Samuel Wells approaches the awkwardness of being a bystander to Public Displays of Affection.
Some people might call me old fashioned. After all, at 26, and as I’m constantly reminded by my academic colleagues, I’m an old man.
When I begin to regale an anecdote to my friends, it is with the same weary lacklustre of an old sea captain who has occupied a faithful residency at the end of the bar ever since his allied warship has faded away into the decommissioned scrap yard of time. Who could blame them, I’ll even be the first to admit I have some pretty draconian views for someone who’s not even one third through their natural life span. On some days, I just sink back lethargically into my chesterfield, and daydream about all the unrealistic feats I might have accomplished given the chance of being born into 18th Century imperialistic Britain. However, that’s sadly infeasible until I get the DeLorean up and running again, so back to 2017. Though even in the present day, besides all of the liberal norms I have uncomfortably swallowed like society’s largest aspirin, there’s still one pill that ardently refuses to dislodge from my throat:
“I’ll even be the first to admit I have some pretty draconian views for someone who’s not even one third through their natural life span.”
For you older abbreviaters out there, and for those bona fide pure souls who would be more suited to reading Robinson Crusoe with me (probably whilst frequenting the arbour of a period town house, breathing in the warm and satisfying Georgian lifestyle), I am sadly not talking about that little piece of pocket tech from 1997, but woefully referring to Public Displays of Affection. The visceral and palpitating notion that some shameless humans find it more than acceptable to play tonsil tennis down isle 32, whilst I’m trying to grab some milk. This results in me doing a rather peculiar move around them in order to grab 2 pints of the white stuff, that quite frankly, would be more suited to a game of twister than attempting to shop at my local supermarket.
Now, that’s not to say I’m not happy that people have found love, or that special bit of tinder magic. By all means, I encourage all humans and animals, flora and fauna, to feel free to embrace anyone you wish (given prior legal consent and perhaps a whisper of civilised conversation). However, I also, from the bottom of my blissfully miserable heart, implore you all to undertake such physical and lustful metathesis in the comfort of your own home. Or any home for that matter. As long as it’s not mine. You have, as far as I’m cognitively aware, no need to plague society with your overambitious tongue jousting or ostentatious arse grabbing. I would also like to highlight that unless you are in primary school (and are therefore holding hands purely for survival reasons), that all soppy hand connections and inter-finger weaving are off the cards too. Stop it. I understand, someone swiped right and it lasted more than a boring Thursday night, but you don’t see Granddad walking down the street with Granny, whilst he wears a cardigan that mawkishly professes his love. So you don’t need to profess your love in public either. In any form.
It also unfathomably appears to me that the doting degenerates that lurk in every corner of public life are seemingly waiting to snare you in their game. It’s as though you are an unaware antelope on the planes of the Savannah. They honestly enjoy repulsing you to the point of making you want to carve your eyes out as if you were nothing but a pumpkin on Halloween. It is for this reason, more than any other, that I deplore having human mating rituals forced upon me like Brussel sprouts at Christmas lunch. Just like sprouts, they boisterously stifle the very enjoyment of life, ardently overpowering the plate of contentment. I spend most of my time pretending they aren’t there and awkwardly navigating around them in the hope that if I occupy myself with other nutritional pursuits that by the time I glance despairingly over at them, they will have hopefully vanished. Sprouts know they are that unwelcome well-wisher on Christmas Eve; they revel in this whilst clearing out a living room of once joyous family members. Just as PDA’ers relish in the fact that their amphibious tongue is subjugating your throat as much as it is their ungrudging victim.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘How do we quell such a violent invasion of grotesque courtship from conquering our favourite public haunts?’. Well, my mother always told me that two wrongs don’t make a right, to which 8 year old me used to reply “When in Rome Mother”. Ok, I have never said that. I would usually just stare regrettably at the floor hoping the telling off would be over before dinner. Now, I’m not saying by any means that you should succumb to the depths of depravity, and lick an innocent bystanders face off. That’s not becoming of an 18th Century Sea Lord and therefore not becoming of you. Our strategy is far less offensive in the scandalous sense. You only actually need one weapon in your arsenal of public decency. Acknowledgement.
“Repulsing you to the point of making you want to carve your eyes out as if you were nothing but a pumpkin on Halloween.”
Acknowledging and accepting their criminal embrace is a gift so precious it might have been sent by god for all of mankind to bask in. By making them aware of how “cute” it is to see “real love”, as you are half way through ordering your penne alla rusticana, will undoubtedly bring their cretinous behaviour to an end quicker than Big Sam’s career as England manager. If there is one thing an attention seeking child loves the most, it’s putting on an Oscar worthy performance paralleled to Leo wrestling a bear for your recognition.
So then what does the parent do wrong? They ignore the child. Leaving the child in his or her element to carry on racking up best actor nominations by kicking and screaming on the histrionic floor of disorder. This is the same with a PDA’er. As previously mentioned, PDA’ers luxuriate in the fact that they are putting on a sexually distressing show that embarrasses anyone around them with any level of communal dignity. If you in turn, muster a monologue more epic than Col. Jessup’s in a ‘Few Good Men’, it will tie their tongue in such a knot it would render it useless. Their hands will clam up to the point of sliding effortlessly of any grab-able butt and their lips will curl more than JT’s hair back in his N-Sync days.
Thus, leaving you to continue eating your parmesan covered pasta in peace, and your fellow social gentry (myself included) to gallivant down a cobbled fantasy in search of more moral principled pursuits…
…And for the bear to pick up the academy award for best male.