petite anglaise

April 18, 2005

half life

Filed under: mills & boon, navel gazing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:41 pm

So absorbed was I in the article I was reading – a clipping from Saga magazine courtesy of my mother, in which several elderly ladies recount their experiences of being reunited with the children they had put up for adoption in the sixties – that I almost missed my metro stop. This is not unusual, as I have the ability to almost entirely block out my surroundings when I read – I say almost, because this doesn’t work when there are buskers equipped with microphones and amplifiers. If I turn up to work a little late, my boss invariably asks me which book should be held responsible.

I leapt up, and lunged towards the doors, only to find my escape route barred by an attractive young couple. She was arty-looking, probably beaux-arts, with silky dark hair piled atop her head, faux carelessly, and secured with a pencil. A lot like my mental picture of how Vit Webb must have looked in her art college days. He was clad in jeans and a blazer, olive skin and Roman nose barely discernible behind a floppy fringe. He reminded me of my own university boyfriend. Positioned squarely in front of the doors, they were kissing passionately, eyes firmly closed, oblivious to the commuters around them. It was nowhere near as unattractive a spectacle as this couple described in a previous post. On the contrary, it was quite aesthetically pleasing, in a Hollywood kind of way. It did nonetheless pose something of a dilemma.

How was I to reach the handle to open the double doors, which they were virtually leaning on? Should I prise love’s young dream apart? Or slide an arm around their waists to spring the door open, which could potentially result in their toppling out onto the platform, lips still locked together?

I chose to clear my throat loudly instead, cheeks flaming with an unnecessary, “oh so British” embarrassment. Such is my genetic heritage.

Remarkably, the couple did not flinch, nor interrupt their passionate embrace for even a second; they simply took a couple of admirably synchronised steps to the left, leaving the door unobstructed. One of them even pulled the door lever, so that it sprang open just as the buzzer began to sound. I scampered off, gratefully.

This little episode has left me feeling strangely wistful. I realise it has been an eternity since I gave in to the urge to kiss passionately in public, or indeed felt such an overwhelming need in the first place. I don’t remember the last time I felt locked in a private little bubble with my partner, seeing only him, caring not a jot about what passers by might think. I feel achingly nostalgic for a younger, more carefree me, who felt everything so intensely. I don’t know if this person has gone for good, is temporarily in hiding, or whether it is age, comfortable familiarity or motherhood which has driven her underground.

I have no answers to these awkward questions. I only know that sometimes I can’t help but feel as though I am missing out on something. As if I were only half-alive.


  1. perhaps the only way to get back in the bubble is to go down the puer eterna route, and perhaps we’re better on the highway? at least we have a faint idea where we are going and can smell the roses along the way…? but god, i know that melancholy feeling and sometimes i have to check myself before slipping into ‘my marriage is a failure because we no longer snog passionately in public’ …

    Comment by ruth — April 18, 2005 @ 12:59 pm

  2. I think that’s part of growing old. Passion may stay the same, but ways to express it differ. When we’re teenagers, you can have 10 long minute kisses in public (or even in groups of kissers, he) but ditch the girl/boy the following day, after a 2 day dating period.
    When you’re older you attach more importance to this privacy, also because it’s part of the tight relationship you have.

    And the best way to make your way past them is to tap the guy on the shoulder and give him a “excuse me, I might be wrong, but I think your tongue is sticking out of her ear”.

    It works perfectly.

