GET A ROOM! A discussion of Public Displays of Affection

Public displays of affection. A sign that you love your partner and are just expressing your affection towards them or inappropriate and exhibitionist? What’s acceptable and what constitutes crossing the line? It’s a tough one.
Recently, there’s been a heat wave in Ireland. If you’re not Irish or have never been to Ireland, you might not realise the absolute anomaly that heat waves are here. Like Paris Hilton lecturing in Quantum Physics, it just doesn’t happen. Until this summer. So my boyfriend and I scoured the countryside for a place to relax out of the heat. We found a lovely river to swim in. We were beyond excited and have found it incredibly fun, wiling away hours playing around in the water. We were like teenagers again, playing volleyball, him giving me piggy backs and having backwards swimming races. During one of my many piggyback rides, I noticed a group of about ten people walking past, watching us. Jack didn’t seem to notice. As he went to pull me towards him, he planted a prolonged kiss on my lips. I turned away. Not because I don’t love a cuddle and a kiss, but because people were watching us. My boyfriend didn’t care. ‘We’re not doing anything wrong,’ he said.
‘Then why does it feel like we are?’ I asked.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude. My friends often come to me for all manner of advice regarding the more intimate aspects of their relationships. It doesn’t bother me when I see couples canoodling in public. But when it comes to us, I just don’t feel comfortable with it. Holding hands, fine. A quick peck, perfectly acceptable. A long kiss on the lips? That’s another story.
You’re probably wondering why. There are a multitude of reasons. Firstly, I think many Irish people struggle with being publicly affectionate. I didn’t really realise this until I spent some time in mainland Europe. Here, men and women frequently engage in all kinds of PDAs. People are more affectionate in general. It does go to show though that us Irish haven’t quite embraced the comfortable affection of our cuddly European neighbours. Perhaps it’s our Catholic heritage that discouraged romantic affection in public. Historically, there has been a very prudish attitude towards young couples being in any way intimate in public. I’m not sure if this has just been ingrained in me without me realising it.
There’s also the fact that my parents were not the most affectionate. They loved me, I knew that. But hugs and kisses were not part of my childhood. They also weren’t affectionate with each other, so it wasn’t something I was used to witnessing. When something is foreign to you as a child, then it often remains the same in adulthood. But I witnessed my parent’s marriage crumbling for years in the most bitter and resentful of ways, and it wasn’t something I wanted to repeat in my relationship. When it’s just me and Jack, I’m as cuddly as a bear in a brothel (I should probably work on my analogies). As I write this, my feet are propped up on his legs. I’m more
comfortable with him than with anyone else. But if you take it outside the house, it’s just not the same. For me, it’s a privacy thing too. I like somethings to be ours. (I realise the irony of writing a blog about our relationship and then stating I prefer privacy, but I don’t mind this. I find this easy.)
There’s a part of me that wishes that I could be more relaxed about it. I’m enviable of Jack’s ‘it’s no big deal’ attitude. I know that it might seem a silly thing, but I know that Jack would have loved to have me squealing with delight in his arms as he swung me around (which is what i would do at home) instead of shrieking ‘stop it, STOP, STOOPPP!’ It ruins the fun. But maybe I just think that we don’t need wild displays of physical affection in public to demonstrate our love. We know we love each other. We’re both secure in that knowledge. I feel it would be worse to engage in empty and exaggerated displays if we weren’t in love. There’s substance in our relationship, it shouldn’t be about how we appear on the outside.
Of course I don’t judge people who engage in PDAs. I admire their confidence. But remember when Will and Kate awkwardly kissed on the balcony on their wedding day? It didn’t make me think ‘that marriage won’t last, look how awkward they are.’ It actually made me think of Tom Cruise’s incredibly OTT declaration of love for his then girlfriend Katie Holmes. Now they’re broken up. Hmm. So just because a couple might be overtly intimate in public, it doesn’t mean all is rosy behind closed doors. Nor does a publicly coy couple suggest a failing relationship.
Am I wrong? Should I chill out? Would you judge a couple you saw canoodling in public as attention-seeking? One thing is for sure, you won’t see me jumping on any sofas anytime soon.


10 thoughts on “GET A ROOM! A discussion of Public Displays of Affection

  1. drowninmelancholy says:

    I absolutely agree. I live in Germany, and here it can sometimes be very annoying when you walk on a crowded street with people in fron of you, behind you and next to you, when suddenly, a stupid couple just stops walking, in the middle of the street, to kiss. Sometimes I think to bump into them on purpose :’D It can really be annoying. I don’t have anything against people making out in a corner, a lawn, or anywhere else, as long as I don’t get dangered to trip over them :’D I have also done that in public, but it shouldn’t go as far as to interfere with people in a way.

    • janeybgood says:

      I totally agree. We’re a little more reserved here in Ireland, but you will see some massive public displays of affection and it’s just not something I am 100% comfortable with. I just think that it’s an intimate moment between a couple and it doesn’t have to be shared with the rest of the world.

      Thanks for your comment πŸ˜€

  2. themissx says:

    I am part German, and pda’s just aren’t done very often, even in front of others in private places! Luckily, I also have other ethnicities in me, like Slovak , and i am affectionate in public sometimes.. but a man I know who is nearly 100% Irish ethnicity, well.. when he flinched away in the hallway of a building when I tried to kiss him, I took it as ‘he is not interested!’ Never sure if it’s a pda thing, or someone who just isn’t interested in you romantically. At other times, he will hug me in public (public being a public place without a lot of people around) and I felt embarrassed. For me, when you really love someone, you sometimes feel that it is such an intense, close feeling, it should only be done without others around! I never knew if this was an Irish thing, although many Irish have told me affection wasn’t shown when they were growing up.

    • janeybgood says:

      That’s it; our parents just aren’t very affectionate with us here in Ireland. Especially the older generation. Times are changing now, but it I think the older generation considered too much affection unnecessary and indulgent. It’s a pity in a way, because a lot of people my own age are very awkward when it comes to showing affection. If I’m comfortable with someone, it’s no problem. But not in public, I’m just shy about it. Maybe everyone is a little bit, but it seems a lot more acceptable on the continent.
      Thanks for commenting. It’s always interesting to get a different perspective on it!

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