The Ninety-Eighth Chart

September 20, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Five takes umbrage at PDAs.  She doesn’t like it when her father kisses me or hugs me and doesn’t hesitate to voice her opinion.  Loudly.  Last year she would try to squeeze between the two of us if we hugged or if he grabbed me for an impromptu spin around the floor.  These days she grabs my hand and pulls me away from him.  She’s also threatened to “break you guys up.”

Here’s the problem: the “P” is missing in these PDAs.  In other words, when she objects it’s because she’s caught us dancing around the kitchen or because her father has pulled me close for a quick kiss before he leaves for the hospital in the morning.  We try to laugh it off, but when she objected again on Wednesday evening I almost felt guilty for getting caught.

“It’s like we’re teenagers,” I said to my husband.  “We’re going to have to sneak around.”

“I know,” he said.  And then he smirked, grabbed my arm, peeked over my shoulder, and drew me close to him when he saw Five charging into the kitchen.

I wonder if I should feel happy that she doesn’t subscribe to public displays of affection.  Our society shrugs when teenagers stand in malls and sit in restaurants driving their tongues down one another’s throats.  Should I feel old if I say that it kind of grosses me out?

A few months ago, before we moved from Salt Lake, my husband and I went out to dinner for sushi.  The sushi restaurant had an hour-long wait, so we put our names on the list and decided to walk around downtown.  The pleasant weather almost begged us to, and Salt Lake’s downtown certainly allows for easy pedestrian mobility.

After wandering around for a little while we found ourselves headed toward City Creek Center, Salt Lake’s newest addition of an outdoor mall with a retractable roof.  Given that we’d gone on a weekend and that the weather was so nice, the mall teemed with people of all ages.  As we walked in we saw a young couple, easily in their late teens, making out.

It felt like we were on a movie set, because this boy and girl weren’t just kissing.  They had the whole scene going: arms wrapped around one another, leaning against a large boulder placed for ornamental purposes, breaking between kisses only long enough to smile sickeningly at one another before diving in for another round.

We walked past them and began joking about just how long it would take for them to break up.  My husband predicted that if we came back a year later we would see the girl in the same spot with a different guy.  To the couple’s credit, they weren’t mauling one another as some young couples feel compelled to do, but we still rolled our eyes at them.

When we got to one of the large fountains we stopped and listened to the live music and just watched people for a little while.  A photographer had lights and his camera trained on another couple, and I guessed that he might have brought them to City Creek for engagement pictures.  They had that newly-engaged brightness in their eyes.

About 20 minutes or so passed.  Really, more than anything we just wanted to kill time before we had to start heading back to the sushi restaurant.  Finally I think I was the one to glance at my watch and suggest that we start ambling toward the exit.

We followed the same path we’d taken when we came in, and, wouldn’t you know it, the kids were still at it.  They were still making out!  This time both of us could barely contain our laughter, and my husband said something along the lines of “I can’t believe it!” right within their hearing distance.  Something in their body language told me they could possibly have heard him, but I don’t know.  Either way, we both knew one thing for sure: neither of us have or would participate in nor condone such behavior.

Because we have two daughters to raise, I think sometimes about what their lives will be like when they become teenagers.  It’s inevitable that one or both of them will have their fair share of crushes.  I know I did.  And when those crushes don’t pan out, they’ll both feel hurt.  I know I did.

But at some point, they’ll meet boys who genuinely love them for who they are.  They’ll reciprocate that love, and they will have plenty of opportunities to express that love.  Should I feel happy that Five doesn’t endorse PDAs?

A gut check tells me yes.  We’re just having a little trouble helping her make the transition from “Don’t kiss and hug boys in public” to “It’s okay for us to do this because we’re married.”  Naturally I’ve asked her why she feels it’s so icky for her daddy and me to kiss and hug.  She can’t really articulate anything beyond the ickiness.

I wonder if other parents face this and how they handle it.  Of course, after 10 years of marriage, we find it natural to kiss one another goodbye or for me to extend my arms for a hug when I feel like I’ve had a long day.  When we reach for one another’s hand in the car or walking through the mall, we don’t think about it.  We just do it.

Five finds it all disgusting.  At this point we’re walking that fine line between trying to respect her feelings and making sure she understands that even if she objects to something there will still be times she’ll have to tolerate it.  It’s a work in progress.

In the meantime, I guess we keep sneaking around.

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