Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Don’t get caught under the mistletoe with anyone born after 1950.

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — As the holiday social season heats up in this special season of love, family, friends —and flu— maybe it’s time to rethink some of our warm New Mexico traditions.
I’ve written a lot over the years about our greeting customs, with lots of input from you.
We’ve debated the merits of besos, from L.A.-style air kisses to French two-cheek salutes and full-on lipsmackers.
We’ve discussed ubiquitous hugs. And I’ve explained that never before, in all my decades as a journalist, have I encountered so many sweet souls who seemed moved to end our interviews with spontaneous hugs. (The fact that I went from political and investigative reporting in my earlier career to arts and entertainment after moving to Las Cruces might be a factor, but maybe we’re just naturally more affectionate here.)
Trendy greetings have also been covered over the years, including the decline of high-fives in favor of a then-new innovation I described as the pulled-punch knuckle-knock. It’s since gone mainstream under a pithy and more apt name: fist bump.
In a couple of columns, you’ve shared your wisdom about venerable New Mexico traditions surrounding proper hand signals for greeting amigos and unmet friends when you’re both in cars, when one of you is in a truck and the other’s a pedestrian. And we’ve covered the variations that apply, depending on whether you’re in the city or in the “country” (defined as one block or more from a town’s plaza).
As I recall, various areas of the state differ on full palm vs. two- or three-fingered salutes for various road and pedestrian, town and country greetings. But it seems that any road rules will be OK in terms of current contagion concerns, since mobile greetings aren’t a contact sport.
But what do we do about the swine flu during the peak holiday social season?
If we’re all supposed to be coughing into our elbows, is it reckless to join our germy elbows in holiday hugs?
Does it make sense to compulsively Purell and wash our hands until they’re raw and then wantonly and promiscuously go around shaking hands and sharing high-fives and low-fives and bro-hug-double-tap-fist-bump combos at the office party?
And yes, air kissing seems superficial and cold, but if we want to avoid colds and flu, the French cheek salutes and lipsmackers seem contraindicated.
I was sharing such dilemmas with a friend who once took me to a Las Cruces mosque to pray and I remembered that we both reached out to shake hands and were gently instructed it was against Islamic customs for men and women just meeting to have any physical contact.
I later witnessed a nice, heartfelt greeting reportedly common in the Middle East that involved placing one’s hand upon one’s own heart, Pledge of Allegiance style, and gently patting while facing the person being greeted.
The gesture is similar to the one in a nationwide campaign to thank military men and women when you see them. For more info, go to www.gratitude campaign. com, or visit and click on this column in Lifestyle and Sunlife or Las Cruces Style in the Blogzone.
It might be a good ecumenical and practical gesture to adopt over all the holiday season, particularly when encountering pregnant women, small children and other high risk groups.
Maybe, if you were born before 1950 and are otherwise in an immune or low-risk group, you can skip the H1N1 vaccine AND go for the Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa lipsmackers and full-body hugs with your peers.
At last, a perk for getting old. Flirting is no longer a blood sport and you’ve survived long enough to qualify for safe public displays of affection.
Still, it seems an odd twist to offer advice like this to members of the protest generation whose motto was once, “Don’t trust anybody over 30.”
But here it is, the manta for the new millennium, or at least until H1N1 runs its course:
Don’t get caught under the mistletoe with anyone born after 1950.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style

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