It was a beautiful spring afternoon. The wedding mass ended and guests waiting to congratulate the newlyweds formed a rather long queue just outside the church. Somewhere near the end of the line stood a distinctively women-only group: five or six bride's girlfriends, all hopeless spinsters (as she was too a few months before). I didn't precisely fit in, being already six years married, but as my husband could not attend the service, I joined the group just to have some company. There was a lot of girly chatter: one person commented on bride's dress, another started recalling details of the ceremony:
"Have you noticed when he kissed her hand after putting the ring on? I just loved it. It's so incredibly tender and fitting. It's a shame that men do not kiss ladies' hands anymore..."
"And how do you feel about a woman kissing a man's hand, then?" I asked (rather thoughtlessly; I didn't have anything particular in mind, just get carried by conversation).
"No, this freaks me out. I know they say it's about kissing the ring rather than his hand, but it just doesn't feel right."
Hmm. My interlocutor had some very specific ideas about what felt right. Good for her, as long as she isn't going to force them on everybody else...
My thoughts suddenly flew umpteen years back. I remembered an equally beautiful spring afternoon in my high-school sophomore year. I was walking down a bridge on my way home, holding hands with the guy who was (several years later) to become my husband. We weren't even actually dating yet, just being friends, but already with a clear romantic overtones. Or at least I was getting romantic, while he just benevolently accepted my little gestures of affection. We had never before as much as kissed; that hand-holding was the closest contact we engaged in.
While we were walking together (and probably talking, even though I could remember precious little from that conversation!), I began to feel warm and a little dizzy, overwhelmed with tenderness and shear admiration for him. He was definitely one of the smartest kids in school in terms of academic achievements, but also a young man of as much unfailing commonsense and high morals as could ever be found in an eighteen-year-old (or so I believed; but since I still believe that, there is no need to make such a reservation). Seeking a way to express those feelings, I suddenly raised his hand perhaps to shoulder level and kissed it eagerly. And the very same moment my heart sinked. Did I just do the weirdest thing imaginable? Was I crazy for doing that? Did I freak him out?
It turned out, I didn't. He didn't say anything; he accepted a kiss on the hand—and my admiration—graciously, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. (Well, it certainly felt natural for me.) Then we just continued to walk, holding hands. But something was being born between the two of us, something that in due course was to become the ever-growing marital love that we live today. We actually repeated this hand-holdind and hand-kissing ritual on a few further occasions (although soon we moved on to more passionate kinds of kisses).
Nowadays, if I happen to kiss my husband's hand, it is more often than not in sexual context, where the hand is just one of several body parts which are getting this sort of attention. But sexual or not, it's still an expression of my deep-rooted feelings of appreciation, admiration and love.
At this point I had to abandon my sweet musings, since it came my turn to congratulate the newlyweds. "You probably think (I said, half-jokingly, to them) that it is impossible to love anybody more than you love each other now. Believe me: this is just not true. You can get to love each other more and more every day. And this is the best thing about being married. And this is what I wish you two." And then I gave them the flowers and smiled, as much to them as to my own thoughts. And the bride smiled back.