Public displays of affection have long been a touchy topic, pun intended. Some people just have handsy, exhibitionist tendencies while others are horrified by the idea of copping any type of feel in public. Since the world has opened up post-lockdowns — with a few starts and stops along the way — and we have reemerged into restaurants, workplaces, and event venues after months stuck indoors, the line between appropriate and inappropriate out-of-home behaviour got a little blurry.
So, how much PDA is too much PDA? It depends where you are.
How much PDA is too much PDA at work?
Any PDA is too much PDA at work. Sorry, those are the rules.
If your partner stops by your office with lunch, maybe a quick peck is ok. No lingering. No tongue. Work is a professional place. If you happen to be dating a coworker, read this existing guide to how to pull it off while ruffling as few feathers as possible. The gist of it is this: Don’t do anything too affectionate at work, for a variety of reasons. Whether your colleagues know about your inter-office romance or not, it’s not a good look.
Of course, if you’re one of those who are still working from home amid the pandemic or your workplace gives you more freedom to pick and choose in-house days, displays of affection between you and your mate might not fall under the public category at all. You can smooch all day as long as you’re not in a Zoom meeting, but try to set some boundaries so you get a little work done. Having personal rules for when and where you show affection is helpful even when you’re not trying to navigate those hot and heavy honeymoon-phase days on your first few outings as a couple. Now, maybe more than ever, keeping a little structure in your life is key.
How much PDA is too much PDA in front of family?
Only you know your family and what will fly in front of them. Have you ever seen an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians? That family talks about their sex lives all the time with no problem. The sisters have even waxed one another. There are few barriers with families like that, while for other families, it can be a scandal if an adult child has their adult partner stay in the same room with them during a trip home to visit their parents.
Each family has its own unique tolerance for affection and sexuality, so before you go publicly displaying yours, think back on what you’ve experienced in the past. If “the talk” was miserable — or impossible — for your parents, they might be horrified if you kiss your boo in their house. Consider, too, what messages you’re trying to give your kids about physical touching.
“I grew up where my parents didn’t show much PDA,” said Krista M., a 29-year-old hairstylist in the Midwest. “Like, I’ve seen them kiss twice in my 29 years of life. But my boyfriend and I kiss and hug at home in front of our kids all the time. I think a little bit here and there is fine, as long as you aren’t full blown making out on your parents’ couch at age 30 on Christmas or something.”
Consider the setting, too. There is a difference between an at-home dinner at your mum’s place, your cousin’s wedding, and your grandma’s 85th birthday bash. Don’t steal anyone’s thunder or cause a scene, even when you want to show off to that nosy aunt that yes, you finally did find someone, so she can quit asking when you’re going to.
How much PDA is too much PDA in a public place?
Here is where you can cut loose a little bit! People get touchy-feely at the bar all the time. Depending on what kind of bar you’re at, you can probably get to second base if you want, but you probably still shouldn’t. Context matters here, of course. An upscale wine bar isn’t the spot for full-on canoodling, but a dive bar might be more appropriate.
Movie theatres have long been the go-to destination of PDA seekers because they’re dark and quiet. Relive your high school days by getting a little action at a matinee. That seems safe enough.
Of course, put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You probably wouldn’t be offended by seeing someone hold hands, kiss a little, or do that uncomfortable walk-and-embrace thing that really only works when both people are the same height. All of that is fine. You might, however, be alarmed to see someone sticking their tongue down another person’s throat in the mall food court. Use your judgment.
“Too much PDA in a public space is a little subjective, I feel like,” said Melissa Porcaro, a 27-year-old Floridian. “I’d expect to see a little bit more PDA at the bar than I would at the mall or the restaurant. I think it would also be more expected to see PDA from younger, high-school aged kids at the mall, since that’s probably one of the only places they’re allowed to go. ‘Too much’ PDA starts with anything in pants, in my opinion. Keep your hands visible and there will be no problems!”
If you absolutely must get some smooches in, wait until no one is looking, until you get back to the car, or until you find a more secluded area of the park, mall, or venue you’re at. One trick is to save all your groping for your final goodbye. People tend to be more forgiving of PDA if you and your partner part ways afterward.