Cathy Hamilton: PDA — what's private and what's public

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I’ve always had an issue with public displays of affection, otherwise known as PDA.

It’s not a pathological obsession or anything. My discomfort is a matter of degree.

For instance, I am perfectly at ease walking downtown, hand-in-hand with my husband of 31 years. (Yes, even at our advanced age, thank you very much.) I have yet to see anyone recoil in horror at the sight, so I imagine we’ll continue this practice until one of us is forced to use a walker to get to the brewpub.

On the other hand, you won’t see us slinking down the sidewalk with our hands wedged in each other’s back pockets, like some couples do.

Not that I don’t enjoy a good ol’ fashioned game of grab-you-know-what behind closed doors. But, there’s a line, people, and I try not to cross it.

Oh sure, I’ve broken my own rule once or twice in my lifetime. I’m a sucker for slow dancing at weddings and, given the right combination of champagne and Sinatra, I might plant a big, long wet one on the old man in the middle of the dance floor.

What can I say? I’m putty for the Chairman of the Board.

But, as a rule, I prefer private displays of affection, otherwise known as PDA. (Oh, dear. This could get confusing.)

I grew up seeing a healthy exchange of physical affection between my mom and dad. Of course, I would cover my eyes and groan, “Ewww! That’s gross!” when they’d caress and canoodle but, deep down, I found it lovely and reassuring.

But, there is nothing more unsettling and less appetizing than to be dining at a busy bistro and look up from your succulent Osso Bucco to see the couple in the next booth slobbering all over each other like St. Bernards.

Get a room, people! Or, at least, a tarp.

And now, thanks to the wonderful world of social networking, we’re subjected to PDA (that’s public, not private) online!

There, in living color, are photos of “friends” we hardly know, caressing and canoodling, and that’s not the worst of it!

In the age of obsessive oversharing, people are using tweets and status updates to testify their love for their partners in sappy, indiscreet ways that — call me a cold-hearted killjoy — make me cringe.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted you’re “in a relationship” and have found the “love of your life.” (At least, until you change your status back to “single,” which isn’t a bad thing either, as long as you don’t change it every other day.)

But, please, you have 579 friends! Are you sure you want every one of us to know you’re “spooning with my sweetie after (wink, wink) breakfast in bed”? Your mother’s on Facebook, you know. And your kids!

(By the way, if you really ARE “spooning with your sweetie after (wink, wink) breakfast in bed”… what in Old Blue Eyes’ name are you doing texting on your cell phone? There’s no multi-tasking in spooning! For God’s sake, focus!)

Why can’t real and virtual life imitate high school where PDA (the public variety) is against the rules?

It’s not complicated policy-making, people. Hugs, yes. Groping, no. Peck-like kisses, yes. Tonsil-swabbing, no. We’ll have a point system for offenses, just like the DMV. And no hands on the other one’s buttocks EVER!

In fact, let’s everybody just keep our hands folded in our own laps, shall we?

Online rules will be harder to enforce. We’ll have to be self-policing. But, penalties should be harsh, like a two-week suspension from Twitter for the first violation.

Maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy. Maybe my 54 years on the planet have jaded me. Maybe I’m a Love Grinch, a Sex Scrooge, a Nookie Nazi.

Or, maybe I prefer sharing my affection only with the object of it — much like my religious and political views — instead of shouting them from the rooftops, or a Facebook feed.

I’ll admit it’s a stodgy stance, and my soul might benefit from a more open mind. I’ll work on it and get back to you.

In the meantime, I’m begging. Turn your PDA (public) into PDA (private). A succulent Osso Bucco is a terrible thing to waste. And, from now on, I’ll be packing a tarp.

You’ve been warned.

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