What Are Appropriate Public Displays of Affection?

This post is about current trends with public displays of affection.

So you are standing in line at the grocery store and in front of you there is a young couple, approximately 16 or 17 years old. They are not only holding hands but also kissing, and believe it or not fondling each other right in front of everyone.

Are you uncomfortable? Most likely if you are from the Baby Boomer generation or older, you are quite uncomfortable and are debating tapping them on the shoulder and asking them to please save it for another place, or you just stay quiet to avoid confrontation.

As you are seemingly becoming more uncomfortable as the display becomes more and more inappropriate as you watch, your mind is probably thinking about this "younger generation" and what is this society heading for if someone doesn't stop this outrageous public behavior.

"Outrageous? It ain't outrageous!" says one Tiverton teen. "It's no big deal, they ain't doin' nothin' wrong, what is everybody so hung up about? Just ignore it."

It appears to be an "almost anything goes" society lately where morals, etiquette and just plain consideration of others' feelings are disappearing. This behavior has been increasing in numbers and between inappropriate cell phone usage and these "over the top" displays of affection in public, you have to wonder what rude behaviour is next in line to shock us older folks.

Store clerks, doctor offices and many businesses report the same increase in public displays of affection among our youth, even more disturbing is the amount of it in public schools all over the U.S.

Take a walk down the corridors during class changes and be prepared to be amazed.

It has unfortunately become a common observation from students and faculty but unfortunately, faculty is not that quick to confirm this activity.

Students that are participating in these "indecent" activities do not seem concerned at all but there are still students who oppose to this. Although it is more widely accepted by the student population, many still haven't adopted these public displays of affection, or dubbed PDA's.

"I think it is gross." said one offended student. "They should 'get a room' as the popular saying goes."

"Just because they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, it doesn't mean they have to show off and be disgusting about it," they added.

Is it really showing off or is it a new view of what they think is now acceptable as the new norm? Is this behavior really being accepted nowadays or are they just hoping it will be?

Do they think the more they behave in public like this, the more normal and accepted it will become, hence giving them permission to use public places like our schools as hotel hallways?

For me, I am not happy with the lack of manners and I have actually had discussions with my own young adult children about this. The response pretty much sets me up as being old fashioned with old fashioned views.

The topic of what constitutes good manners comes up quite often when I meet with other moms and the discussions can get quite heated but mostly a one-sided heat. We all seem to feel the same way. We do not like what we see.

Our Patch moms of Mom Talk all feel that some public displays are quite appropriate but we agree that the public choices that our young people are making lately leave many of us in deep concern.

Maureen Umehara says, ”I give my kids hugs and kisses every day. I hold hands with my husband and will give him a light kiss in public. So I guess I model for my kids that PDA's are ok. Of course, there is a limit to how much affection to show in public. If my kids and I see individual’s in public (let’s say the mall) who have excessive PDA I usually point my kids in another direction. If they ask about it, I simply say I don’t think that’s appropriate. But I usually include in my remarks “Everyone is different." Not only is this a non-judgmental approach, it’s also so the words “but Johnny does it” have no merit in our house. I’m clear with my kids that we set our own standards for ourselves, regardless of what others are doing. However, while the mall is a public location (so you can’t control what you see), I think school it is a different story. I think there should be some monitoring and clear expectation of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in schools.”

Gloria Crist added, "I made the mistake of taking my daughter and her friends to a 5 o'clock movie on a Friday night at the Dartmouth Mall - that was not the mistake mind you - the mistake was not knowing the horde of teen things who all descended upon the mall at some point during the two hours we were watching a movie. There before me (us) as we walked through the mall were hundreds of inappropriate displays of affection (and dress I might add). I agree that learning a healthy way to display affection is a good thing-normal in fact, but sloppy awkward kisses and hugs-from young people in public was, well, sloppy and awkward."

