The only time I was ever told to get a room -- in a half-joking shout from a stranger while I made out with my sweetie in a park -- I took it as a compliment. Were we really that distracting? We were obviously that distracted, in that we were too absorbed with one another to care about anyone else.
And you know what, friends? That is pretty much the best thing ever.
I love PDA because I love falling and being in love. I don’t think all touchy-feely couples have a relationship worth duplicating, nor am I suggesting that anyone pursue a relationship for the sake of being in one. But when you’ve got a good thing, being openly passionate about the other person is an enormous compliment and adds joy to the world.
I think it’s awesome when couples sit on the same side of the booth and hold hands in that way where they’ll walk all funny around parking meters or mail boxes to avoid letting go.
I don’t bat an eye when people hardcore make out in the middle of the sidewalk (though I would suggest a doorway so you can seductively lean). I draw the line at, say, groping under the clothes or licking. Come on already. Go the fuck home to do that.
There’s also a spectrum for certain behaviors. Sitting on your honey’s lap on the subway when there aren’t any available seats? Yay. Sitting on his or her lap in the theater and sucking face during the coming attractions? Nay.
When done with style, I think that being publicly affectionate helps others share the love, so to speak. See couples in love? Feel good about love! Unless you’re horrible and bitter. Am I right?
Once upon a now-not-so-tragic-but-back-then-totally-devastating-breakup, I was that chick who cried in public because my man was gone. We’re talking about sobbing in the bank lobby just because, you know, I wasn’t there with him. It was quite possibly the most devastating non-death-related time of my life, not least because it was horribly embarrassing to be that unhinged person. Crying in public: Please, let’s all do it more to make it a little less noticeable when the incurably sad are among us.
Anyway, even when I was that girl, even when I was shamefully red-faced for months on end, I did not hate the booth side-sharers. I loved them like I do now. I didn’t flip on the radio and shriek, “Ahhhhh turn off those sappy songs on the radio ahhh I’m alone and miserable!” I didn’t stop believing in love because I temporarily sucked at giving and receiving it, nor did I stop believing in lovers just because I no longer had one. I most definitely did not want to stifle them.
Obviously, I got a new and better loverboy, and five years in, I’m still giddy when we reach for each other’s hand at a crosswalk. For nearly the last decade, I’ve been fortunate to live in progressive cities where this sort of behavior just isn’t that errant, or at least not enough so that I noticed. In Copenhagen, we hold hands riding bikes down the path. In Boston and San Francisco, we walk with our arms wrapped around one another.
I get that I’m a little white woman married to a big tall Nordic dude. I’m not trying to say we’re cute, but we’re definitely non-threatening and appear quite normative. No one cares if we smooch on a park bench because we look the homogenous hetero part.
I’m painfully aware that it isn’t so simple for everyone. What I do hope is that PDA can be not only a way to infect others with affection; when it doesn’t come coupled with visible privilege, it can be a subversive tool employed by all partners, provided the time and place feels safe and right. That’s obviously easier said than done, but I like to think normalizing normative PDA makes everyone else’s public space a wee bit safer for future love-ins. I want to believe in the power of love.
I like not having to conceal my enthusiasm when my sweetie walks out of the airport terminal or meets me for dinner and snuggles up next to me as we order. I don’t think anyone should have to hide their love, and I try not to take mine -- or my expression of it -- for granted.