No hugs and kisses please, I’m Scot­tish

The Herald - - OPINION -

IT is good to have a goal in life, re­gard­less of age. Just as chil­dren dream of be­ing foot­ballers, doc­tors, or the next Sil­i­con Val­ley gazil­lion­aire, so I want to be Joan Collins when I grow up.

Not the Joan Collins of The Stud days (couldn’t do the heels, love, not with these knees). I’m quite keen on the mar­ry­ing five times Joan. Just think of the gift list when you got to wed­ding num­ber five (uni­corns, pearls, a Dyson …). And I would cer­tainly like to try out Dy­nasty Joan for a while. What fun she had in those cat-fights with Krys­tle, each knock­ing seven bells out of the other with­out the con­stab­u­lary be­com­ing in­volved.

But what I truly want to be is Joan in her later, im­pos­si­bly grand, noth­ing like a Dame days. This week, Dame J left no stone un­hurled in an at­tack on these touchy-feel­inghuggy-kissy times we live in.

The ac­tor came down with the flu re­cently, which at 84 is no joke. As any rea­son­able per­son would, she launched a Span­ish In­qui­si­tion­style in­ves­ti­ga­tion on the pages of a news­pa­per. “Where did I catch it from? It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to know, but I be­lieve the dead­li­est germ car­ri­ers are other peo­ple’s hands and faces,” she con­cluded.

Be­moan­ing the “ghastly fad” for kiss­ing and hug­ging, Dame J has taken to wip­ing down ev­ery sur­face with which she comes into con­tact: door han­dles, lift but­tons, seats. Yes folks, Alexis Car­ring­ton has be­come a cleaner. But no, I wouldn’t ask if she can do 2-5 on Thurs­days if I were you.

Who can blame the Dame for be­ing so averse to the sop­pi­ness of strangers? She was brought up in the days when it was not the done thing to be hugged and kissed. Then child-rear­ing ex­perts came along and told us all this re­pres­sion was lead­ing to de­pres­sion and other ills. We should loosen up a bit, hug a Husky, or what­ever it was David Cameron did. So we started to em­brace fam­ily more. Then friends. Then ac­quain­tances. To­day, it is all we can do not to French kiss a per­son who holds the door open. It is so con­fus­ing.

Scots used to be ex­pert at the whole “to slob­ber or not to slob­ber” game, and for this we can thank Hog­manay. In Scot­land, there was only one day, or rather one 20-sec­ond win­dow af­ter the bells, when it was per­mis­si­ble to em­brace a stranger. Af­ter that, it was back to keep­ing your fel­low man and woman at arm’s length. Nor­mally, an ac­quain­tance with a “X” – right or wrong? Birth­day hug for a col­league – good idea? Even telling some­one they look nice can earn a dirty look.

Some now reckon the pen­du­lum has swung too far. An ar­ti­cle in The Guardian ear­lier this year high­lighted what the writer, Paula Co­cozza, termed “a cri­sis of touch”, ex­am­ples of which in­cluded doc­tors be­ing ad­vised not to phys­i­cally com­fort their pa­tients, and teach­ers telling pupils to stick plas­ters on them­selves. Loom­ing over ev­ery­thing is the shadow of mis­un­der­stand­ing, awk­ward­ness, and pos­si­ble le­gal ac­tion.

Yet we know that touch is good for us. It has phys­i­cal, chem­i­cal ben­e­fits, boost­ing our lev­els of feel­good sero­tonin. It calms us and con­nects us to each other, ward­ing off lone­li­ness. Al­most eight mil­lion peo­ple in the UK now live alone. With so­ci­ety age­ing and death, ill­ness, and di­vorce tak­ing their toll, that num­ber will in­crease. An anal­y­sis by the Univer­sity of Helsinki and Univer­sity Col­lege London con­cluded lone­li­ness in­creased the risk of a heart at­tack, stroke, or pre­ma­ture death by 40 per cent, 39 per cent and 50 per cent re­spec­tively. We ought to be out there, hug­ging and kiss­ing each other more, not less. Dame J is not per­suaded though, and has taken a vow to steer clear of strangers’ open arms. I’m sure she will make an ex­cep­tion when we even­tu­ally meet. Pucker up, Joan.

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