September 03, 2002
Kissing in Public

I realized after I'd done it this morning that I'd committed a breach of custom, but almost as soon as I realized it, I shrugged it off: I always kiss Al goodbye in the morning. It felt normal and right, so I didn't apologize. It could also be that, as Al suspects, I'm developing shields. Not every thing that his parents say has an effect on how I act.

Maybe I should back up a bit an explain. When we arrived at the condo on Sunday, Al and I sat on the couch in the living room, talking to his mom. I must've said something sweet, because Al leaned over and kissed me. That's when Al's mom told me (not him, me) that kissing in public was not the Korean custom. Ditto putting one's arm around one's beloved. "Ah," I said. "Public displays of affection are out, huh?" Mrs. Cho nodded firmly.

I spent the rest of the day on Sunday and all of Monday assiduously avoiding kissing Al, and I'd look around to make sure the coast was clear before receiving any kisses from him. If it wasn't, I'd duck away. This felt very *un*natural, and it made showing affection for Al, the person I love with every fiber of my being, seem somehow shameful. It was probably also the main factor in my feeling like I had to be "on" all the time. I had to be aware of offending at every turn.

When Al mentioned the shields thing last night, I said, "I think that's where my parents were going when they said that our marriage should be all about US. That we should do what's right for us first, and if anyone else doesn't like it, tough. The rest of the world will have to adapt." My parents will celebrate their 35th anniversary a month after our wedding, so maybe they're on to something. And for their part, perhaps the Chos are just sharing a tip that worked for them in their 40 years together: by nixing PDAs (and here I use PDA to mean what it did when I was in high school, long before USRobotics developed the PalmPilot), they protected their affection for each other from outside interference.

In the final analysis, I think I'll try to strike a balance between expressing what I feel, and trying not to offend. I guess that's as applicable in business and daily personal relationships as it is in my relationship with my parents and in-laws. I just think that expressing how I feel seems more important now, as Al and I prepare to take a big step together—one that involves making about as public a statement of how we feel about each other as we possibly can.

Posted by Lori at September 03, 2002 05:36 PM