Thursday, April 26, 2007

Get a room!

I had to chuckle when I watched the news this morning and saw that Richard Gere is going to spend some time in jail for kissing a woman in public. India has low tolerance for such things.

This led me to start thinking during my walk this morning about the various places I've been and how public displays of affection are viewed.

In Thailand, the only women who touch men in public are the prostitutes. It is considered to be inappropriate to kiss in public, hug, hang all over each other or even hold hands. (I am aware that some of this is changing. I won't say it's a change for the better. :)

Many other countries view public displays of affection similarly. Richard Gere found out that India is one of them.

I must admit that I agree with India. And I'm disappointed that Richard Gere, someone I'd come to respect, would be so culturally insensitive.

Sometimes it would be pleasant to be spared the embarrassment of seeing people sucking face and practically having sex in public parks, in their vehicles, in the theater or on television. Seriously. How far is too far?

I like modesty in all things. Maybe that's part of the reason Thai culture works so well for me. (Although if I ruled Thailand, the spitting and nose-picking would end ~ today!) For the most part, Thai people are very conscious of other people's personal space and they do not touch each other unless it is in an appropriate setting.

Kissing is also different there. It is called "homm" and it literally means "pleasant smell". It means to put your nose to someone's skin and inhale quickly, taking in the person's scent. Even in more intimate situations like... the bedroom.. there is more of this nuzzling with the nose than the lips. I don't recall seeing anyone put their lips on another person while I was there.

I understand from some of the people I talk with who are there now that there is some occasional lip-mashing now but it's considered very risque. Naturally, the more traditional people don't care for it.

There is a time and place for everything. In public is not the appropriate place to advertise to everyone around that you're getting some!

Honestly... I wouldn't want anyone I don't know putting their lips on me ~ and even if I know you, I don't like it very much. It's just unappealing. As Kelly Rippa said about the guy who put his hand in front of her face, "I don't know where that hand has been". Well, I don't know where that mouth has been.

So please... spare me the public displays!





Caro said...

This entry made me made me smile. I too am very modest in my public displays of affection. I can't stand that kissing-the-cheek as a greeting thing that is part of my culture. Yet as a massage practionner, I literally touch people for a living! Talk about learning to embrace one's contradictions. Great post as always.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I don't care for displays of sexuality in public, but hand holding is sweet, and a hug or cheek kiss doesn't bother me.

I think the brouhaha about Richard Gere is ridiculous, although I agree that as a long-practicing Buddhist with close ties to ranking Tibetan Lamas, he should have been more sensitive. Still, people in India as elsewhere should realize that movie stars are not exactly like other people, especially when they're onstage, and collectively shrug it off.

d. chedwick bryant said...

I love how you describe Homm. I often tell people not to drench themselves in purfumes, but to just put a drop where their husband will nuzzle them later. (at home) I do not care to see couples nuzzling in cafes, etc...teenagers are the worst! I never get upset when I see couples holding hands or briefly embracing.

meno said...

I'm cool with hand-holding, we do it all the time, or a hug and a peck. But the hanging all over and giving mouth-to-mouth i can live without. Hence the popularity of the phrase "Get a room!"

slouching mom said...

Yep. I don't like PDAs either. In fact, I get embarrassed. And it's only later that I remember that I'm not the one who should be embarrassed!

Lee said...

I was really surprised by Richard Gere, so much so, that I thought it must have been a planned gag. What the hell was he thinking? Even here in America, mauling an unwilling partner is considered inappropriate. Maybe he was drunk? Or high?

MsLittlePea said...

A quick, spontaneous kiss is ok for me-doing it or seeing it. I don't mind that. But once I was at the zoo with some cousins and their kids and the couple behind us were just way too affectionate. I wasn't grossed out by the sexuality of their display, I was grossed out by thier complete lack of consideration for other people. Sometimes it seems more for show than a true intimate moment.

