“Give Ben a kiss goodnight.”
They’re words that would strike fear into the heart of any man, especially those named Ben. Allow me to set the scene: I’m at a friend’s house, and they have a toddler, and said toddler is going to bed. The toddler’s mother has invited her child to kiss me.
I don’t want to kiss the child. The child, in turn, does not want to kiss me. We eye each other warily from across the room. The child shrinks into his mother’s bosom. I edge towards Jess’, eyes still fixated on the child as I press my left cheek into her cleavage.
Why do people do this? It’s one of the most uncomfortable feelings you can ever experience, second only to giving a presentation at work only to discover you’re naked. Neither party wants to kiss the other, yet both are being forced to do so.
Reluctantly, the toddler approaches. My mind races.
What do I do? Do I kiss her on the lips? No, that’s weird. People have been arrested for that. But I can’t kiss her on the cheek, really – she’s a strange child, not an old acquaintance. Argh, she’s getting closer! Kiss on the lips? No, stop it! French kiss? Entirely inappropriate.
The toddler arrives, and our faces move together slowly, as if we’re in a movie love scene – but one where neither person is entirely happy, as I imagine Lauren Holly felt in ‘Dumb and Dumber’.
In the end, I go for a forehead kiss. The child recoils, slightly patronised. And, once again, I withdraw into my wife’s bosom as the child is led away.