Sorting it all Out Michael Kaplan's random stuff of dubious value Be sure to read the disclaimer here first!
Nothing technical whatsoever. You have been warned!
My neighbor thinks I am much more knowledgeable about social things than I actually am.
The truth is I mostly just fake it, though I've gained a few insights over the years.
Anyway, he asked me if I could explain when you are supposed to do a cheek kiss and when you are supposed to instead do an air kiss.
I honestly do not have the first clue. I know that Wikipedia article on the air kiss (aka cheek buss) claims that it is most often associated with models and celebrities, but I find that even at family events they seem common.
Growing up among conservative Jews and as one, it could easily come up on a weekly basis on Friday nights after the Sabbath service, and I still never managed to figure it out (though mismatches seemed common, and not just by me).
The nightly examples with celebrities and Jay/Dave/Conan/Craig/Carson usually tend to go better but often give no hints as to which is correct, and I vaguely recall seeing the occasional mismatch there too from time to time....
As far as I can tell, it does not usually matter if you do the wrong one, but it can matter tremendously if:
It turns out those were exactly the problems my neighbor was trying to figure out as he was heading into this Labor Day weekend, going to spend it with the family of a perhaps girlfriend, and worried that if she did not feel the same way that he would do the wrong one.
I've messed this one up myself so I am hardly one to give advice, and I actually told him the story of the worst mistake on my part in this vein, one that due to poor aim of both of us (I think she was thinking right cheek and I was thinking left?) turned into a kiss on the lips which severely embarrassed both of us because it turned out (as we determined in later conversations we had) that:
We were both still young enough to wonder how both of our timings could be that heinous.
After telling him this story he realized (through my negative example) that he was unlikely to do worse than me, and that even if he did it may not be entirely fatal.
(I decided not to also mention that I had no idea where she was now or what she was doing since I don't think that was the weird inappropriate kiss, we just drifted apart as friends -- he had enough on his mind!)
I then pointed him toward that Miss Manners' book, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, which I seemed to recall said something about this, and I even found the section later in Google Books here.
And in a pinch, my advice was simple -- I explained that the air kiss was best, because it is easy to claim that one did not want to force someone to have to fix themselves up if they go for the cheek when their partner does not. Much easier than explaining one's lips on their cheek, unmatched, and most definitely easier than an unintended kiss on the lips. If you take this approach, I told him, you'll never miss the buss....
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ABSOLUTELY nothing technical. I mean it. If you even think there is something technical in here then