We kiss like that in my mom's family! As I mentioned before, she's Filipina - not Thai but how interesting it is that we have that same custom.

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to think of when I have been offended by a PDA, and couldn't come up with anything. I guess I just don't get out much AND when I do, I'm trying to keep track of my kids and the whole world goes by. I do notice advertizing and fashion, and find that to be too much.

I have to admit, I am a touchy-feely person, and perhaps overly sexual...let's just say I can't imagine saying, "not even if you were the last person on earth!" so a lot of it must go below my radar.

Lil said...

Chani, I visit your blog often however I've probably commented about twice (she says guiltily). ANd I have to say that your opinion on PDA surprise me as I've come to know you as a fairly liberal, whatever-floats-yer-boat kinda woman. Meh, to each her own I suppose, but I can't help but wonder if folks who don't like PDA is a generational thing and/or a cultural thing. Hmmmm....

As for me, I'm okay with PDA, in fact I may one of those that offend said folks because I don't stop myself from displaying affection in public, it goes against my grain. I don't consider how it will make others feel...I just figure if it bothers some, then they will quickly notice something else. See, PDA floats MY boat...I don't/can't stop the sudden urge to hug or kiss the person(s) I'm with...when love wells up, it feels too damn good to supress it until later 'cause later may never come...or a toddler may need a diaper change and that would completely ruin the mood! I guess I'm a big kid that way...I try to go with the moment, and it makes my heart swell to see others's PDA.

The generational/cultural thing really has got me thinking though...seriously.


Pam said...

I have no problem with a sweet kiss or hand holding in public, but "sucking face" is altogether different. A little discretion is right up there with good manners.

As for nuzzling, it's that pheromone thing and I can relate.

Bob said...

I guess I too have a high tolerance for PDA, but I have my limits too. I have always admired people who aren't afraid to show their emotions, for instance Italians, including affection. I've always thought that there is a puritanical streak in Americans that prevents us from showing affection and it causes a lot of us to bottle our emotions up. Men especially.

I would hate to not be able to hold Laura's hand when we are out and about.

Tabba said...

I'm with you, Chani....about Richard Gere. A man who seems to be very culturally in-tune, to make that kind of public-cultural mistake. And while it doesn't seem like such a big deal here, it certainly has resonated there.
I also agree that, while I smile when I see an older couple holding hands or see younger couples walking arm in arm, I don't enjoy watching something I feel should be viewed behind a curtain in a seedy pay-per-view place.

The smelling thing...the intimacy....the first time I saw that "custom" (I guess that's what you would call it) was on the movie "Whale Rider" which was set in New Zealand. Apparently they have a similar custom of leaning in head to head and sniffing each other's sent. I can't help but feel that is....very beautiful and very, very intimate.
Sorry I went on & on......

Fonzi said...


Personally, not into PDA.

But I think your conception of PDA in Thailand is not totally correct.

In Bkk and metro areas, PDA occurs between sexes. You won't see tongue kissing in the streets, but there is a lot of hand holding, and no, the girls are not hookers.

And PDA between Thai same sex friends is very common.

I have experienced more inappropriate touching and groping especially by strangers in Thailand than I ever did in the US.

crazymumma said...

But what kind of kiss was it I wonder? I think a public peck or hug is quite beautiful, and sometimes seeing two young people obviously in lovelust makes me smile.

It just depends on how far it is going I suppose.

thailandchani said...

Caro, I understand exactly what you're saying about the kiss on the cheek thing. Literally.. I can't stand it! As a massage practitioner, you are providing a particular health service, not expressing fake affection. :) Totally different.


Susan, I disagree in only one regard. I don't think it is the job of other cultures or other countries to accept "the American way of doing things". It is their culture, their country and it is up to visitors to respect their customs. Richard Gere was clearly wrong in not respecting India's obscenity laws. He doesn't have to agree with them.



D. Chedwick, I agree with most of what you say... and I'm not going to have any reaction to seeing simple hug, either, especially in a culture where it is acceptable.


