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Get A Room


Some couples blur the line between public displays of affection and contact sports. Are you guilty?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

hese days, PDA is most closely associated with personal data assistants. But if you’re old-school, like me, PDA stands for something else: public displays of affection.

The trouble with PDA is that the line between okay and icky is pretty thin and very subjective. If you’re at a fancy restaurant, even holding hands could offend some patrons. In a dive-bar, however, you could bend your honey over the jukebox and raise nary an eyebrow. There’s a lot of real estate between these two extremes, so how’s a happy, loving couple (cue music) to know what’s within reasonable bounds? How do you know whether to get over it or get a room?

Here are some tips:

Wanna watch?
For most of us, taking a simple gut check can keep us from running afoul of others’ sensibilities. Before you give your sweetie a tonsillectomy in the produce department, decide whether or not you’d want to watch another couple engaged in the same activity. Um…voyeurs need not reply.

Surreptitious PDA may be the most fun and acceptable form because it’s totally public—and yet it’s not.

Touch me there
Context is crucial to staying on the right side of the PDA patrol. Funerals or wakes — or anything at a house of worship — and the office (including the copy room and broom closet) are probably out of the question. Events involving family may be a little dicey, too, so it’s best to follow your beloved’s lead before goosing her as she peruses the family fridge.


A kiss is just a kiss
A simple kiss is rarely offensive to anyone anywhere. Same goes for holding hands, walking arm in arm or even cozying up on the couch. For the most part, these actions are seen as standard, acceptable forms of affection and everyone — except your utterly uptight Aunt Marge — will probably be okay with it.

Naughty and nice
Surreptitious PDA may be the most fun and acceptable form because it’s totally public—and yet it’s not. For instance, you’re at a concert with legions of other head-banging fans and you cop a secret feel or slip behind the Marshall stacks for a little smooching. You’re doing this in front of perhaps several thousand people, and yet very few, if any will know what’s going down.

The bottom line, so to speak, is to be aware of your surroundings and the people in them. Your inborn sense of propriety probably will be enough to keep you out of trouble. Unless, of course, you’ve got a serious urge for exhibitionism.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a writer and author living in Carrboro, NC.

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