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The Affection Survey

Lisa Hoyenck | Thursday, February 9, 2012

Here’s a survey question for you. No, it’s not a 10-minute long process on SurveyMonkey your friends guilt you into taking to help them with some class project. Just one question. Ready?

Do you kiss your family members on the lips when saying hello or goodbye?

Last semester, after watching an episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” (yes, please judge me right there) my roommates and I were struck by just how affectionate this reality television family was — cuddling, hugging and, yes, even kissing each other on the lips. Right then and there, gathered around the television together, we decided to conduct “The Affection Survey.”

We asked every person who walked through our door (and a few unlucky people we caught off-guard while out and about) this one simple question: “Do you kiss your family members on the lips?” Of course, I’m not talking about a passionate romantic kiss, just simply an outward sign of affection toward a loved one. Although our respondents’ initial reactions were quite mixed and puzzled, they eventually started to open up about their own family dynamics.

We began looking for patterns. Was this a regional thing? A friend from Nevada said she doesn’t kiss family members. Instead, she described her parents as fans of the “forced hug.” Other respondents who hailed from Pennsylvania and Georgia openly admitted their tendency to smooch their mothers and grandmothers right on the kisser.

Over Christmas break, I started to pay close attention to showings of affection when I hung out with my boyfriend and his family. One day as we were leaving IHOP, I observed the very act that my roommates and I had been talking about all semester. Lo and behold, he kissed his mom goodbye!

If you answered yes to the Affection Survey question, you’re not the only one. And if you didn’t, you’re not alone either. That’s what my friends and I found so fascinating. Throughout the course of conducting our survey, we realized that there was no single answer. For some families, affection isn’t a big deal. It really doesn’t mean much. For others, snuggling up by the fire to watch a movie is all they know. Whether it’s a physical act or an abstract thought, every family has their unique way of showing each other they care. Or at least we hope they do … care, that is.

As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, I ask you to think about the people you love in your life and how they express themselves. Perhaps you can conduct your own survey. At the end of the day, just as Starbuck’s Valentine’s Day cups say, “Celebrate Every Love” — new love, friendly love and, of course, family love.

P.S. If you feel like sharing, don’t you worry. Our roommate survey has not ceased. Feel free to drop us a comment!

Contact Lisa Hoyenck at

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The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.