Tag Archives: kiss

Arab Three Kiss Greeting

My informant (18), from Lebanon, describes a greeting: “So a standard Arab greeting, is, typically in the Middle-East, you have to do three kisses on the cheek. It must be on the cheeks. It’s not allowed to be an air kiss. It can be a cheek to cheek thing.”

The informant went on to explain further implications of the gesture, saying that if not done properly, “it’s gonna be a sign of disrespect. It’s typically used as a formality. So if you do any less than 3 it’s seen as informal. It’s like you didn’t complete the transaction of greetings which is very important in Arab culture. How to greet people, how to welcome them into your home. If you are welcoming an individual into your home and they don’t give you three kisses, […] then it’s seen as they don’t respect you, they don’t hold you to a high authority, they are uncomfortable in your home. And usually this is seen throughout most Arab culture. It’s not seen as a first formal greeting, it’s mostly done between family members. But it can also be seen as a casual greeting between family members. […] Like ‘you’re welcoming me into your home, you’re feeding me, you’re entertaining me, you’re bringing a smile to my face’. And everyone must do it and even kids are taught it from a young age. It’s mostly family, but, family and close friends. The main symbol is deep loyalty to one another.”

Because the greeting is both a gesture of respect and also mostly used for family members, we might expect that family is very important in this culture, especially respect between members of the same family. It is important to maintain a level of respect within tight social circles, and to communicate this respect and appreciation of hospitality.

Kiss, or Don’t Kiss, The Blarney Stone

S is 54, he lived in England where his mother is from for the first ten years of his life before his family moved to California. He is soft spoken and pauses thoughtfully while speaking. He told me about the Blarney Stone, which he learned about visiting Ireland.

“One I heard about visiting Ireland… it’s like a rock that’s sort of like a cliff’s edge and if you hang upside down and kiss the Blarney Stone, you’ll be given the gift of the gab… meaning you will be able to speak well extemporaneously… and so during the day, the tourists come and lay back and kiss the stone but the locals pee on it at night.”

The Blarney Stone is found at the top of Blarney Castle, there are various legends about where the stone came from, some can be found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20100830230658/http://www.blarneycastle.ie/pages/stone. The bit about locals peeing on it seems to be another piece of folklore. This reddit thread proved inconclusive, some contributors thinking it’s too difficult to get into the castle at night and during the day there would be too many people including a guard to get away with it. https://www.reddit.com/r/ireland/comments/3ywbkq/do_people_really_piss_on_the_blarney_stone/. Either way it’s an interesting piece because it shows the tension between a reliance on tourism and the potential for resentment than can arise from that dependence.

Ethiopian Apologies

Context & Analysis

The subject and I exchanged stories of our family’s traditions while sitting in a class discussion. She mentioned that she and her family were from Ethiopia, so I asked her if she knew of any unique Ethiopian traditions that westerners might not be familiar with. She described to me a traditional form of apology used by Ethiopians to express deep regret. The gesture is interesting because despite having ancient roots, a member of the younger generation is still intimately familiar with the practice.

Main Piece

“Basically, when you’re sorry or when your parent wants you to apologize to them, you have to kiss their knees. You just like bend down and kiss their knees. It goes all the way up to adulthood—it’s kind of more ritualistic when it’s an adult, like when you’re sorry you, like, kiss your parent’s knees. Or if you wronged your friend or something and you’re really, really sorry and you want to express, like, the deepest, deepest regret and like apologeticness? I don’t know if that’s a word, but yea.”

Hot Tub Pregnancy

“Friend: When I was in middle school at a Christian private school, there was this rumor that if you kissed in a hot tub you would get pregnant. I had a hot tub at my house and I remember at my birthday party in 8th grade we started playing truth or dare in my hot tub. One of the boys dared one of the girls to kiss another guy and we all freaked out (but not visibly, because you know, eighth grade is when you’re supposed to be cool about everything). She eventually kissed the guy and then people started talking the whole next week at school about how she was pregnant and she was going to have to marry that kid.”

Me: Why do you think that was a rumor?

Friend: “I think parents didn’t want kids to be messing around in the hot tub, you know where it’s hard to see where people’s hands are. Now that I think about it, I have heard that if you have sex in water and let’s say the guy pulls out right away, there’s still a chance that you can get pregnant. Like if the sperm were to travel through the water? It seems ridiculous that just kissing can do that, but kissing leads to other things. If you’re a parent you probably don’t want your kid getting in the hot tub with someone of the opposite sex no matter what.”

Analysis: I hadn’t heard this folklore about kissing in a hot tub, but I definitely heard that you weren’t supposed to go too far when you’re in water with someone. I think the fact that she was at a private Christian school says a lot about this folklore. Chastity is a big part of the culture, and so kissing overall would be a taboo, in the hot tub or otherwise.

Full Moon on the Quad at Stanford

My mom went to graduate school at Stanford. This is her interpretation of the “Full Moon On the Quad” Tradition:

Mom:”The original tradition holds that if you are a freshman girl at Stanford, you are not really a Stanford woman until you’ve been kissed by a senior under the full moon on the quad. For decades the story was often told, but the occurrences of these kisses would happen spontaneously – or not. Individual girls would report their initiation into Stanford womanhood with a mix of scandal and pride.”

Me: But is there an actual event where people meet on the Quad?

Mom:”These days, it has become an organized thing. Throngs of upperclassmen wait on the quad while scores of freshman females arrive to be kissed, and kissed again and again by a steady stream of upper class students– most of them strangers. This happens on the first full moon of the fall quarter.There are monitors to insure that consent is being given, there are express lanes for gay, straight, and bisexual preferences and there are even health center advocates who distribute mouthwash to help kill infectious viruses and bacteria being passed mouth to mouth.”

Me: Did you ever think this was an odd tradition for a prestigious school like Stanford to uphold?

Mom: “Yes. There was a saying when I went to Stanford that Stanford women were all either boobless brains or else brainless boobs. (If they were smart they were ugly and vice versa) What an astonishingly sexist tradition. Yet maybe it is no surprise that this is the elite school that also fostered an environment that taught Brock Turner to see rape as an extension of fun and games.”

Analysis: I agree with my mom in that it surprised me to learn that this tradition still exists at Stanford. I wonder how it will change in this generation- where gender, and being a “Stanford woman” may be harder to define. At one point in time, this tradition represented the idea that women must be verified in order to hold some validity on campus. I think that to be a genuine Stanford woman, a person should simply be enrolled at the school.


For more on the Full Moon on the Quad Tradition: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/orgy-stanford-freshmen-love-full-moon-quad/story?id=20759670