Some people scowl at the sight of public displays of affection. Two people kissing, hugging for "too long," or sitting on a park bench in an embrace. "Get a room!" they might say.
As for me, I'm a big fan. And here's why.
When I was a kid, my aunt Irma used to pinch my cheeks. Sometimes it hurt, but she meant well. What I felt through her touch was that she loved me so much it was almost irresistible to reach out and express it with touch. I like to think I inherited my own joy of physical affection from her, and I've learned through honest feedback how to perceive other people's comfort levels with it, and to dance with that.
In college, I experienced a romance where PDA was impossible to suppress. We played frisbee on the open fields on campus, and sat holding each other afterward, seated in the grass. We weren't indecent; we were just in love.
Some people were sexually abused as children. For them the experience of physical affection may be a difficult thing. And some people simply aren't as touchy. I am somewhere in between. I like hugs and kisses, I like when someone places a gentle hand on my shoulder to express that they care for me, and I also like plenty of personal space. As long as we respect these preferences, paying attention to what works and doesn't work for each other, adjusting when we receive feedback, isn't PDA is a wonderful thing? It is. Numerous studies have shown the healing effects of touch in hospital settings, for healthy newborns and cancer patients alike.
By showing our love to each other in public, verbally and physically, we grow a more loving world. In meetings, on Facebook, on the downtown sidewalk. The air chokes around us when we suppress the joy we feel for each other. And just as a child watching Sesame Street shines from the inside-out when Ernie says, "You're a good friend, Bert," adults need to let that show too.
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a lifelong letter writer, a mother, freelance consultant and eternal fan of Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. This deeply personal blog and our recorded talks and workshops are devoted to one of her great passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.