Sunday 20 January 2019

PDAs: The new rules in the #MeToo era

Given today's #MeToo movements, physical contact in the workplace and at social gatherings can be a minefield. Charlotte Lytton examines the dos and don'ts

Prince Harry and Meghan get their PDAs just right. Photo: Getty Images
Prince Harry and Meghan get their PDAs just right. Photo: Getty Images

Charlotte Lytton

These are tricky times for the tactile among us; a shoulder squeeze capable of causing an ethical quandary, our phones now being the recipients of most of our physical touch. Some comfort, then, to see that the British royals, arbiters of protocol and properness, are embracing a more touchy-feely dawn. It all started in 2009 when then First Lady Michelle Obama rested a shapely arm on the Queen's back - a gesture that was dubbed an "epic faux pas", yet it turned out the sovereign actually rather liked it. But then there's the dangers of being seen as too friendly, post #MeToo. So what exactly are the new rules for public displays of affection?

Social occasions

Glasses being constantly refilled, music and frivolity in the air - the number of ways to slip up at a social gathering are infinite. We've all likely got too friendly when dressed in our best and caught up in the occasion, going in for a squeeze when getting on roaringly with a new acquaintance, but take things too far and you'll be struck off the invite list until the end of time.

Do: Keep it jovial, clink away and extend an arm to your new-found pal - provided you're only making contact from the waist up.

Don't: Slosh red wine all down their front and start dabbing at verboten areas suggestively with a napkin.

Gym time

A steamy-mirrored hot yoga studio, a diligent instructor's fingers lightly manoeuvring your hips as he or she corrects your downward dog - given the myriad #MeToo movements that exposed overt handsiness in every arena, it is a wonder, perhaps, that the land of the sweat-flecked and tightly clothed has (thus far) managed to escape scot-free. And mat-dwellers are keen to keep things that way, now even enlisting "consent cards" to ensure no foul play throws their practice off-piste.

But when does a trainer veer from thorough to thoroughly unseemly?

Do: Allow a guiding palm to help you find the right position. Just the once.

Don't: Make excuses if hands keep finding themselves where they shouldn't.

And if there are routine suggestions to disrobe due to "broken air-conditioning", run!

School gates

There's a lot at stake here, after all - do wrong by the teachers, and there'll be a black mark against your child's name forever; do so against fellow parents and such a stain will besmirch the record of both your offspring and yourself, which is obviously worse. So when it comes to making pleasantries at drop-off, it's best to err on the side of caution again - no cheek-kissing for the dads if you're just extending stiff hugs to the mums; you'll only end up the subject of bitchy WhatsApp group chats afterwards.

Do: Extend the same greeting - hug, single kiss, whichever works - to all.

Don't: Enter into private conversations via text with other pupils' dads.

At work

The office has become a veritable viper's nest for encounters of the awkward kind, with every once-innocuous interaction now probable cause for a lengthy HR report. Though the blanket (and likely quite wise) rule of thumb might be Avoid Colleague-Based Human Contact At All Costs Ever, these things leave us firmly in the grey area.

Take, for instance, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel clasping one another's hands at the Armistice memorial last weekend, posted on social media with a single word, "united", the perfect emblem of just how potent a certain closeness between colleagues can be.

That is until you consult the vast, vast evidence to the contrary: Macron clutching Donald Trump's knee at the Elysee Palace or the US president gripping Theresa May's paws on a worrying number of occasions.

Toe-curling, every last one.

Do: Keep things friendly - without touching, where possible.

Don't: Grab, grip or grasp - or follow one of said clangers up with "Ha ha, don't go referring me to management now, will you! Will you?"

Other halves

Princes William and Harry have been doing a good line in showing affection that doesn't descend into downright filth. Yet while a certain level of tact is fine, anything OTT remains strictly out of bounds.

Do: A kiss or placing of a hand on your beloved - we're permitting a gentle perch on the bottom, even.

Don't: Get carried away. Finding your partner irresistible after a long period together is to be admired - but, ideally, by one another alone, and behind closed doors.

Irish Independent

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