I didn't think it was possible to kiss so many French people in such a short period of time. Since arriving in Paris in mid-February, I've given out hundreds, nay, thousands of kisses. No, not actual kisses on the lips. I'm talking about that famous French greeting known as "Les Bises." You know, the two (sometimes three or four depending on the region in France you visit) little cheek-touching air-smacking movements that serve to acknowledge acquaintances and totally freak out those who have never done it before. Mastering your technique is an important part of living in France, as you'll be called upon to repeat this gesture time and time again. After five months in Paris, I think I've finally got it down pat. I've also got some very tired lips.
The thing is, I'm kind of getting fed up with the whole kissing ritual. I've gone from thinking "what a fun and quaint tradition!" to "can't I just wave and say hi?" Giving the bises looks all glamorous and everything, but the truth is that it's really just a lot of work. Especially if you go to a party. There could be upwards of thirty people there and you have to kiss each and every one of them. It's exhausting! Then there's all the awkwardness about it. Accidentally bumping noses, deciding whether to grab the person's shoulder or not, coming up against someone who actually touches their lips to your cheeks instead of just air kissing...the potential for utter and complete embarrassment is frighteningly high.
I miss the good old days of walking into a room, hugging my closest friends, and giving a smile and a "hey, what's up?" to everyone else. A quick, simple, universal greeting is so much easier than individualized air-kisses. And hugs? Well, they just make you feel good. But as long as I'm in France, I'll keep on giving the bises with a smile on my face and a well-rehearsed plan of attack. I guess I should look on the bright side: every once in a while you get to kiss a really cute Frenchman.