DEAR MARY ANN: How can I politely refrain from the hello/goodbye kiss from people I'm not interested in kissing? A kiss on the cheek isn't so bad, but an on-the-lip kiss from a casual friend has me rethinking the entire custom.
-- ONE WHO DOESN'T WANT TO PUCKER UP
DEAR PUCKER UP: Kissing a friend or colleague on the lips is too intimate and overly familiar. Lip kissing should be reserved for those we love. An air kiss, is a socially accepted greeting or farewell gesture in American society. The parties lean toward each other as cheeks almost brush and lips smack a kiss in the air.
Often there is a hug or a pat on the arm or shoulder. Some people feel this form of familiarity also is an unnecessary and uncomfortable social contact.
One of the best ways to shield your personal space is to rely on body language to send a message. When greeting or saying goodbye, extend your hand, make eye contact, and with a straight arm and a smile say, "Pleased to meetcha." When parting, "I'm glad you've had the pleasure of my company" will have the kisser pause and wonder what he just heard. The more you practice these greetings the more natural they will become. Your stiff arm sends the signal that you are not interested in getting pecked or squeezed.
DEAR MARY ANN: I work in an office in which we use the word "picture" constantly. My manager mispronounces it "pitcher." We come in contact with a steady stream of people as well as upper management types, and I think it makes us all look a little unprofessional, especially her. It also gets on my last nerve. On the other hand, well, she is the boss and I am not the grammar police! What are your thoughts?
-- GRAMMAR POLICE?
DEAR GRAMMAR POLICE: As self-appointed grammar corrections officer it is your duty to teach proper grammar and word pronunciation to your children. Children learn by example and by gentle, consistent prodding when they mispronounce or use the wrong word.
Your language enforcement authority is limited to your children. Your boss is not one of your children. By correcting her you risk offending her and appear to be trying to make yourself look superior. She may be a member of the "between you and I," "we should have went" club in Pixburgh. Her speech patterns are ingrained.
If you are comfortable enough in your relationship with the language offender you may want to broach the subject with her privately but in a nonjudgmental way. If you choose to say something, tread lightly. You don't want the pitcher to fall off the wall and hit you in the head as the boss's door slams behind you.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: email@example.com or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.