Last night I was with a group of young men (12-13 year olds) from church. We meet on a weekly basis to work on Boy Scout merit badges, talk about life and things of a spiritual nature. Occasionally we get out of our normal meeting place in our local chapel to enjoy the great outdoors whether it’s to go camping, hiking or just to get a bit of fresh air. Boys that age are rambunctious and being cooped up for two hours is about the worst thing you can do to them; second only to making them learn how to square dance with girls…but I’m not that cruel.
To break up the monotony we decided that we were going to meet at a park in the middle of town to roast hot dogs, enjoy the beautiful weather and get a little bit of exercise. We found a pavilion, the boys started playing football and the adults started cooking. It was shaping out to be an awesome evening.
About fifteen minutes into it we knew things were going to get a little crazy when a fairly young couple holding hands (and other body parts) walked up to the same pavilion and sat down – he on the bench, she on his lap.
Here’s the thing about public displays of affection (PDA) – when you’re young and in love it doesn’t matter who’s around, how many people are there, what the setting is or even where you are be it a public park or a cathedral in Rome. The only thing that matters is that you’re feeling hot and heavy for someone else and you’re on a collision course to make something happen. The problem with that is no one else in the world wants to see the end result. Well, there are some people who would pay to see that sort of thing but last night we were all in agreement that none of us was interested in that sort of entertainment.
A clarifying point: I love Super Mom. She has gradually helped me changed my perception over the years so that I am okay showing a little PDA. I’m a typical Samoan man of my generation – when I was a kid PDA was the quickest way to get my parents’ form of PDA – Public Discipline and Abasement. Have you ever been smacked on the side of your head for kissing a girl in front of families and friends? I haven’t either but I’ve seen it. And the dude was 20-years-old! The Polynesian approach towards PDA has changed dramatically in the last twenty years but it’s still a little awkward and for some it’s still taboo. No matter what your race though, it’s still a little embarrassing when people start going at it in a public setting.
Well it got a little more than uncomfortable when these two lovebirds starting getting a little too intimate in front of our boys. The boys were embarrassed enough that they all left the pavilion (before losing their dinner) and congregated under a nearby tree as far away from the PDA as possible. The adults in the group were able to disrupt the tongue-tying in short intervals by occasionally asking simple questions like, “Would you like some chicken or cake?” to make sure that it didn’t escalate into something even more awkward (and believe me, it was headed that way). The questions pulled them apart momentarily but never long enough. Maybe a more appropriate question would have been, “Perhaps we could interest you in a hotel room, maybe a cold shower?”
Another clarifying point: I think it’s important that children see their parents holding hands, a peck on the lips or cheek and even a hug to establish that this is healthy and its part of your relationship. But if you’re going to show a little PDA, it doesn’t require the exchange of bodily fluids. That kind of PDA makes everyone else feel like they’re sitting in a port-a-potty: It stinks, you’re uncomfortable and you want to leave but you can’t just get up and go when you’re fully engaged!
I’m a reasonable guy (most of the time) but I had kids there and they were watching; they are impressionable young minds. If you feel like you have urges, a public park should not be your first choice for a tryst. If your wife is at home and there’s nowhere else to take your girlfriend, drive to a cornfield, take a hike up a treacherous mountain, dive to a sunken ship for all I care. Just don’t impose on the rest of us, especially children. If you want to know how it feels, I’ll send a couple of teenagers over to your house to do the same thing while you’re eating dinner and you try to explain it to your kids.