Monday, February 21, 2011

Hello Goodbye Cha Cha Cha

Our biggest daily problem in France is kisses. Not back seat of the car kisses, not Mom and Pop kissing in the kitchen kisses, but kisses that are as complex as international treaties and as elegant as ballet. 
As soon as you see someone coming towards you the music starts, that’s your cue, you’re on.  
You check to see if this is someone that you know. If you don’t know them, great. You can glide by with a quick “Bonjour Monsieur, Madame.” If you do know them, but just from passing in the village, you can say bonjour with a quick handshake. So far all of our moves have just been a nod towards civility, a dance as simple as a two-step.
But now you see an acquaintance approaching. You'll just have a few moments to collect yourself. Still steps away, both parties show a flash of graceful sweeps of the arm-- nose wiped, no crumbs on the cheek, glasses off. (Maybe I should have compared this to a sword fight!)
Now you have to drop into the rhythm of the music. Follow the lead of your partner. Watch for the tilt of the head that lets you know wether you are to begin your kiss on the left cheek or the right cheek. It is never the same cheek! We have asked, and there are no rules for this. Misjudge left or right and you will be kissing hair, or ear, or MON DIEU!--lips! We have found that some people move to the music of Mozart-- calm, sophisticated and efficient. Some people have more of a latin sound, kisses smacked right on each cheek with plenty of smacky noise to emphasize their enthusiasm.  What’s remarkable is how carefully limited the contact is. A good dancer never lets you know their body is near yours. 
Now take these moves and multiply them if you enter into a group. It is a great affront to not greet everyone. Make the rounds and kiss everyone-- even strangers-- or you’ll break the rhythm. The music pace quickens, you are now in the full swing of a Virginia Reel. Just be sure to remember whom you started with so you don’t twirl the day or night away. 
Oh, and don’t forget you’ll have to start all over again with the good-bye kisses.


Brooke said...

Dear Susan,

I loved this ! The number of times that I have almost kissed my French brother in law on the lips ! He never moves the right way !! I always go for the left cheek first ! Maybe he does it on purpose. Good luck with the new house ! All the best, Brooke

La Vida Artesania said...

Great, we sympathize. Here we add the complication that we have to discern if it will be 2 or 3 cheeks. With Spanish or Catalan locals it is 2 but with our French, Dutch or Swiss friends it is left, right left or the reverse.