    Comment by shellorz — April 18, 2005 @ 1:12 pm

  3. Not to minimize your melancholy or anything, but did you take Tadpole to see the bébé cats?!

    Comment by Antipo Déesse — April 18, 2005 @ 1:41 pm

  4. This little episode has left me feeling strangely wistful.

    As has your telling of it…

    Comment by Iain — April 18, 2005 @ 1:52 pm

  5. Antipo – see update on that post…

    Comment by petite — April 18, 2005 @ 2:14 pm

  6. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for at least an hour to express how this post makes me feel! It’s a bittersweet thing and no mistake. Swarms of cliches and glib truisms. As you say, answers are not easily found to those questions. Unfortunately, I think some of them are in a box similar to Pandora’s, symbolically, at least.
    But I’m with you on reading. I can (and do) read in my local pub, and have even been known to in one of the nearby night clubs (indictment of its quality, really). But, I can’t listen to music while I work. No idea why.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — April 18, 2005 @ 3:05 pm

  7. That’s the trade-off, isn’t it? Relative tranquility over the uncertainty and longing that accompanies young love. Think of all the pain that also characterized those years of passionate kissing in public. Remember when you wished so much for this to happen and you knew it was not to be? And let me add — I don’t think age, parenthood, etc. erases these feelings, longings, uncertainties. And they are no less upsetting (or gratifying in the rare times that they lead to reciprocity and everything falls into place) when they hit you later in life. Sigh… It’s spring, that’s what it is.

    Comment by Nina — April 18, 2005 @ 3:33 pm

  8. I love that they opened the door for you. How thoughtful!

    That said, I sometimes long for the days of yore, when everything else would glaze over except him. I’m as much at a loss as you as to the why… although I admit, I still long for such passion, but not in the same ways. I’d much rather a romantic picnic in a grassy field, or having somehow (this means you, Mr. Shellorz) dance with me, despite his distaste for the waltz. I guess those days of waiting in the dark living room at midnight to have my boyfriend ride his bike over, just to put his hand up to mine through the window glass are long gone, but never to be forgotten.

    Comment by kim — April 18, 2005 @ 4:34 pm

  9. I don’t think it’s age, it’s more the length of time you’ve been with someone.

    I met BF at 31 and there was no shortage of passion, intensity and public displays of affection, particularly in the early days when we were conducting a long-distance relationship.

    So I’m sure that the passionate petite is still lurking within. Her services are, I suppose, just not needed at present!

    Comment by witho — April 18, 2005 @ 5:06 pm

  10. Social norms call for certain behaviours. Public displays of affection among the young seems to be accepted because it embodies life, hope, naivety and beauty. -Somehow a 75 year old couple engaging in the same act will not generate the same visuals. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not what the world is used to.

    Some boundaries for those norms are shady, and when youth hasn’t yet wilted, motherhood isn’t incompatible with being lost in space and time locked in a kiss … that starts to fade when the children are old enough to be weirded out at the idea of the parents having sex.

    Comment by chaton — April 18, 2005 @ 5:07 pm

  11. hang on – kim n shellorz. Am I the last one to put two and two together (or did I make three?)

    Comment by petite — April 18, 2005 @ 5:27 pm

  12. Just in case the google contextual ad disappears, I wanted to commit it to memory:

    Kissing Techniques

    Learn Proven Kissing Techniques You CAn Use To Make Her Beg For More.

    Comment by petite — April 18, 2005 @ 5:30 pm

  13. When we are separated for a week or so, we act like that for about a day when we first see each other again. Sometimes the separation is almost worth it just for that. However… in the metro early morning rush…not sure…

    Comment by sammy — April 18, 2005 @ 7:45 pm

  14. Tell me about it! If you go to Avatar’s blog ( she has managed to dig up a rather amusing quiz – I did not dare reveal my miserable score (way below her percentage) on her comments. In fact, it was so pathetic that a window opened with a sarcastic remark to the effect of “How long has it been since you [I rephrase somewhat] experienced sexual congress with another human being?” Come on, petite try the quiz – you can’t possibly score lower than me! ;)

    Comment by Chameleon — April 18, 2005 @ 9:04 pm

  15. I’m only 20 petite and its been a while since i kissed anyone let alone passionatly in public. So you’re not the only one that feels like they are missing out …

    Comment by Ellie — April 18, 2005 @ 9:25 pm

  16. But on the other hand, every time I have to sit there and LISTEN to the slurping…I just cringe with embarrassment for them and swear I’ll never mack on someone in public. It would be nice if the lack of public kissing in my life were through personal choice however.

