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Is it okay to force a mistletoe kiss on my party guests?

David Eddie

Tibor Kolley

The question

Mistletoe has always been part of my holiday party tradition – it's fun to make people drop a smooch on one another, and I insist my guests do it when they come through the door. My nerdy friends get a little pre-party action and my grouchy pals are forced to lighten up. After I sent out this year's e-mail invite, one of the grouchos hit "reply all" and petitioned the entire guest list to have me eliminate the mistletoe tradition for fear of spreading swine flu. He had a few supporters, too, who kept the e-mail chain going. They were serious. But so am I. I'm keeping the tradition alive this year. No kiss, no entry. Am I setting myself up for an empty dance floor?

The answer

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Well, on the one hand I would like to say, on behalf of grouches and nerds everywhere (I'm both), thank you for your philanthropic efforts to "lighten up" our loads and increase our "action" quotient.

You have no idea how badly we need it! Especially the nerds. We never get any! That's what makes (some of) us so grouchy.

Recently, the British etiquette entity Debrett's issued some sort of press release saying a handshake is more likely than a kiss on the cheek to transmit H1N1. So kissing on the cheek under the mistletoe is probably okay this holiday season, as long as you don't touch the person otherwise, except on the shoulder or upper arm.

Which doesn't sound like a whole heck of a lot of fun. But still, better than nothing!

Having said all that (and I can't believe I'm about to say this – in my 20s I would have said that even if the person you want to kiss is on the cusp of passing out, it's socially acceptable to sort of roll that person toward the mistletoe for a little lip-lockage), maybe you should ease up on the mandatory aspect of your mistletoe policy.

You're being a bit of a "kiss bully," aren't you?

I've never been quite sure how to feel about mistletoe. I do like it, as I've hinted. But anything compulsory in the romantico-sexual arena is a little creepy at the best of times. And especially this year.

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I mean, H1N1 is a potentially fatal disease. You don't want anything like that on your conscience, do you?

These days, a lot of people I meet casually (e.g. in the dog park) don't shake hands. They bump fists. I like it, because a) nerdily, I think it's cool, and b) grouchily, I grudgingly appreciate they do it not only to protect their own interests, but mine, and those of my children as well. Vive le fist bump, at least for as long as this "pandemic" lasts.

Likewise, in the interest of preserving your good name, and your health and everyone else's, maybe put a moratorium for the moment on all this kiss-or-you-don't-get-in stuff.

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