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Auntie SparkNotes: When Is PDA Okay?

Auntie SparkNotes: When Is PDA Okay?

Hey Auntie,

So I have a boyfriend (amazingly because I've so awkward and nerdy) and to get right to the point, I don't know when PDA is okay. Like, we both really like each other and I want to hold his hand or hug him when we're in public or around our friends, but I don't know if we could do that without being that overly lovey-dovey couple everyone rolls their eyes at. In addition to that, whenever we do display some public affection, it's like lighting a firework. Our friends take our their phones to try to catch a picture or haggle us and shout out salacious comments. It's starting to get annoying because anything we do causes them to react as if a three headed moose rolled in on a unicycle, juggling, in a tutu.

We're both actually pretty socially awkward and have never been in a relationship prior to this. (We're both 16.) So basically we have no experience whatsoever with this stuff.

You answer a lot of questions about knowing if someone likes you or going on a date and how to kiss so maybe this is a change of pace. Slightly. Not really but let's pretend it is.

Oh, but it is, darling! Because unlike those questions—"Does he like me?" or "How do I act on a date?" or "How do we kiss without covering ourselves and any hapless bystanders in a thin layer of projectile mouth-slime?"—the question of when PDA is okay is really a lot more straightforward.

And the good news is, the kind of affection you're talking about—holding hands, standing arm-in-arm, a quick kiss hello or goodbye—are totally fine in all but a tiny handful of circumstances... and those circumstances are things like testifying before Congress, cooking a multi-course meal, or battling with an army of orcs for which you require the use of both hands to wield your broadsword. Basically, it's fine until or unless it becomes ridiculous, and when it does, you'll know. So unless you're clinging to each other to the point where you can't be in the same room without touching, and as long as the PDA isn't getting in the way of your life, livelihood, or relationships, you're well within the bounds of good taste.

Of course, other people are free to feel however they like about seeing the evidence of your mutual affection, and to react to any physical contact between you with disgust, with dismay, or with all the subtlety of a screeching pack of paparazzi hyenas. In the case of your friends, the novelty of seeing you and your boyfriend OMG TOUCHING EACH OTHER will probably wear off eventually (and if it doesn't, if they're decent friends, you could always ask them to stop—not just because it's bugging you, but because they're making themselves look like idiots). But even if they knock off the hooting and hollering, make no mistake: there'll always be some PDA-hating person out there who thinks it's weird, gross, or distasteful for you guys to be casually affectionate in any way, anywhere but behind closed doors. (For the record, this isn't just a teen thing; I have an adult friend who shoots my husband the stink-eye every time he puts his arm around me. Why? I don't know. Some people are weirdos.)

Which is why what's most important, as with any personal decision you make about how to live your life, is that you and your boyfriend decide together how much affection makes you happy—publicly displayed or otherwise—and learn to enjoy it confidently, no matter how much the cuddle-hating misanthropes of the world want to squawk about it.

How do you feel about PDA? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at

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Topics: Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, relationships, kissing, dating, advice, boyfriends, pda

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Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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