Public Displays of Affection 4

A recent article in the ‘Coupling” column that appears in the Boston Globe magazine on Sundays was called “PDA? No Way.”  PDA means Public Displays of Affection.  The author, Patrick McVay, was uncomfortable with them except in extraordinary circumstances. (The piece was written a bit tongue-in-cheek, still,  it got me to thinking.)  Actually it made me remember that a few months ago, I wrote a note to myself about how few PDAs I’d been seeing. I wondered what was happening.  Was it me?  Perhaps I just wasn’t noticing them. 

I’m dismayed by how few public displays of affection I see in my daily travels.
They have become so unusual that when they happen I am startled.  It’s as if physical expressions of love and affection have gone on a long holiday. 

I think loving touch should be more visible in our society.  What we have instead, is touch relegated to being seen as a precursor to sex, when in fact touch is so much more important than that. 

Touch is acknowledgement, affection, and connection.  It can be soothing, elevating and healing. (Ever heard of the laying on of hands?)

I wish there was more affectionate touch, i.e., hand-holding, hugs, cheek-kissing, brushing of lips, in this society. 

Except for those cultures where people haven’t adapted to the New England chill that can have you walking for blocks without being acknowledged by your sister travelers, I notice people hesitating to greet each other with any  touch.  I even find myself hesitating to hug or kiss my friends or their children without first asking permission. Many times by the time permission is granted, the appropriate moment has past.  I’ve pretty much given up on hoping to be allowed to hug or coo over a stranger’s child.  People are justifiably cautious, but we’ve loss something as a society because of it.  This situation is even worse for men.  Men are not allowed to be affectionate especially to children.

When I first came to Boston, I used to touch people when I talked.  Over the years, I stopped doing that.  I used to hold hands with friends as we strolled down the street.  I did that a year or so ago on two separate occasions with two male friends because we were walking and chatting and I just felt so close to them that it felt right to grab their hand and hold it as we walked.  (They didn’t flinch and they realized that I wasn’t flirting. I was just being affectionate.  We did draw a couple of stares from other people, however.)

When I was younger, all of the couples I knew were affectionate both in touch and in words.  As I’ve gotten older, few of us are.  I don’t think the lack of touching is a result of age, however, because I don’t notice much touching among young people, either.

Now, I don’t need or want to see people slobbering all over or rubbin’ up on each other.  But I do think a friendly greeting, accompanied by a hug and a kiss on one or two cheeks (how European) would be a welcome change.  Hey, in these northern environs, direct eye contact and a reply greeting or salute would be a grand start.  (Just kidding. Boston is not quite as chilly as it used to be in my experience.  More people say hello back to me after I speak than ever before. (Although very few people initiate the hello.  If I didn’t speak to people, I could walk for blocks without getting a greeting in return.  The only exception to this is when I’m walking for exercise.  Most early morning walkers do say hello to one another I’ve found.)

Regular Public Displays of Affection send a message that love is alright, love is out-of-sight, and affection has its place in the pace of the world today.


About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

Leave a Reply

4 thoughts on “Public Displays of Affection

  • LeeAnn

    I think about this a lot. We make fun of those folks in the country who wave at each passing car – but I’ve always thought this a way of acknowledging another human being. Sort of, “We’re in this together.” Similarly, I can go days and days without being touched at all. How sad that we cannot simply acknowledge our common humanity, and share touch, something so healing, so vital and necessary. So, I’m with you, more PDA please!

  • Laura

    I have had the opposite experience. I find that my friends and I always kiss and give a hug before we get down to the business of talk. And I so much appreciate this, it really is welcome. Maybe it was good to get out of New York and down south to northern Virginia? But some of those friends are still in NY. Maybe it’s something to do with being mothers, and how we now appreciate a kind and gentle touch from someone, and not always to someone.

  • SisChris

    My guy and I found we had less and less time to be with one another…he in his part of the city…me in mine… different work shifts, days offs etc.

    One day while fast-talking-on-our-cells-before-we-lost-the-signal we figured out that our subway trains, me on the outbound, he on the inbound were about to pass one another

    We met at xxxx Station. Wow!

    Now we briefly connect on T platforms, Orange, Red or Green for hugs, quick kisses and loving looks…well past our teenage years we might look silly but who cares.

    PDA’s on the MBTA
    Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!