With the spread of the A/H1N1 virus, the rentrée (back-to-school) has instituted a new regulation: keep your distance. Schools and public buildings are equipped with hand sanitizers, and informative governmental websites have been created: ‹‹le site interministériel de préparation à un risqué de pandémie grippale››
‹‹le site du ministère de la Santé et des sports›› and ‹‹le site de l’Institut national de prevention et d’éducation pour la santé›› . Does this mean that the traditional French cheek-to-cheek greeting is now history?
Every culture has its signals to reaffirm trust and relationship; Germans shake hands, Americans hug, Asians bow. It’s often amusing when American expatriates meet and greet one another, often resulting in an awkward kiss/handshake/hug, or the occasional embarrassment of too-close-for-comfort when we’re not sure on which cheek to begin. My lips are sealed!
There also exists the conflict of local traditions, such as the Aixois finish after both cheeks, while friends from Avignon are going around again.
One of my favorite bisous moments was observing two heavily laden shoppers, both talking on their phones, notice each other in passing. Arms full, lips otherwise occupied, both leaned in and gracefully (in as much as it was possible) bised, and preceded on their way.
The apostle Paul wrote to his friends, “greet each other with a holy kiss.” No matter what method we use to bestow respectful connection, the last thing we want to do is distance ourselves from one another. How then can we avoid the potential kiss-of-death?
Will the French kiss continue? I’m certain of it…and certainly hopeful. And for those who keep up their strength with as much walking as a typical Frenchman, eating marvelously stinky cheese with fresh local produce, drinking it down with a glass of wine, staying free of guilt, and taking a well-deserved rest, then there’s no better way to live.