Personal Display of Affection (PDA). How Comfortable Are You?

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A friend of mine was at a party a few months back. As midnight neared and the party went into overtime, a slow song came on. My friend made a beeline for her husband and danced slowly and seductively with him. They enjoyed the moment immensely, grateful to feel comfortable enough in front of their friends to express their affection.

While most people at the party did not even notice their going’s on, two people at the party did and proceeded to make a big stink about it the next day. My friend felt terrible and said it turned a really nice experience with her husband into one of guilt. She was disappointed that two stick-in-the-muds had to ruin a special moment.

On the flip side are people who openly grope each other in public. An extreme example would be from a few years back, when a couple on an airplane decided to have sex—not in the mile-high-club washroom but rather at their seat. When the flight attendant came to “break them up”, the flight attendant was told to mind her own business.

As much as I believe in viva la difference, if that couple had been sitting in front of me, I probably would have been uncomfortable (mesmerized, but still uncomfortable).

Simply mentioning the words, “Public displays of affection” (PDA) at a dinner party will bring out a barrage of opinions. Both for and against. There are many reasons why some feel comfortable seeing other people be affectionate in public while others do not.

So for those of you who play Trivial Pursuit, here’s the quick and dirty on why some people stare and others squirm when they see others openly affectionate.

When is PDA OK?

Hot weather climates produce people who feel a lot more comfortable with touching. The colder the climate (like Canada), the more people become uncomfortable.

Being extroverted or introverted also plays a role. Generally speaking, people who are extroverted unconsciously touch—it is apart of their bonding with others. Introverts do not really feel comfortable with people getting in their space.

As well, there is a correlation between a person’s comfort level with PDA and which city they are from. Cities like Montreal and Vancouver have a more laid back nature and mottos like, “Live and let live”.

In cities like San Francisco, New Orleans or Sydney, Australia, neither public displays of affection nor public nudity is considered a big deal. I attended a street fair in San Francisco where nude people nonchalantly walked and shopped the fair. They were making a statement. I have never seen anything like that in my home town of Calgary.

Who’s Right?
No one is right in this situation. It is a matter of personal preference. The question then becomes how should the majority react to the minority?

A bell curve of attitudes will arise around people’s PDA comfort level. The majority of people sit in the middle of the bell-curve and are okay with most PDA. On either sides of the bell curve will be the extremists: on one end those people who are completely intolerant and, on the other end, those people who get turned on by “doing it” in public places.

As there is no rulebook for affectionate conduct, it means that every interaction is up for interpretation. Consequently, common sense must come into play. Common sense (at least in my world) would dictate that moderation is key, and anything in excess can become destructive.

This holds true for PDA. Hand-holding, sitting close, kissing and nuzzling are pretty innocent, fun and healthy actions. Zero touch can lead to a loss of spontaneity and warmth within the couple. Or, when the touch becomes hot and heavy groping, the first thing you need to ask is, “Would I do this in front of my mom?” If not, maybe you should find a private place.

Photo by: That Guy Who’s Going Places

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