No hugs and kisses please, I’m Scottish
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.