Em­brac­ing a lit­tle for­mal­ity

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

Richard Co­hen’s Feb. 19 op-ed col­umn, “Give faux in­ti­macy the kiss-off,” res­onated with me. I was raised — way back in the 1930s — in a fam­ily with an ap­pro­pri­ate de­gree of re­straint. My par­ents ad­dressed even long-term neigh­bors as Mr. and Mrs. We did not go in for a lot of hug­ging and con­stant as­sur­ances of love. Of course, we were loved and sim­ply as­sumed that.

For some years I have re­sponded to tele­mar­keters who ad­dress me as “Fran­cis” by say­ing, “This is Mr. Haas,” which of­ten puts them off-mes­sage. When writ­ing e-mail let­ters to friends, I pause be­fore sign­ing off and con­sider whether it should be “Warm Re­gards” or per­haps — in ex­treme cases —“Warm­est Re­gards.” But “Love” is al­most ex­clu­sively for fam­ily.

A really big smooch on the lips is re­served for my dear lady of so many years. My daugh­ter re­ceives a quick brush on the lips and a medium hug, and all other friends of the op­po­site sex get a quick kiss on the cheek and a light hug. I hug my chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, but a strong hand­shake and a di­rect look in the eye would suf­fice for most male friends. As Mr. Co­hen says, we need “gra­da­tions.”

I, too, am “a crusty old geezer,” and I, too, have been wait­ing for years to get this off my chest. Thank you, Mr. Co­hen, and I of­fer you a warm “most ap­pre­cia­tively.”

Fran­cis G. Haas, Spring­field Dear Richie, or rather, Mr. Co­hen, And I love you, too, though we’ve never met. I agreed to­tally with what you wrote about faux in­ti­macy — un­til I got to the part about hand­shakes. You said you were taught that they should be manly and firm and you should “look the other guy in the eye,” that “you could take a man’s mea­sure by his hand­shake.” This is where I got con­fused.

My fa­ther taught me the same thing. Only he said I should look the other per­son in the eye and that you could take a per­son’s mea­sure by a hand­shake.

I’m a woman, so I don’t know what to do if I should meet you. I don’t want to kiss you any more than you want to be kissed (though I do take a bath al­most ev­ery day), so what to do? Love al­ways, XOXOX, Mag­gie, or rather, Ms. Daven­port

Mar­garet Daven­port, Vi­enna

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