The Kisses, if you will. Big way of greeting people here in Costa Rica. Meaning it's really the only way when a woman is involved. Men will shake hands, "pound it," or even hug, but if there are two women or a woman and a man; this is how one says hello.
A good how are you and a kiss on the cheek, what could go wrong, right? In my life, where I have come to realize my "bubble" of personal space is almost a physical barrier (just ask my friend Marc about the time he tried to put his arm around me in a consoling manner and almost got kneed in an unpleasant place.... I don't know. Weird reflex?). Anyway, I can see it in people's eyes when they want to go in for a besito, but fear is holding them back. (Maybe they have talked to Marc.) I can only imagine that there is a similar look in my eyes while I think "Oh, we're saying hello. I should give them a kiss now? Should I step in? How much? Should I lift my hand to their shoulder? Should I do a side kiss where I don't actually kiss their cheek, but make a sound like I am kissing them? How loud do I make that sound? Should I just go in full force and land one on their cheek? Are they moving away? Did I take too long? Aww shit. Too late. Should I try when we part? What are they even saying to me? I should listen." Or something equally awkward.
I have a host brother-in-law who has successfully gotten me to participate in this custom, but only because he would say "Hola, LeeAnn," and turn his cheek and wait for my attack. My host mom is kind of the same way. Whenever I am leaving for a few days and we say goodbye, she kind of stands there with her hands clasped together in front of her smiling and I think bracing herself physically so I don't knock her over when I kiss her cheek. (In truth, I believe that if I'm going to kiss someone, I'm not going to make a fake sound, oh no. I'm a lover deep down under this hard turtle-like shell.)
There are other people who have tried and I just seem to mess it up. My other host brother-in-law, for example, tried and got so far as to pat my shoulder and I just smiled and walked away, later to realize that was a clear window. A really nice lady was leaving the church today and she held her hand in a prime "let's pat each other's shoulders and have a nice greeting besito," gesture. I instead took her hand with my other hand and gave her what I would say was a great handshake. Her confused look as she glanced down at our hands kind of said it all. I'm a real bad kisser.
I've discussed this with some of the people in my group. Most of them have come to embrace these kisses and some of them never found these greetings strange to begin with. With these brave gringos supporting me, I'm going to make an effort towards change. I may flub it up about a billion times, but I'm going to throw my lips and my cheeks into the ring as they say. Well, I don't really think anyone has ever said that, but it's about time we do, no?