The Kiss

My Branch President in my BYU student branch (freshman year, 1976-77) thought I was the best thing since sliced bread, because I loved to dance and I would ask lots of different girls to dance during dances, which kind of set a tone of inclusion and made for fun branch dance parties. He was very appreciative of this. But I was only human (with hormones pop pop popping like an apricot tree) and during the course of the year I did kind of develop some favorites whom I asked to dance more than others, especially for the slow songs.

By the end of my first semester at the Y, there were two girls in particular whom I seemed to dance with more and more as the year progressed. They happened to be roommates [cue ominous foreboding music here], but in the dance context that didn’t seem to be a problem. I loved dancing with each of them, and each of them loved dancing with me.

Now this was back in the Jurassic era before Dallin Oaks was even an apostle (he was still president of the university), and the need for him to give a talk contra “hanging out” and in favor of dating was not even yet a twinkle in his eye. Which is to say that back then, if you liked a girl you asked her out. That was simply the way it was done in the olden days.

Some time during the second semester of my freshman year, I resolved to ask one of these two girls out on a date. I really didn’t care which one; I liked them both, and to me it was a total toss-up. Had it been a century earlier maybe I would have asked them both out and made it a true Mormon double date. But no, I had to choose, so I picked the one I’ll call Maura for the trivial reason that she was a little bit taller than the one I’ll call Suzie. There was no more to it than that.

So I called Maura up, asked her out, and she gladly agreed to the date. On the appointed evening I came to her apartment in Heritage Halls to pick her up. As she came out the door she was beaming and very happy, but I caught a glimpse from deep in the bowels of the apartment (boys weren’t allowed to enter the apartments except for family home evenings) of Suzie crying. I hoped that she wasn’t crying over the fact that I had asked Maura out and not her, but deep down I knew that that was in fact the situation. In my naivete, I had not really considered the dynamic of these two girls being roomies and how that would make negotiating this date a problem.

(Later I learned that Suzie was not LDS, and I hoped she didn’t think I hadn’t chosen her to ask out for that reason, as I didn’t even realize it at the time.)

Well, anyway, Maura didn’t seem too bothered by Suzie’s distress, so I put it out of my mind and we went on our date. I don’t recall what we did for dinner, but the main point of the date was to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in the auditorium of the old Joseph Smith building (the religion building that predated the current JSB). This was a popular movie on campus and one that I personally enjoyed, so even though this was such a cliche BYU date it was fun for me.

During the movie I alternately held her hand or put my arm around her. We had danced lots of slow dances together, so this kind of touching between us was not something new. As I walked her back to her apartment, it started to snow lightly, and it was very romantic. We were both having a great time, enjoying each other’s company and touch.

Now, I grew up in Illinois, not in Utah, and I had been socialized to think that kissing a girl good night at the end of the date was a normal and acceptable practice, provided the girl gave you some sort of subtle indication she would welcome such a gesture. This date was going great, we were very intimate with each other, and so I knew I wanted to kiss her good night. But I realized that it would not be possible to do that at her door in Heritage Halls, because there are always lots of people around. So just before we got back to her building there was a little alcove of trees (those of you familiar with BYU will know what I’m talking about, it’s that area in the middle of Heritage where that little creek meanders), so I told her that I wanted to kiss her good night there.

I leaned in for the kiss, and was surprised that her lips were tightly pursed together. I (naively) assumed that I had caught her off guard, so I tried again–with the same result. Hmmm…so that’s the way she kisses, huh? I thought it peculiar that such an attractive girl really had no idea how to kiss. But as I walked her the remainder of the way to her apartment, it slowly began to dawn on me that she wasn’t just a bad kisser, but that this had been some sort of defense mechanism she had probably learned at a standards night as a laurel or something. She obviously had not wanted to kiss me good night, but instead of just telling me that she used her little pursed lips defense.

I quickly learned that the latter was in fact the case, and that in the course of about 10 seconds and two little pecks I had gone from Prince Charming to the Libertine Lothario. What was especially frustrating and mortifying to me is that I had no way to defend myself from whatever it was she told her roommates about it (I never did learn what her account was, and no one would tell me), and from that time forward they all would give the stinkeye whenever any of them saw me.

One of the roomies in that apartment who had just moved into the branch was Russell M. Nelson’s daughter; as a result of this incident, she thought I was disgusting. Even though he wasn’t an apostle yet I still knew who he was and respected him, so it was embarrassing to me for his daughter to have such a poor opinion of me.

