I don’t like to be touched.
That sounds harsh, but it’s a general rule. There are notable exceptions. (“Exception,” really. As in, Hubs.)
But generally, I sincerely dislike physical contact.
PROBLEMATIC in a Latin culture. I cannot begin to express how much of a problem this is.
It’s like my mom is a professional singer and my dad is a world-famous luthier and I hate music. That’s how inappropriate it is for me to dislike physical contact here in Mexas.
Almost two years have passed since we landed here, and I’ve only made marginal improvement on this aversion. You know why it’s so difficult to adjust? Because it’s not just hugs, which North America does on a pretty regular basis. (I don’t like hugs, either, but after decades of immersion I can handle them without freaking out.) (Mostly.) It’s the kissing.
This is how they greet people in Latin America:
Well, almost like this. It’s really more of a cheek to cheek thing than actual kissing.
But this is how it feels to me.
The problem is that I am the only one in the whole town who has a problem with the kissy hello. I’m the only one who feels it is wildly inappropriate for people to be approaching my face with their face upon casual greeting.
Like I said, two years, and I’m getting better. When I’m ready for it, I can do a fairly decent impersonation of someone who has assimilated. This took work. At first I was using my actual lips to kiss people on the cheek. This is how I approached them:
Which is totally wrong.
It’s more about the kiss noise and getting your cheek close to the other’s. Not lips to cheek. Which I didn’t know to start, but now I do. (My cat is not part of the kissing boycott. Although I don’t kiss her frequently because she’s a cat and she rolls in our nasty carpet and enjoys eating fish-flavored pellets. And I just don’t think I should encourage that kind of behavior. )
So when I’m expecting a large Hispanic group, I can greet a room like a Latina Bonita with none the wiser.
When I’m not ready for it, however, things go downhill más rápido…
It’s considered highly insulting to avoid the kiss. Kind of like going for a handshake and then snatching your hand away to smooth your hair. Which is why I’ve offended a lot of people. Because if they go for my face and I’m not expecting it, that tongue picture above flashes before my eyes and I holler, “woah, woah!!” And my palms go up for the block and I back away disgustedly.
And whoever was politely greeting me two seconds before now hates my guts.
So I must console myself with the title of guera a little longer…