Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Singles and PDA: Dealing with Public Displays of Affection

As a blogger, I try to keep my writing in the public eye and my personal life out of it. But this time I have to blur the boundaries because--let's face it--there aren't any boundaries when a guy standing close enough to kiss you is slipping the tongue to the girl next to him along with whatever fingers he can get inside her shirt.

As the October air gets nippy, couples huddling for warmth have become a frequent sight on street corners, park benches, and trains. Out in the open, we're under a big enough sky that we don't need to test physics by occupying the same space at the same time. When a touchy-feely couple gets cozy on a picnic blanket, anyone who doesn't want to see the show can appropriate a different patch of grass.

But it's more difficult to avoid the lovebirds when they insist on performing their mating ritual in an enclosed space such as a movie theater, shopping aisle, bus, or train. For instance, at least once or twice a week on the train, I have an uncomfortably close encounter of the following kind: There I am, staking my claim to a mere inch or two of poll, maintaining a zenlike focus on avoiding eye contact with fellow passengers and staying upright despite the bucking B line's best attempts to throw me. While innocently awaiting my stop, barricaded in my mental fortress of solitude, a couple, usually but not always under the age after which adults are supposedly not to be trusted, enter the car and take up residence at my poll.

In case you've never been on a subway, when passengers join you at your poll, you are forced to part with your personal space, and you won't see it again until they disembark. Since most people don't like to part with their personal space, there is an unwritten rule that you dignify this loss by keeping your body parts to yourself and making a good faith effort to be as invisible as a muggle can. So when you have nowhere to look but at the couple in front of you and their giggling and eye flirting gives way to spit swapping, they're not only flaunting their PDA but breaking the subway code big time.

Now, one kiss--okay, fine, whatever. I'll avert my eyes and pretend I didn't see. But when you punctuate every sentence by locking lips over and over in an enclosed space where I have no choice but to be an onlooker, you might as well jab me in the shoulder with a pointy nail every 10 seconds. It's visual torture. And these aren't just teenagers with untamable hormones and no manners. These are adults, some of them dressed for work, where, in 20 minutes or so, they will have no problem exercising the self-control that somehow eludes them on the train.

When singles complain about PDA, inevitably there are accusations of envy and bitterness. But I'm going to lay those to rest right here: I may not be in a committed relationship, but I am regularly on the receiving end of kisses, so I have nothing to be envious about. Even if I weren't, though, that wouldn't change the fact that I don't want to watch a couple's intimate romantic moments played out in front of me any more than I want to watch them scream and curse at each other, get sick and vomit, or give birth. Some things are private, and just because we can see most of them on cable TV doesn't mean they shouldn't be. When someone force-feeds the public a slice of his or her sexuality, it can be embarrassing, distasteful, and even somewhat violating to unwitting bystanders.

For some singles, of course, PDA does also trigger envy, insecurity, and depression as an in-your-face reminder of what they want but don't have. In fact, sometimes, I wonder if, for at least quite a few couples, this is the unconscious objective of PDA--to show off their relationship, something widely perceived as an asset, in the same way one might roll up a sleeve to show off a Rolex or take the new Lexus on a grocery run. After all, it's hard to believe that these couples go home and sit through dinner, dishwashing, dog feeding, their favorite weekly drama, and the news while staring into each other's eyes and recreating living Rodin sculptures. At least a good part of their public canoodling must be exhibitionism rather than sheer overflow of love.

Whether PDA makes you blush, brings out your green-eyed monster, or sends you running for comfort food, there are ways to restore privacy to your personal space:

1. Lock down the liplockers.
Though some with a laissez-faire philosophy may protest that getting frisky outside the bedroom is harmless, there's a reason every state has laws prohibiting public nudity and sexual activity. Public spaces are for the public, and it's only fair that we all cooperate so everyone can enjoy them. You don't have to be exposed to someone else's indecent exposure. If a couple is being so inappropriate that you feel uncomfortable sharing the same steamy air, you have the right to report them to the authorities. Yes, it's harsh and not to be done willy-nilly, but sometimes people don't consider how their actions (or, um, attempts to get some action) affect others until they're face to face with the consequences.

