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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

11 Times It’s Totally OK to Show a Little PDA

Public displays of affection sometimes get a bad rap but PDA isn't just for horny teens—sometimes getting handsy is exactly what you should do!

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At the airport security line

It’s the classic lover’s dilemma: One of you is flying to Madagascar for a year-long, harrowing job as an undercover spy… while the other one is stopped by the security gate. How will you ever remember each other? OK, so maybe your partner is just leaving for a business conference in Boca for three days. Whatever. As John Denver taught us, whenever someone is leaving on a jet plane (and you don’t know when they’ll be back again), it’s totally appropriate to hold them like you’ll never let them go—and then give them a big ol’ smooch as they run to catch their flight. (No tongue though, no one wants to see that at the airport.)

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During your wedding

An “I do” kiss should be the kiss to end all kisses. We know that’s a lot of pressure, but don’t worry, you have many months to happily rehearse for the big moment. When it finally comes, feel free to do whatever you feel like—with the knowledge that your grandmother is five feet away, your dad is still on the fence about your new spouse, and your four-year-old flower girl is watching you like a hawk. OK, maybe a tasteful lip kiss is good enough. Save the butt-grabbing and make-out session for the reception when the flower girl will be asleep. And don’t discount granny, she’s lived a long life and seen a few things—like these 28 marriage tips from grandmas you’d be a fool not to follow.

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During a romantic movie

Cinematic kisses are so well-choreographed—beautiful people in perfect lighting with just the right amount of tongue—that we wouldn’t blame you for being inspired to try it on your own. Just be careful which scene you pick to emulate. The iconic upside-down rain-kiss from Spider Man may look like the most passionate kiss ever but star Toby Maguire later admitted, “There was rain pouring up or down my nose. I couldn’t breathe and I was gasping for breath out of the corner of Kirsten’s mouth. Poor girl. I was giving her mouth-to-mouth rather than kissing her.” Sometimes it’s best to leave the heavy-duty PDA to the pros. Don’t worry, you can always stick to snuggling and hand-holding in the theater. (Love hearing awkward-kiss stories? Check out these hilarious first kisses that will make you glad you’re not a teen.)

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At the end of a war

We’ve all seen the infamous picture of the sailor passionately kissing the nurse after the end of World War II. But while that may seem like the height of romance and passion, in reality it was thisclose to assault. The only reason he got away with grabbing a random lady off the street and headlock-smooching her was because everyone was so happy about the end of World War II that they were willing to look a little overzealous stranger PDA. In other words? Do not attempt this at home. (Want a different perspective on that photo? This guy was the sailor photo-bombing the famous non-couple.)

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In the hospital

Hospital PDA is some of the best PDA—not only does it let you love on your partner during a time when one of you is feeling very vulnerable but it can also really lift the spirits of those around you. But there are some serious rules about hospital PDA. You’ve got the green light for some mild kissing, hugging, hand-holding, and caressing if you or your loved one is going into or out of surgery, is recovering from an injury, just gave birth to a tiny new human being, has a non-communicable illness, or is a hot nurse or doctor.

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During a marriage proposal

Getting engaged is the most romantic thing ever and you’re allowed, expected even, to get a little hot and heavy. Run your hands through each other’s hair, look deeply into each other’s eyes, kiss deeply—but only if the answer was “yes”! If either party says no then the Nicholas-Sparks-movie-kissing-in-the-rain-and-twirling-slowly-while-passerby-look-on-with-envy thing is off. Need a little inspiration to get you on the right track? Here are outrageous marriage proposals you have to read to believe.

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When your partner is deployed

Saying good-bye to a loved one for an extended period of time is hard enough but sending them off into a war zone is downright harrowing. You do whatever it takes to make him or her remember you as they head off in service of our country. If anyone gets testy about you getting handsy, tell them you’re just supporting our troops (in the best way possible).

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After you’re pulled from a burning building

Nothing says “thanks for saving my life” like a big hug. And, if your rescuer is amenable, a little more? Of course this may be one of those things that really only works in movies (we’ve never been rescued from a burning building, so we wouldn’t personally know). Trying to make out while coughing up a lung from smoke inhalation or treating third-degree burns probably isn’t too romantic in real life. Maybe stick to a peck on the cheek and show your appreciation with a nice gift card. Unless of course your hero is this dog who saved a family from a burning house, then shower him with doggy kisses.

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On the dance floor

Dance clubs were basically designed for the sole purpose of PDA so feel free to indulge to your heart’s content. But not all dance floors are created equally. What’s appropriate for 90s night at the club (read: Everything) is definitely not OK for your office holiday party, the school PTA fundraiser, or your grandma’s 90th birthday party. Rule of thumb: If you’re anywhere where people might possibly show a Disney movie then keep your PDA to only things you’d see in a Disney movie.

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At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve

All PDA rules are off when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, signaling the beginning of a new year. As the confetti rains down, it’s the perfect time to enjoy a little lip-lock with an alluring stranger or go full-out with your significant other. After all, what’s January 1st without a few lipstick stains?

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During a blizzard

Hey, you have to do something to keep each other warm and ward off hypothermia, right? It’s not PDA, it’s a survival skill… even if you are indoors cuddled up with hot cocoa.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.