PDAs: Please Do Abstain
Here, in Part Two of my series on PDAs (if you missed part one, read it here!), are some more questions and answers. May they lead us all to learn and follow the 3-Rs of publicly displaying affection: Respect, Restraint, Retreat.
Where should teens draw the line on PDAs?
Falling back upon the quaint baseball analogy, a PDA should never go beyond first base—hand-holding or a light and brief kiss, depending on how you define the bases. Recognizing that some of today’s teens go straight from the bullpen to winning the World Series without even rounding second, we may need to distinguish between different forms of PDAs. In the most innocent category are handshakes, hugs, air kisses, cheek busses, and quick lip smooches without tongue penetration. For the sake of thoroughness, one would also include couples kissing each other hello or good-bye, and the delightful physical affection that goes on between parents and young children that always brings a smile to observers, unless they are truly grumpy and heartless. The public display of anything beyond the aforementioned runs a high risk of being offensive to observers.
Finally, one must always consider age in determining the appropriateness of certain forms of contact. For example, when a grown-up bounces a child on his knees, it’s called a game. When a grown-up bounces another grown-up on his knees, it’s called a lap dance.
Do schools have rules about PDA?
Yes. Some schools prohibit PDAs. They believe that such displays are a distraction to the educational process, although I think many teens would argue that PDAs are highly educational. Since not all PDAs are equal, you find that some schools specify—kind of like a dress code—exactly what is and what isn’t permissible. One school might allow handholding but no kissing. Another school might permit walking down the hall with arms around the waist as long as fingers don’t stray into rear pockets. Basically, schools want to ban any activities that might lead to unscheduled trysts in the janitor’s closet or sub-par standardized test scores.
What is considered “rude” behavior in this area?
PDAs are rude when they…
…cross the line between endearment and lust
…compel a captive audience to watch or listen
…take place in settings not associated with such behavior.
Some settings are more affection-friendly than others. For example, it’s much more acceptable to make out in the Tunnel of Love than at the library. Eyebrows are less likely to be raised by a couple kissing in a paddleboat than at the Kroger fish counter.
If it bothers someone at school, what are some suggestions for teens on how to deal with it?
- Don’t watch. With 360 degrees in which to focus one’s vision, look away.
- Politely ask the couple to cease and desist. Own it as your sensitivity rather than their boorish behavior: “Hey, guys, it’s really hard for me to concentrate on my SAT with all the heavy breathing. Do you think you could wait until the test is over?”
- Use peer pressure. In a voice just loud enough for the offending couple to hear without revealing your intent for them to do so, say: “Does anyone else besides me find it uncool to have to watch Biff and Buffy explore each other’s nether regions?”
- Talk to a teacher, counselor, or other adult you trust in school. If PDAs are a school-wide problem that’s making a lot of kids uncomfortable, the administration may want to do something about it. This could include an assembly on the topic, a new PDA policy, asking the Student Council to look into it, or hosing kids down with water to keep their passions from igniting.
This post first appeared on Alex’s blog.
Alex J. Packer, Ph.D., “Manners Guru to the Youth of America,” is a very polite educator, psychologist, and award-winning author of 10 books for parents, teachers, and teenagers including How Rude! The Teen Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out. A recognized expert on adolescent development, parenting, and substance abuse prevention, Alex’s passion for nurturing healthy kids, healthy families, and healthy schools takes him around the world as a speaker and workshop leader. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.
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