2. Bounce them to a bedroom.
Most PDAs skirt a finer line between in flagrante and innocent. Such instances may not be a case for the police, but if you're in an establishment like a restaurant or movie theater, the management will want to hear about it if the patrons are unhappy. If the cooing and cuddling is making you too queasy to eat dinner or if you have to crane your neck around the neckers to see the movie screen, complain to a manager. He or she may discreetly ask the couple to dial it down a notch, or you may be given a discount or refund.

3. If they really want a show, give them an audience.
When reinforcements aren't available, such as in a bus, train, or store aisle, you may have to take matters into your own hands. Sometimes couples deep into a display of PDA may be ignorant of the attention they're drawing to themselves. Give them a funny wake-up call with hoots, whistles, cheers, or jeers to remind them that they're not in the privacy of their own home. This may embarrass them into an early curtain on their performance. Other options: Pretend to snap some pictures with your camera phone, start directing them as though they're shooting a love scene, or, if all else fails, use the tried and true exhortation to get a room. (Note: If you don't know the sappy sweethearts, use caution. Even if your intentions are to make light of the situation while getting your point across, there are always those unhinged sorts who will react violently to teasing and many more who will be anything but embarrassed and flip you the bird before progressing to second base. And, of course, you risk being as obnoxious as the offending parties.)

Now, when the tables have turned and you're out on a date, make sure you don't hand out an unwanted helping of PDA to those around you! Wandering fingers are bad enough; pointing the finger at others only to slobber on your significant other is even worse. Contribute to a PDA-free society by saving your bedroom eyes for the bedroom.

How do you feel as a single when you're unwittingly treated to a display of PDA? If it bothers you, why do you think that is and how do you respond to it? Have you ever done anything to discourage an overly amorous couple, and, if so, did it work?

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bobbyboy said...

Ah yes, this could be just one of a number of "Subway" story episodes lol

As a single or with a partner, I feel the same. An arm around the shoulder, peck on the cheek or a tap on the lips as they part for the days work is fine. However, as open minded as I am, I know that PDA's make people very uncomfortable and therefore should be curved by those that do it.

Usually when this happens in front of me, I am not the one who becomes uncomfortable. Because I tend to watch very closely (hey, it's a public place right?), the couple usually slows it up a bit.
Staring definitely seems to discourage most couples, so I will say it works.


Anonymous said...

ui don't know why they have to do it in public when they can do it in private. Is it like they can't wait or like you said,, they want to arouse envy from those who don't have love int'rest, to show off they do? Has ti soemthing to do with territory, like who belongs to who?

If it's to show off or territorial then there must be some sort of insecurity there.

Good topic.

Anonymous said...

I just ignore it. I say if they want to make themselves look like damn fools, they can go right ahead.

Wizardry said...

I feel very bad. I've not been here in so long. I've been so busy trying to do school stuff and applying to colleges and the likes, and every time I try to post a comment, I think, "Its been so long! I can't leave anything here..." But now I like to think I'm over it, and here I am. I'll try to keep up with things, but I'm trying to multitask everything right now, and it wears me down. Well, yes, so... that's me saying I'll do my best to show up more often. And I'm so sorry for not coming by like I said I would. So sorry... But I'll try to do better now.

Clever Elsie said...

Bobby: Staring, huh? What a terrific suggestion! So simple yet so effective! I hope some readers will try this and let us know how it goes.

Thess: Yes, I think a lot of people have an instinctual need to show off and lord it over others, and relationships are just another means to facilitate it. And I also think you're right that there may be a territorial element, as well, a way of publicly stating, "This is my partner. Hands off!" There's also a growing crowd who just do whatever they want whenever they want and don't care who's watching, whether that's dressing in clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination, engaging in a public screaming match, talking loudly on a cell in an enclosed area, or making out for a captive audience.

Yoruame: I think a lot of people go this route. I wish I could be as stoic as you, but sometimes it's just so hard to ignore, especially when it's repeated again and again only inches in front of your face!

Victoria: You don't have to apologize for anything! School should definitely be your primary focus. Your comments are always welcome here, no matter how long it's been since your last visit. Good luck with those applications!