A guy and girl next to me at Starbucks were passing the time in a very vigorous public display of liplocking. (And their eyes weren’t even closed.)
I suppose I’m old school because I believe that sort of sport should be reserved for the privacy of your bedroom, if not the basement, and there should be no spectators. Some things are best done behind closed doors. Richard Nixon said that.
With four daughters, I occasionally revert to thinking like an old-fashioned father, when I probably should mind my own business, but there was nowhere else to look. I was overcome by embarrassment, which is my usual neo-Victorian response to a public display of lust, also known as a PDL, and not to be confused with a PDA or public display of affection.
A peck on the cheek is one thing, but Frenching is an entirely different matter. When they placed their order, I realized the girl’s accent was, indeed, French. Being continental entitles you to engage in PDLs anywhere in the European Union, particularly Paris, and the New York metropolitan area, although Brits will lose that privilege when they leave the EU.
That night, I told my wife about my adventure and cautiously asked, “Were we like that?” I don’t recall public groping or smooching. On the other hand…
Nothing can compare with the PDLs by the world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and his paramour Lauren Sanchez, who according to reliable sources in the National Enquirer and the New York Post have been “making out like teenagers” in restaurants and on street corners across Southern California since they dumped their spouses. It’s been so long since I was a teenager, I can’t remember how they “make out.” Normally, I’d say, “Get a motel room!” With Bezos, I’d recommend, “Buy the Beverly Hills Wilshire and get a suite!”
However, in America everything is protected under the Bill of Rights, especially if you’re the richest man in the world. If women and men can lawfully walk topless on the streets of New York, a couple is within its rights to grope and grind even on the floor of Congress, although they should come up for air when it’s time to take a vote.
These displays of lust were tame compared with one I witnessed on Metro-North. Forever emblazoned in my mind was the night I wandered through the deserted cars of a late train out of Manhattan and came upon a couple in flagrante delicto. I was tempted to pull the emergency brake but for their safety and everyone else’s, I decided not to.
I’m a man hobbled by the constraints of a virtue that has been excised from our social mores, a virtue known as “modesty,” which probably seems puritanical to most people, particularly the celebrity class. But don’t knock the Puritans. They gave us Thanksgiving, which is more than Hollywood gave us.
Sometimes my daughters are bigger prudes than I am. Throughout our marriage, they always squirmed in discomfort over PPDAs — parental public displays of affection — even in the privacy of our home. Most things parents do make teenagers uncomfortable, although they have no problem doing those things themselves.
As I was leafing through the church bulletin, I saw an ad for Catholic singles match that pictured a couple nuzzling necks like two puppies. Then, I spotted a guy in church who had his arm around his girlfriend’s waist throughout the service. Is touching appropriate in church?
Pop psychologists say PDAs are good for a relationship because they show a couple has no inhibitions about expressing affection in front of others, in church or a PTA meeting, whether it’s holding hands, snuggling, smooching or hootchy-kootchying.
Studies suggest public affection can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, although it may do dangerous things to your respiration. So during the new year, I resolve to do more pawing and puckering in public … if my wife agrees.
Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.