The Perils of PDAs

Public displays of affection: or, how to horrify everyone around you.

OK, concentrate.

I want you to imagine you’re an alien from another universe. You’re pretty similar to a human but in your world kissing doesn’t exist. Or music. Or dancing (dirty or otherwise). When you know another hot alien well enough you touch fingertips with them (ET style), do a bit of Harry Potterish wizardry and a baby appears. Magical.

So if you’re suddenly plonked in the middle of, say, Klute, where your x-ray alien vision (did I mention that?) allows you to see the full glory of the dance floor, and you saw people swaying to weird noises, grabbing each other, bumping/wiping their lips together and sticking their tongues into each others’ mouths, what would you think? You’d be shocked and appalled and you’d phone home (continuing with the ET theme), run away or go to Chad’s for a suitably alien drink.

You’re probably wondering how the hell anyone so mental ever got to write a column. Please direct enquiries to Sarah Parkin. I know it’s a crazy allegory, especially as in our world kissing is normal, but I’m sure you’ve got the gist. My point isn’t whether kissing is normal, cos it is, but whether it’s normal in PUBLIC.

I think it’s just plain WEIRD that you’d get with a stranger (or friend, whatever) in front of loads of people. Like a performance. It’s so animalistic and primitive that it reminds me firstly of that bit in Mean Girls where the kids in the cafeteria act like jungle animals, and secondly of a vile under 18s nightclub I used to go to where people would go to second and third base (sorry to lapse into teen speak here) ON THE DANCE FLOOR.

The really weird thing is that if someone turned on the lights, all the groping and kissing would stop instantly. No matter how drunk you were, you’d feel pretty uncomfortable continuing your make out sesh in the middle of a crowd, in light. So why’s it ok in the dark (other than the fact that restricted visibility makes everyone less picky)?

Generally, relationshippy stuff is just too public in our morally loose, slutty society. In Durham, thin accommodation walls and ridiculously gossipy college communities mean that little is secret, but the main reason our love lives are common knowledge is because that’s how we like it.

Relationships aren’t just started but also ended in public. Fair enough do it face to face, but why do we feel the need to do it amongst strangers? Maybe we’re inspired by soaps and films and want to add a bit of drama to our lives, or maybe we’re hoping that if we dump someone in a public place they won’t cry or make a scene, but it’s getting frequent.

I have to admit to being a public dumper myself. I don’t mean that I poo on the streets. What I mean is that I recently broke up with someone in a coffee shop, on the assumption that this was kinder than by text or phone, and that a scene would be more likely to be averted than on a walk.

I was wrong. We spent an excruciating 10 minutes sitting in absolute silence (I wish I was exaggerating – those who read my last column know I can’t stand awkward silences) after I’d broken the news, which turned out to draw more attention to us than any wailing would have done. In my terror, I gulped my coffee so fast that my tongue was burnt for days afterwards. Definitely a PDA (Public Display of Awkwardness/Arseyness) that should not be tried at home.

My housemate and I have both got on trains recently to realise (to our excitement) that the boy/man on the phone next to us is dumping their girlfriend. (Both times, depressingly, it was boy dumping girl. Girls, why aren’t you getting there first?)

The conversation I overheard was conducted at normal volume in a Quiet Carriage, and included some cracking lines (“Ames, babe, you could find such a nice guy who’d treat you so well, I’m no good for you! … I can’t deal with the responsibility of a relationship right now…”), the most cringeworthy of which he had to repeat a few times over as he kept losing signal. He’d cheated on her the night before wanted to end things but she was clinging on for dear life. I found the whole thing worryingly entertaining but was baffled by how comfortable the boy seemed to be with the fact that the whole carriage was listening to his conversation and to “Ames” wailing down the phone (it wasn’t on loudspeaker, she was just crying very, very loudly).

Facebook, predictably, plays a major role in this publishing of relationships/singledom. Personally, I think the more Facebooky a relationship is, the worse it is in real life. You should be secure enough not to need to proclaim your love all over his/her wall, like you’re marking it with your scent. Relationship statuses are a nightmare (who on earth puts “It’s complicated” other than as a joke? If that’s you, well done. You definitely made everything about 10 times more complicated) and the apparently heartless Facebook creators allow people to “like” and comment on newly “single” statuses with their cheerful little broken heart symbol – my friend spent a torturous few days recently watching the number of “likes” (from girls) increase on her (ex)boyfriend’s newly single status.

Anyway, I’ve got to get some ice cubes for my burnt tongue. Sorry to move so swiftly from aliens to coffee shops to trains to Facebook. The morals of this babble are: don’t make out in clubs in case you horrify an alien (or me), don’t drink coffee too quickly, don’t cry too loudly when you’re being dumped in case about 70 people are listening, and hide your relationship status unless it’s a joke*.

*This sentence is just for decoration. Please don’t actually follow the advice or you’ll make my life considerably less entertaining.

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