Kristen Humphrey says, "I think there can be a difference between public displays of affection and inappropriate behaviors. While we don't want our children to act like "adults," being able to express how you feel for someone is an important part of growing up. Kiss on the cheek, holding hands- what's wrong with that? Nothing until it turns more physically involved. This brings into play having respect for your surroundings- whether it's school or any other public place."

For me it is a concern that I can’t seem to shake as I watch this type of activity become more and more commonplace.

I still feel shock at reactions of many young adults as I can't seem to fathom the fact they are serious when they say they don't see the problem. A few admit that sometimes someone might be a little too over-the-top in a hallway at school but it doesn’t bother them. They just ignore it and keep walking.

"There is no need to make a big deal."

When speaking to some of our children, they appear like we are overreacting and say things, like:

"Why do you have to take a baseball hat off indoors? Why do you need to hang up the cell phone if you are not going to talk to the salesclerk? And, who cares if people are groping each other as long as they have their clothes on? Oh yes, and why is saying "WTF" rude, when you didn't actually say the word?"

I personally can't hold back my astonishment when confronted with questions like that.

To me, this trend is not like technology where each year it improves and makes our lives a little easier or so most of us think. It is more like an epidemic where a virus is at play and it keeps spreading and nobody wants to deal with it because it might have repercussions.

Repercussions like, if we address the rude behaviors in public, are we opening ourselves up to confrontation? Do we want to risk retaliation? Do we want to risk the good repoire with that young person, or do we stand up as adults, and/or the few younger folks that actually embrace their good upbringing, for what is right? Do we not outnumber the "offenders"?

All I can say is, we have enough people who are offended to take a stand and try to make a positive change.

I would like to point out that it is the parent’s responsibility to teach our children how to behave in public. That is definitely number one, but as some of us more "seasoned” parents know that society has an incredible amount of influence on our children. Fortunately, reports say that parents are still the number one influence on our children, so let’s use what we know here.

I also want to plead with the “witnesses” to these inappropriate PDA’s.

Please do not stand by and just watch in disgust. Please, say something, please take the risk.

If we all stand together, I think we can make a difference. Adults can help those in public and in school settings who need to gain back some quickly disappearing authority to stop this activity now. The hallways need monitoring. The parking lots and cars need monitoring. The empty classrooms and auditoriums and gymnasiums and need monitoring by adults willing to risk opposition. I know someone will write in saying that we do have those policies in place. But I didn't ask if a policy in place, I asked that the policies be upheld. 

But ask the students what is really happening in the hallways and dances or proms and parking lots, not the faculty. Ask the students which teachers do something about this behavior. Some do, but not nearly enough and that is always the problem. The workforce needs to do this as well, not just schools.

To those teachers, clerks, bosses and waitresses that do stand up, thank you. To the parents who work hard at teaching their children about appropriate public behavior, thank you! (If you are parenting well, it is hard, tiring work)

The moms of my generation appreciate you more than you will ever know. To the young people who act respectful in public, stand strong. You are to be applauded for your good choices! And to the rest of you, welcome aboard. We can sure use you!"

b kcaj January 04, 2013 at 01:38 AM
No flip flop at all NK Antics-this thread is about teenagers carrying on public displays of affection, and you're blabbering about your favorite subject-how you enjoy fondling high powered assault weapons. Come to think about it, maybe there are some similarities in the two stories-teenagers like to fondle each other and you like to fondle your..............
b kcaj January 04, 2013 at 01:46 AM
Now THAT is hilarious!
Dark star January 04, 2013 at 02:11 AM
Funny b kcaj, how you readily take the discourse into the gutter, especially when you have been exposed for your lack of consistency. Seems that is where you are most comfortable.
Rep. Dan Gordon January 05, 2013 at 07:54 AM
You are VERY welcome! It was an honor to serve! http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/11711-rhode-island-house-defends-constitution-passes-anti-ndaa-resolution Rep Dan Gordon
zacariah January 16, 2013 at 04:38 PM
you know its not a federal crime to hug or hold hands


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