Thursday, April 17, 2014

Three Kisses Plus One

We were seated, at a window, having a cup of tea when I saw them. Two young men, barely past their teens, stopped, just on the other side of the glass. In greeting they hugged and then kissed each other. They walked away holding hands.

A revolutionary kiss.

Revolutionary because it spoke of the pure humanity of those two boys. It was a kiss that expressed their deep love, their absolute affection, their spontaneous expression of joy. I watched them walk away and I felted deeply honoured to have simply been witness to a time that made this possible. Many are horrified at Public Displays of Affection. I am not. I do not feel comfortable with public displays of sexual behaviour. But these days people mistake sex for intimacy and sex for affection. Public Displays of Affection remind us of the transformative power of love.


I was a new staff, taking a group of people to the 519 Church Street Community Centre when they hosted the Friday Night Club, a club by and for people with intellectual disabilities. It was a blast and the people who I was there to support dumped me as soon as they entered the room. I wandered about and finally found a place to sit amongst crowded tables. It was early in the evening and the DJ has just started. One lone couple got up to dance. They both had Down Syndrome. They held on to each other, dancing a slow dance to fast music. Then she put her hand behind his neck and drew his lips to hers. They kissed.

A revolutionary kiss.

Revolutionary but it spoke of the pure humanity of that young couple. It was a kiss that would have been disallowed by almost every policy of every agency of the day. It was a kiss that easily could have lead to punishment, a stern talking to and a forever ban on dancing. But none of the punishment, none of the upset and none of the meetings could ever erase what had happened. A kiss had happened. An expression of love had happened. Two lips touched and our certainty of the place in the world that had been created for people with disabilities was shaken. Public Displays of Affection remind us of the transformative power of love.


I sat and listened. She had made herself a coffee, spilled some milk into it, lit a cigarette and began to tell me a story. It was part of a conversation that had been ongoing for several months. I was the behaviour therapist, she was the mother of a young girl with cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability. The room was one that was full of the evidence that this child had accessible play. She was a good mom, she had a good husband and together with their child they made a strong family. But the story she was telling me was about the moment that she realized that she would have to take a stand regarding her relationship with her child. She had been in a doctors waiting room. Other young mothers were there, their kids crawling all over the place. Her child did not crawl, She sat beside her mother in an adapted stroller. The eyes of the other mothers showed pity, which barely veiled hostile sentiment. They were glad of theirs, thankful they didn't get hers. "I picked her up from her stroller, held her in my arms and I kissed her." It was in that kiss she recognized that her love for her child would have to be seen. It would be seen in her affection but it would also be seen in her advocacy for her child's right to be seen and treated and respected as human. "That kiss told those women exactly what they could do with their pity," she said stubbing out her cigarette.

A revolutionary kiss.


I lay in my hospital bed. Surgery behind me. Uncertainty in front of me. I had just woken from the anesthetic. Joe was there. He leaned over the rail of the bed and kissed me.

A revolutionary kiss.

A kiss that said, now is like then, all is well.


The world is changed when we are changed.

And sometimes it starts with something a simple and as powerful as a kiss.


wendy said...

Wow. Just...WOW. Thank you.

jayne wales said...

As Time Goes By

The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by..

so be it always and true


Shan said...

Aw! you made me tear up. *sniff*