Sunday, April 4, 2010

"lovemaking on the go"

This girl is complaining in the New York Times about how gross it is that she has to constantly watch people making out in public in New York City. More than anything, I'm surprised.

I'm surprised because I personally have noticed a great decline in the amount of PDA I see. Before about 2001, yeah, it was all over the place. But nowadays when I see a couple making out in public, it makes me feel sort of nostalgic for when you used to see it all the time, and sort of proud of the couple in question for their bravery.

I think what's happened is that it's no longer trendy to make out in public. This prudish piece in the Times reads like a throwback to 1994, when the culture at large thought PDA was sexy and edgy and "uninhibited." There's a paragraph in the essay about how, when she glares at the makers-out, they smirk at her, all "Jealous?" I feel like the last time anyone was jealous of someone who made out in public was 10 years ago. Nowadays they strike me as more "not caring what anyone thinks" in an actual, genuine way, not in a "Look at me! I Don't Care What People Think! I'm a Rebel!" way.

When onlookers can see your tongue going into another person's mouth, when you're all heated and flushed and passionate, you've pretty much lost any claim to insouciant sangfroid that you might have had. You might as well be the "lovahs" on Saturday Night Live, that embarrassing aging academic hippie couple played by Rachel Dratch and Will Ferrell who assault unsuspecting acquaintances with icky TMI about their sex life. Perhaps this has to do with another annoying '00s trope: The policing of PDA based on how conventionally good-looking you are, and the problem with "the lovahs" is that they're not. (Note that the Times piece is also devoid of references to that; the writer is skeeved out by your smooching whether you're a supermodel or a schlub.) I might not be able to go as far as saying that love is out of style, but "passion" sure is. To grope your partner with wild abandon while the two of you are on the subway is an act of terrible self-exposing earnestness, and earnestness invites ridicule, not jealousy.

I haven't been single since 1997, but it's also my understanding that in this day and age, it's no longer a marker of high social status merely to have someone to make out with, so people aren't that eager to shove that status in strangers' faces. Isn't it all hookups and threesomes and "friends with benefits" now? If you're making out with a new person for the first time, that I can see, but established couples are much more modest than they used to be, and I think modesty conveys status now in a way it didn't in the past: You aren't cool enough to witness us groping each other; it's by invitation only.

For the record: I don't really consider bars and clubs "public places," so much. I mean, they are public places, but they're specially designated for, you know, carousing. So if you're not there for an unhinged, probably sexualized atmosphere, I don't know why you're there. And since being drunk lowers your emotional connection to whatever you happen to be doing, drunk people making out don't seem as achingly earnest as sober people making out, so they're not risking as much by doing it in public. Same goes for drunk people making out on the subway at night. That's the only subway PDA I ever see anymore. The bar/club atmosphere makes PDA seem much less noteworthy and more just part of the overall scenery.

But what about the disgustingly cutesy-poo brunching couples? you may ask. Surely they're an argument that it's still a status symbol to be part of a couple. And yes, it is, but what's different is there's no PDA. Maybe some hand-holding or the stroking of hair while waiting for a table to be properly festooned with gingham napkins, but nothing that's in-your-face sexual. It's more about being good-looking, about how each member of the couple is sort of a fashion accessory to the other, in a very controlled and self-possessed manner. Which is the antithesis of abandon.