Romantic Gestures

Greetings, Faithful Readers, and welcome to the February installment of Gothic Charm School. You know what February means, don’t you? The annual column about love and romance, you silly things!

Now last year, the Lady of the Manners talked about how to deal with the aftermath of a romance — how to gracefully deal with a breakup, no matter what part in the disintegration you played. This year, the Lady of the Manners decided that she would talk about the more upbeat topics of romance. She’s not going to allow you nice people to wallow in gloomy abstraction about love and What Does It All Mean; she’s going to give you a good talking to about romantic gestures and how to communicate your intentions to the intended object of your affections.

So to start things off, we have a question about a courtly gesture from a Faithful Reader:

Dear Gothic Charm School,

my question of manners has to do with kissing someone’s hand. It’s something i’ve seen a lot and i think it gives a good impression to someone, however i’m affraid of doing just the opposite. i don’t want to give the impression of “groog! me wants to put lips on you!”. Basically i don’t want to give the impression to a girl i meet that i’m lusty, and want to seduce her. I’d rather give the impression that i’m more cultured. for now i tip my hat and i’m thinking maybe i should keep it at that, but it almost seems too sterile and detatched. well, I would appreciate any tips.

thank you,

Oh goodness, what a dilemma. On the one hand, kissing a lady’s hand is a time-honored greeting. On the other hand, this perfectly nice gesture has been appropriated by slobbering chumps who think it makes them look classy or fervent Vampire role-players who think it’s the thing for their character to do, but don’t stop to check if the person whose hand their lips are glued to is even playing the game. Either option doesn’t quite get across the cultured and respectful intent you seem to have.

The trick to kissing someone’s hand is this: As you take their hand and start to raise it to your lips, WATCH THEIR FACIAL EXPRESSION. If they seem uncomfortable, then just quickly bow your head over their hand and then release them. If they seem to be okay with what you’re obviously about to do, then go ahead and kiss the hand.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you DO NOT want the kissed hand to come away . . . er . . . damp. Lightly brushing your lips over the back of their hand is what you’re striving for. Remember, hand-kissing is meant to be a chivalrous and respectful gesture. Letting your lips linger (or even going to extremes and licking someone’s hand) sends an entirely different message than, “Hello, charmed to make your acquaintance.”


Now our topic shifts to that ticklish, butterflies-in-the-tummy question: how does one go about letting someone know that one is interested in changing the standards of what seems to be an already established romance?

gutter glitter wrote:

greeting gothic charm school , i have a short ..a question for you.. first off i met this simply wonderful spooky boy at a concert thru friends and he was what i had hoped what would come along in our ever dying scene in the midwest. He is tall and thin and not as feminine as i would like but his attitude makes up for it he treats me with the ut most respect but however we do not court but we have been fooling around but no intercourse…he, when we sleep, cuddles. he has a lovely scense of humor and is perfect for me so much that he intimadates me to the point it is hard for me to say anything without butterflies.. he lives in a town about 30 minutes away if you drive, however i do not so we see each other once a week when he comes down and spends the night. now i am getting a car soon so are times togather wil be increased soon. i, after several weeks of being with him have decided i want to date him but not just high school crap seriously. i do not no how to tell him with out sounding like a idiot he is quiet yet is not shy he speaks his mind and is respectful abouty it.. with that what should i do?

whips and kisses
fetisha shadows

Just a moment while the Lady of the Manners re-reads your letter, dear, and sees if she can glean the main points; she got a bit muddled at the statement about “however we do not court but we have been fooling around but no intercourse…he, when we sleep, cuddles”. The Lady of the Manners had to be courted before she would cuddle, but realizes that she’s somewhat of a quaint anachronism.

So, you have been spending time with a delightful boy, and “fooling around” (which covers a whole range of activities, one supposes), and now you want to move the relationship to a higher plane? Hmmm . . .

There are several methods at your disposal. You could use the time-honored tactic of asking your young man, “so, where is this relationship going?”, but the Lady of the Manners wouldn’t recommend that. Statements like that tend to make the object of one’s romantic interest feel a bit trapped, even if they’re perfectly happy in the relationship.

Another method is to just baldly state that you would like to have more to your time together than just “fooling around.” Of course, flat-out saying something like that also tends to put the other person on the defensive, so the Lady of the Manners is going to recommend that you take the more subtle approach:

When you and your young man are going to be spending time together, make plans for what your activities will be. Go for walks together. Find a neighbohood park and play on the swings. Instead of “fooling around,” read books aloud to each other. In other words, plan date-like activities, but don’t make a big production out of the idea of “I want our relationship to change.”

Now, admittedly, this means you will have to control your own impulses to just keep on with the pleasant activities that have been filling your time together, and actually make an effort to do other things. But, if he’s as wonderful as you seem to think he is, he probably would welcome the opportunity to go do other things that involve spending time with you, in addition to fooling around.


For the final bit of this month’s column, the Lady of the Manners is going to talk to all of you out there about romance. Romance isn’t just about candle-lit dinners, chocolates, and flowers, though those are all very nice. Romance is about paying attention to what your loved one is interested in, or what is going on in their life. Things as mundane and boring as doing your partner’s laundry or dishes can be romantic if it means that you did that task as a favor with the intent of letting your partner get on with something that was important to them. And the most scrumptious box of decadent chocolates is going to fall flat if you didn’t pay attention to the fact that the object of your affection doesn’t like chocolate, or can’t eat them due to dietary constraints. Paying attention to details is a good thing in romance, and ignoring those same little details can lead to a sudden and unexpected outbreak of “I think we should just be friends”.

On the flip side of that, if you haven’t actually let the object of your intentions know about your feelings for them, don’t give them the impression that you’ve scrutinized everything about them and their life. That gives off that faint air of being a crazed stalker, even if you don’t intend it that way. Leaving them little gifts is sweet, leaving little gifts in their house, car, or office when you wouldn’t normally have access into those places is scary. Keep that concept firmly in mind and you won’t go far wrong.

Well, that about finishes that. Go forth and be romantic, but come back and visit next month. As always, if you have any need of guidance in the twisty mazes of modern etiquette, feel free to write to

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