I think you have to be over forty - maybe even more - to be aware of the difference in our behaviour to each other over the last few years, in this country. We kiss. We never used to kiss. You had to be quite close friends even for a peck on the cheek when arriving for dinner, but now we do it all the time, quite often lip to lip. Indeed, today I kissed three colleagues whom, a few years ago, it would not have been appropriate to have more contact with than a handshake (two women and a man, since you ask). Two of them lunged forward first and the third was a mutual thing, by the way, I haven't been having a startlingly exuberant day at the office.
Then there's the signing off of emails - oh, how simple it was when the choice was between "yours faithfully" and "yours sincerely" - because there was a Rule. Nowadays, though they still cut it for a letter, it seems to have moved to "kind regards" giving way to "best regards" - and where exactly does "best wishes" come in to play?
Not that we should forget those who opt out with "take care" or "cheers", or simply "best".
Of course, and I go back to the kisses again, it doesn't take a much closer friendship to sign off with love ... but how many of those x's* to put? I've got x friends and xx friends, a couple of xxxers and a XXX. It always seems polite to reciprocate. While I was on a committee with one of the xxxers, it seemed slightly too close to do the same, so I generally restricted myself to Zxx, but now we're not on a committee together and see each other less often, I'm more relaxed and follow his lead (it's true, darlings, don't try too hard and I'll follow you anywhere).
I'm not terribly Continental by instinct - I go along with the multiple cheek to cheek kisses of course - oh, that question of whether to go for the third kiss - or worse, a fourth which always catches you out - but I'm actually more of a 'one kiss with hug' girl for someone I'm fond of, which I feel is more close and friendly than the impersonal double mwah. It isn't necessarily impersonal of course, but air-kissing someone you don't know very well or air-kissing a good friend feels much the same.
It has to be confessed, I do usually touch the cheek with my lips, which probably shows my general oikiness. And then, of course, there's the matter of lipstick. Is it polite to rub it off? And how intimate is that? It feels more personal than the peck on the cheek, but on the other hand, it surely isn't quite on to leave the imprint.
Lots of love, darlings
* whilst not, strictly speaking, a place for an apostrophe, I tried xes and exes and xs and they didn't work.