Hand-kissing is a wonderful means of greeting a lady. It is very common, and unfortunately very commonly abused, in the SCA. Hopefully, this short article will help us do it right.
First of all, one kisses the hand in only two social situations:
DO NOT run around grabbing any lady's hand, and kissing it, at random. They might just eviscerate you on the spot, and any person witnessing said evisceration will only point and laugh at your social faux pas. Or help out by handing the lady a dull knife or two......if she offers her hand to be kissed, kiss it. If not, DON'T!
(You can "cue" her to offer her hand by extending yours. Be prepared, however, to convert the extension into a flourish of your reverance to avoid the embarrassment of standing there with your hand out looking like a beggar asking for alms......)
There are several degrees of hand-kissing:
The above forms are the generally accepted means of hand-kissing. What follows are more -intimate- kisses that should NOT be done simply whenever you want to, but ONLY to those ladies that would enjoy it........and be ready to apoligize PROFUSELY if they take offense! If you are unsure AT ALL of the lady's reaction, DON'T DO IT. You don't know her well enough to do it if you can't be -absolutely sure- of her response. (Don't let your own ego get in the way of your analysis of her possible reactions...!!) And, needless to say, (but it -must- be said) these last three are extremely -off limits- to ladies under legal age!
The last form might be considered offensive by some. DO NOT try it unless you are on very intimate terms (not necessarily sexual!) with the lady. I have made Duchesses' knees buckle with this one:
Notice that I have always specified "dry." Wet, sloppy kisses are Not Appreciated.
The practice of sucking on fingers is gauche, and the business of kissing the hand, and continuing the kisses up the arm is simply stupid, or good as a comedic turn. Clicking the heels as one kisses her hand is out-of-period.
When saying farewell, one may kiss the hand -if it is offered-. If the lady offers her cheek, kiss it as in (2) above, gently and with - dry- lips.
Hand-kissing is an art form, and should be used along with courtly bows, flourishes of one's hat, and all the rest of the "bells and whistles" that go with courtly behaviour.
But......tread lightly! When you kiss a lady's hand, you go where even angels fear to tread.
And: NEVER EVER force your attentions on the lady in ANY manner. Such an action is the mark of an uncultured boor, and places you in the category of "waste of food and air on an overcrowded tourney field."
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