The Kissing Program

It happened to me again on Friday night. It’s happened to you; Friday at noon, perhaps on Saturday morning, or Sunday morning. The religiouspepe lepew service is over. The benediction has been given. The final hymn sung. Blessed may we be in our coming in, and blessed may we be in our going out, and all that.

The congregation erupts in a frenzy of handshaking, hugging, and kissing. And once again, you are wrestled into an embrace which in other circumstances might have you filing charges for invasion of private space. You twist, duck, try to signal your significant other, and still, you find yourself being hugged and kissed by someone who causes you to lose your appetite for the coffee and rugelach that await you in the social hall.

And once again, you say to yourself, “I would rather swim in Ganges with a weeping sore on my tuchus than kiss her (him).”

I’m not talking about weddings and funerals and B’nai Mitzvot and Upanayanams – for life cycle stuff, all bets are off. Hug and smooch away.

But for your run of the mill service, here are a few clues for the clueless about the kissing program.

  • If you don’t know my spouse or significant other by name, don’t hug & kiss me.
  • If you don’t know my kids by sight, and at least one by name, don’t hug & kiss me.
  • If you consistently confuse me with a sibling, don’t hug & kiss me.
  • If we are pushing carts through the grocery store and our eyes barely meet at opposite ends of the same aisle, and you quick look away towards the cheese counter as you contemplate the immediate need for some well-aged Piave? Don’t hug & kiss me.
  • If you dive in for a hug, and are met by my hand as I reach out for a handshake, don’t hug & kiss me.
  • If you hug me, and my arms hang limply at my sides, don’t hug & kiss me.
  • If we just got into a “discussion” (read ‘heated argument’) over religious school funding at a Board meeting, don’t hug & kiss me.
  • If my torso stiffens as if I was doing planks at the gym when you engulf me in your arms, don’t hug & kiss me.
  • If I’m in the middle of a cough or sneeze (true story), don’t hug & kiss me.

I love hugs. I’m one of the huggiest people I know. But I love to hug who I want to hug, and I only want to hug those people who want to hug back.

So check yourself. And if you were on the hug & kiss program with someone you preferred not hug and kiss, and you gracefully extricated yourself, I’d like to know how.

Because you should win the Nobel Prize for Social Graces.


The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at

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  1. Larry says:

    Cracked me up!
    I have an idea I’ve yet to pursue that covers somewhat similar ground.
    Enjoy your service this evening.

  2. Jack says:

    My friend’s shul has more hugging in front of the mechitzeh than davening.

    • Last night (Friday) after services at Temple was hilarious. Women I know well would walk towards me with arms wide, stop one step away, and ask if they were on my hug list or not.

  3. Excellent!

    Having recently experienced the kissing on the lips phenomenon — unexpectedly — boy do I get it! (And it happened to me twice recently. Once, I must say, was rather nice. The other? It required a fast contortion of the upper body in order to land cheek instead of lip. All I can say is… I like your rules!)

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