“What level of public display of affection is OK when it involves two middle-aged women?”


As a 51-year-old woman, but with the loved-up mind and heart of a 20-year-old, I have a question on my mind. What level of public display of affection is OK when it involves two middle-aged women?

Maybe it’s the heady evangelism of being a fairly newly-minted lady-lover, or maybe it’s because I don’t see the woman I love often enough, but whatever it is, I find myself wanting to hold her body tight against mine and kiss her passionately, whenever and wherever we meet… in a crowded Costa, on a windy train station platform, in the queue of the M&S foodhall, or on the escalator in Primark. Glamorous rendezvous locations I know, but time is usually of the essence in our middle-aged working and parenting lives. Added to this we live in a city in Kent, so hip hotspots are not on our doorstep.

So… what is the etiquette about kissing in public? It is not something I have learned from years of experience gained growing up in the field, or even playing the field. Instead, here I am, in middle age, diving straight (or rather not, so it transpires) into a new, untested pool. And in absolute truth, I don’t actually know how middle-aged lesbians behave together in public. Because, from where I am standing, they are not very visible. Sure, there are young, same-sex couples walking around holding hands, and I imagine they could be seen snogging if you really looked. But older couples? Barely a single one. At least not in East Kent. Maybe it’s just Kent? Despite our recently elected first Labour MP since the constituency was formed 99 years ago, it is still a pretty conservative area, after all. Or maybe older women everywhere are simply more reticent about public displays of affection? And that is fine, of course. But the heart of the matter is, reticence is not the way I am feeling right now.

So, at times I throw caution to the wind and we kiss, openly, lingeringly, blissfully unaware of gawping strangers until afterwards. But at other times I do catch myself before I lean in and wonder if it will shock the good folk of Kent to see two middle-aged women kissing in a café. It is a vegan café but still, liberalism surely has its limits? To be honest you don’t often see heterosexual couples in a clinch around these Southeastern parts. Which gets me thinking… do older people kiss in public at all? Is it just not done? Older couples hold hands. That is safe territory. It is inoffensive and done by couples right up to ripe old age. But snogging? Not so much.

In my previous heterosexual married life I didn’t often kiss my husband in public. I didn’t particularly feel the urge to, in all honesty. Whereas now… I can’t keep my hands or lips to myself when she is around. I feel like a teenager again. I want to snog her face off. But just writing this, I’m doubting myself… thinking that even the language I’m using is teenage (and 1980s teenage at that – surely there is a new word for snog now?), and not appropriate for a woman, or even two women, d’un certain age! So what is appropriate? Am I supposed to drift genteelly towards a friendly hug and a kiss on the cheek? No! I fucking love this woman! My heart flips like a giddy teenager at the mention of her name, and I want the world to know about our love. This is the first time in my life I have felt such unassailable joy, undeniable attraction and passion and had that simultaneously reflected back to me in the eyes of the woman I love. And I think that’s worth celebrating… with a public snog.

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