If Only the Jill Biden–Doug Emhoff Kiss Could Last Forever

If Only the Jill Biden–Doug Emhoff Kiss Could Last Forever

Jill Biden–Doug Emhoff Kiss,Jill Biden,Kamala Harris,joe biden

Jill and Douglas on TV, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. At least that’s what it looked like, anyway: During Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, first lady Jill Biden and “second gentleman” Doug Emhoff appear to have shared an unexpected kiss before an audience of millions, sending the nation into an awkward fit of cringe.

It happened quickly and without warning. As Jill made her way to her seat, she was greeted by Doug, who shook her hand, pulled her in, and planted one right on—or possibly around—her mouth. Depending on the camera angle, it looked either intentional or as if they just misread each other and wound up mouth-to-mouth in front of their respective spouses. Either way, whoops!

Thankfully, the kiss was over as soon as it began, and Jill and Doug quickly recovered (save for a split-second sheepish look on Doug’s face). But soon after, the speculation began. Videos and screencaps of their “swinger” behavior circulated, and the hashtag #swingers trended on Twitter. Some of the lustier responses called the State of the Union a “swinger party,” while others applauded the “wife swap” and expressed cuck-like glee at the way Jill so readily kissed another man in front of her husband. The surprise of it all seemed bipartisan, with the most common reaction being a sort of collective, slack-jawed ick.

At Slate, the incident was so polarizing that it brought our Slack to a standstill. Squicked-out Slate podcast host Lizzie O’Leary noted that accidentally kissing someone—if it was an accident—is a lot like ending a professional phone call with “Love you, bye.” Plenty of questions arose: Was it intentional? A cheek kiss gone awry? Did they linger in their embrace for too long? Was everyone around them as aghast as they seemed, or were those just normal expressions captured in unfortunate freeze frames? Was it a camera-angle thing? Some shots made it look like nothing; others depicted a total smooch. In any case, it was perplexing.

Jill and Doug have both been very well behaved in their roles thus far, keeping gaffes to a minimum and letting the spotlight fall on the Biden-Harris administration. It’s ironic, then, that Jill’s first false step would be kissing a colleague, seeing as her husband’s tendency for inappropriate touching (and hair-smelling) has been following him around for years. Who knew Jill had it in her?

In all likelihood, though, the meeting of the mouths was probably just a wayward cheek kiss. In America, we lack the double-smooch grace of our international counterparts, and it’s all too easy to fall into the wrong-cheek-wrong-time trap. As Slate staff writer and Paris correspondent Henry Grabar theorized, that’s probably what happened here—one of them simply went in for a left-cheek kiss, when it’s standard procedure to go for the right. Slate writer Aymann Ismail also noted it’s customary to present the cheek to be kissed—you lean in the direction of the desired smooch. But as Ismail pointed out, the Doug-Jill kiss involved no cheek presentation. At least from where we’re sitting, the two go straight for the kisser.

Not everyone found it that uncomfortable, though. Slate home page editor Sol Werthan argued that we should take the video as a call to arms for more platonic kissing: Why shouldn’t family and friends greet one another warmly with a peck? The most rare stance of all might have been that of Jurisprudence editor Jeremy Stahl, who was merely unmoved by the whole thing: “Big whoop,” he said.

Maybe it was exactly the right-sized whoop, though. In the end, the kiss (or almost-kiss) added some welcome intrigue to an otherwise straight-laced speech, and will almost certainly be the only thing we remember about it by next week. During the Trump administration, people joked about the screenwriters who were surely scripting our stranger-than-fiction reality. And while it’s mostly good that “they” have retired (or just receded), it’s also nice that they came back for one night to throw us this little gem.

This one was for the messy-bitch-who-lives-for-drama contingent—which is not so secretly everyone—and it fully delivered. It provided the perfect level of low-stakes political controversy we could all bond over, and we need all the bonding moments we can get.

Their kiss? Simply chef’s kiss.


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