February 22, 2013

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

Continue reading 10 minutes left