Meno, exactly. There's something so tacky about acting like the whole public arena is one's private space. It isn't. There's public and there's private ~ and there are too many people who don't understand the difference between the two.


SM, exactly! The fact that they're not embarrassed is the scariest part!


Lee, I'm not sure if he was maybe drunk.. or perhaps high. What I know for certain is that he looked like a bloody idiot! :)


MsPea, I think that custom is fairly common throughout most of south Asia.


De, that's possible that it's just going under your radar.. or perhaps it's not that prevalent where you live. I admit that I am not a touchy-feely type. I'm warm.. but reserved. That probably makes a big difference in how we perceive it, too.


Lil, I do think it is a generational and cultural thing. I would agree with that completely. Of course, that statement includes the usual variables. :)


Pam, so much of it is about manners. I believe firmly that there is behavior appropriate for private time and behavior appropriate for public time. Not offending others and not embarrassing ourselves would be right up at the top of the manners list. I know manners to a degree are a result of culture but there are some things that are universal.


Bob, I would agree that western culture (not just US, in this case) has given men a raw deal when it comes to allowing them to express emotion freely. And I think all people should be free to express their emotions. Just not in public. :)


Tabba, I agree that it is a nice custom... far less aggressive, imo, than sucking on another person with lips. I have to admit, at the risk of sounding totally foreign, that I never much liked it. I put up with it because it was expected but I never really liked it.


Aaaah, Fonzi! Sometimes I think I could say Thailand is in Southeast Asia and you'd find a way to contradict that. :) I know what you are talking about.. and it is entirely different than what I'm talking about.


CM, the only thing I can tell you, assuming you are talking about Richard Gere, is that he seemed aggressive and while the actress who was the object of his affection was gracious, it didn't look welcome.

I could definitely go further with this.. but won't. :)




QT said...

While I don't want to watch two people slobber on each other, I don't mind some contact.

I am also a very touchy/feely person once I know you, so I don't know, Chani, you might be taken aback if I hug you when I meet you!

Suzy said...

This is an interesting discussion, and I don't really know where I stand on it. I will say that I am a school teacher, and from time to time my husband stops by school to drop something off, and when he leaves he gives me a kiss. I made a little joke to a colleague about PDAs on the playground, and his response was that many of our students have precious few experiences seeing healthy and loving relationships and it is good for them to see it. So there's a different take.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Chani, I guess I wasn't clear enough. I certainly didn't mean to imply that it was up to other countries, India or whoever, to accept American customs.

What I meant was that movie actors, whether they work out of Hollywood or Bollywood, should not be taken seriously as arbiters of good taste. It could be argued that because they are in the public eye, they of all people SHOULD fill such a role, but in actuality, they don't.

Gere was admittedly clumsy and insensitive, which surprises me, too, as I stated. But I guess to get the degree to which his Ugly American behavior offended the Indians, I would have to know how serious an offense pda's are there, which I did not.

I also didn't know that he was such a stupid man. Now I wonder how much of his apparent closeness with HH The Dalai Lama is really just about compassionate Buddhism on the part of HH plus the fact that Gere contributes hugely to the cause of Tibetan freedom, as he should since it's a very important and heart-rending cause.

Suzy said...

Also ... there's good taste and cultural norms, and then there's rigid government policies that seek to control and punish transgressions. That borders on applying a scarlet letter ...

Penny. said...

I do not agree with you on the public displays of kissing. I do with the groping and sexual touching. But, not with the kissing.

Kissing is a beautiful thing and it seems that in our culture, we shun anything to do with love and tenderness. No one balks at boys play fighting in the street. Few cringe at arguments between couples on the avenues. But, kiss someone? And onlookers turn inside out.

Honestly, I think that regarding a kiss in this manner shows a cultural inversion of values.

Depending on the kiss, I suppose. And, where do you draw the line. But, where, indeed?