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — April 18, 2005 @ 9:34 pm

  17. I know exactly how you feel about being only half-alive. I’ve been feeling like that for some time now. I have a three-year-old and I don’t know when the last time I felt frisky with husband, in public, was. I still yearn for that feeling.

    Comment by Sue — April 18, 2005 @ 11:36 pm

  18. maybe they just drank a glass of that superglue and were desperately trying to free themselves, and you, heartless, you did not even help them ?

    Comment by Negrito — April 18, 2005 @ 11:36 pm

  19. oh negrito, do you mean I did all that soul searching for nothing?

    Comment by petite — April 19, 2005 @ 12:00 am

  20. Never for nothing!

    I’m a regular reader (first time commentor) who finds herself returning again and again precisely because of your soul searching…

    Comment by kirsten — April 19, 2005 @ 2:42 am

  21. This post reminded me of something I saw at the airport not so long ago: I was waiting for my sister to come home from London and I was people watching as usual. I saw a young girl coming through the doors and an attractive young man’s face on the other side of the divider light up. The couple embraced and kissed and kissed some more until I saw them walk out the door. After my sister arrived, we were walking to the car and I saw the same couple making out in their car, her on top of him in the driver’s seat. I longed for those days when I had someone to kiss like that, after a long trans-atlantic flight. It was heart warming to watch because in someone’s world, the sun was shining brighter then before on that dreary day in January.

    Comment by Rozie — April 19, 2005 @ 4:11 am

  22. I guess we’ve got some common points here: the ability to completly lose yourself in reading and become genuinely oblivious of whatever’s happening in the surrounding world – it irritates my entourage so much! And like Jim, I cannot work with music or radio on…
    Back to your soul searching, I just wanted to say that like you and many others, I also tend to feel this way, thinking I only live at 25% of what my life could be if… or being nostalgic about moments or places or people or emotions. But I always try to remind myself that in 5 or 10 years I will probably be thinking of now and be nostalgic about it as well, so I try very very hard to enjoy the present and what it brings. It is not a natural exercise but you can get better at it with daily practise.
    That was my 2 cents ;-)

    Comment by Maurine au bout du monde — April 19, 2005 @ 6:30 am

  23. petite, my wedding band does indeed have “shellorz” engraved in it (you should hear David tell the story about calling the store spelling it out for them only to have them give out a resounding “wha?”). His says “kismet” (my former pseudo). Awww.

    Comment by kim — April 19, 2005 @ 10:15 am

  24. Saga would depress anyone…

    Comment by adrian — April 19, 2005 @ 10:21 am

  25. *snigger*

    Hold on. There’s an article on sex after 60 – the last taboo. Forewarned is forearmed.

    Chin up, Petite, it gets better. Apparently.

    Comment by Ria — April 19, 2005 @ 12:53 pm

  26. Half-life… Memorable post, Petite.

    Comment by Mathieu — April 19, 2005 @ 1:21 pm

  27. Maurine, don’t you have a blog? I’m very keen to know more of your impressions of my little bout du monde! Thanks for the space, Petite!

    Comment by Antipo Déesse — April 19, 2005 @ 1:55 pm

  28. And after all that, I couldn’t get into the SAGA site without spending 17 pounds…what do these elderly women say about meeting their adult children anyway? Ha, I think it’s funny that your boss knows why you’re late! I’ve read books that have kept me up until 3 in the morning, but I think only my husband knows about those nights!

    Comment by Kathy — April 20, 2005 @ 1:40 pm

  29. What an interesting assortment of comments. I think it’s pretty much all been said, except so say that I, for one, prefer the intimacy and security of a long-term relationship to the tempestuousness of new love. But that just me…

    Comment by Ben — April 22, 2005 @ 6:20 am

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