My turn: Keep an eye on social decorum

Posted: Thursday, October 09, 2008

I have had the good fortune, for all my adult life, of indulging in the press of warm flesh and personal contact I rarely see in today's couples.

I am referring to the very public exhibition of hand-holding. My wife and I did it. Our parents did it. I'm sure many of yours did it too, and before it became unfashionable or embarrassing so did you. One cannot express the unspoken words shared between hand-holders.

That is why we do it. It is a subtle, comforting, public display of bonding, and I encourage more of it. The practice is not reserved, by any unwritten rule, to those in the autumn of their years or atypical relationships. In fact, I believe this sharing, if resurrected and accepted by friends and family rather than snickered at, could go a long way in shoring up the dikes for the earlier and later years of commitment, gales and struggle to rebuild.

When and how this long-standing practice disappeared from our culture's forefront I will leave to universities with federal grant money to study. All I see is what has replaced much of it. Public displays of affection have been relegated to the local waterholes, dance floors, sidewalks and parking lots. From my view, these are too often lewd displays and poor substitutes contributing nothing to the relationship, but a great deal to entertaining the general spectators with no stake in the couple's future. Much of this vulgarity is thrust upon innocent patrons who will not protest but rather avoid future visits in that time zone with their dates or loved ones.

To those establishments unwilling or unable to curtail the expletive comments and unruly behavior of at least those few employees, in the name of the bottom line, I have something for the suggestion box. Shock jocks are for the airwaves, and I make my choices accordingly. These trends are not long well-received in such a community as ours and certain businesses will have only themselves to blame for the only clientele they can attract. My 44-plus years in Juneau have seen a number of establishments move toward the dark side, invariably trading short-term gain and daily survival for decline and eventual failure - sometimes referred to as transfers of ownership. Some of these same owners who would not put up with such public displays at their shopping centers feel exempt from similar social decorum simply because alcohol is their trade.

That is not to say one cannot have a bit of fun. Fun has its place. But it is not a replacement. Granted, one cannot often curtail the behavior of certain patrons sowing their wild oats, unaware of the private ridicule heaped upon them. And I mean no ill repute to those established owners known and respected. Most of us know who they are.

My concern is the policies of certain establishments choosing to ignore social norms and encouraging outlandish behavior in the name of the bottom line. Yes, this industry has a very small window of opportunity to reap sales to pay the bills, usually only several hours in the late evening. Thus, I understand the bar closing time during the week is detriment, and I would put for the proposition that it be reviewed. Perhaps we could better allow these establishments to make payroll, remove some of the financial pressure and stand on clear equal footing with their peers. This industry is not soon to be prohibited, despite the strong desires of some, and it is a significant contributor to the annual revenue of our city coffers, as well as our social strata, long after the last cruise ship leaves.

But if lewd behavior, expletive dialogue, demeaning music, street scenes and regrets are to be winked at by us, then I question the uncompromising ruling of no segregated smoking rooms. Which of the former is doing more harm to our social fabric, and which is easier to sell?

Close your eyes. You are walking in the park with your loved one. You clasp hands. There are no eyes to view it. It is a moment you both share. It is comforting. What can be wrong with that?

• Ken Dunker is a Juneau resident.



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