacterial” is a comforting word. I make an effort not to touch public things. I don’t fancy being touched either. I’m the type who sits ever so carefully in my subway seat so that no part of my body makes contact with those seated next to me. In a crowded elevator, I’m mindful of shrinking into myself, again, so that there’s no chance I would graze someone (or them, me).

Honestly, it wasn’t easy for me to ween myself off touching the sidewalk fences, or escalator handles, or anything at hand, because I’m naturally tactile. As a kid, I loved to walk along the street and sweep my fingers over everything I pass – fences, walls, plants, fire hydrant, poles. But having read enough about germs, microbes, bugs, pathogens and whatnot’s, I decided that having good health is more important than savoring the gritty surface of a chain link fence, or running my fingers along the escalator’s cool glass as it rises.

So you can imagine the colossal lifestyle change I had to adapt to when I moved to Mexico City from a society where bodily contact is kept to the minimum, such as shaking hands when you meet someone.

In Mexico City, you kiss someone on the cheek when you meet them. Oh the horror!

It was nerve-wreaking for me. I was fearful of the extreme close physical contact. It’s something you did to everyone you know and meet – not just your loved ones or good friends, but even acquaintances. I really had no desire to come into such close quarters with others unnecessarily.

“Honey, it’d be rude if you didn’t do it, it’d be seen as a snub.” I knew my significant other was right. It would be extremely unbecoming of me to duck every time someone came towards me with a kiss hello. Nor would it look good if I ran to the other side of the street and just waved hi whenever someone I knew was approaching. Also, I couldn’t very well keep telling everyone that I had a permanent cold I just wouldn’t want to pass to them either. Or could I?

Truth is, there’s no way round it. Just suck it up, I told myself, get over yourself already. And when I thought about it, it really is a lovely way to show friends you are happy to see them – no words needed, but an enthusiastic kiss (or two). Plus, how much germs can be transmitted through a split second gesture anyway?

So although I still can’t do it with the abandon that native practitioners seem to possess, I’m a lot less apprehensive about kissing a friend in greeting these days. I just have to make sure I planned and executed it properly – stand a step further away than within easy reach, a quick air kiss, be careful not to touch the other person and withdraw quickly.

Hey, be patient, I’m still really new at this!