The only good thing that came out of this debacle is that whatever regret Suzie had for my not asking her out evaporated, and now she was glad to have avoided the trauma Maura had experienced.

I did learn a valuable (if silly) lesson from all of this. Teenage culture in other parts of the country notwithstanding, never try to kiss a Mormon girl at BYU on the first date. When I was a Young Men’s President, I even taught this pearl of wisdom to my young men who were about to go to BYU or BYU-I. Since it was such hard-won wisdom for me, I wanted to save them from making the same mistake I had made. Lesson learned.


  1. Ah, the complexity and beauty of BYU dating.

    Too bad you didn’t have the same bishop I had in a BYU student ward years ago. He enthusiastically encouraged all of members of the ward to go on dates and kiss on the first date! His reasoning: you’re here to find an eternal companion; intimacy is part of the eternal love you share with one another. He said it was inappropriate to go beyond the bounds the Lord has established but it was certainly acceptable to kiss on the first date. If you find it wasn’t what you were looking for, then you could move on. Needless to say, there was much kissing and telling in the ward, but I found it refreshing from some of the “other” wards I had attended–solemn, somber and no kissing. Kissing at BYU prior to becoming engaged is viewed upon as some evil that requires rapid repentence and ecclesiastical cleansing.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Wow, Andrew, he must have been a popular bishop!

    I briefly dated a girl who went to then-Ricks whose ambition was to have her first kiss over the altar in the temple. That was not an ambition I shared.

  3. Ha Ha! Boy, does this story take me back. I’ll never forget when, as a student at the University of Utah (a far more licentious institution)I had an all-night make-out with a sweet LDS girl named Marie. Following her lead, my hands explored only shoulders, arms, back & elbows the entire time, and never once did her lips part (although mine gave it the ol’ college try). That said, when we came up for air, she’d gaze in my eyes the glow of celestial spires and breathe, “Ohhhh, David…” like we knew each other in the pre-existence. This was on our first date.

    I wonder what year it became eccliastically acceptable to finally open your mouth.

  4. Ah, Kevin, this was a wonderful story. You crystallized so much of the zeitgeist. Times changed after you left BYU, however (grin).

  5. Kevin,

    You have more courage than I. Many of my most embarassing experiences have to do with that awkward stage of my life, and I still haven’t told a single living soul about them.

    I did have an experience very similar to the one you describe, so you can imagine my surprise a few weeks later when I was on a first date with a different woman who not only wanted to kiss but speak French as well. I can only assume that my suave personality and handsome looks caused her to abandon any pretense to propriety.

  6. sorry, that’s “gaze in my eyes with the glow of celestial spires…”

  7. this one’s a little different, but still in the realm of LDS prudish-ness and smug self-righteousness. my roomate was beginning to see a girl in the ward, and it was going pretty well for both of them, until they happened to watch part of a sporting event together. my roomate, like many individuals who are passionate about sports, animatedly (we shall say) expressed displeasure with his team once or twice during the event.

    a few nights later, she told him that she did not like the side of him she saw during the sporting event. she said that “anger” was just one letter away from the word “danger”.

    she became known to us as “dang-gerous” for the rest of the semester.

  8. Kevin – You should have explained to that dear girl that *anyone’s* first kiss with their spouse is over the altar.

    I kissed the girl I married on our first date – but we’d been friends for several years already…

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, I know, J., now they have NCMOs and such. If anyone was doing NCMOs back when I was a student there, I sure didn’t know anything about it. (There’s a section of the film Peculiarities, which is entitled NCMO. For those not in the know on contemporary BYU culture, it stands for Non-Commital Make Out session.)

  10. When I got off my mission, I lived in Heritage Halls. Lots of freshmen. Lots of girls who grew up in Mesa and Boise and Taylorsville. My roommates and I had a thing going to see how many “virgin lips” we could kiss. Combined, I think we hit 31 (between the 6 of us). And yes, we shared notes. The word “cad” comes to mind.

    David T — It was OK, ecclesiastically, at least by 1991 or 1992.

  11. Um, Kevin, maybe you just had bad breath.

  12. Kevin, I remember a mission companion telling me he’d cut thermal underwear to the knee (before he received his endowments) because sweet, virginal BYU coeds would feel for the lines to see if they were expedient marriage material. I was horrified AND impressed by his AND their behavior.

    On a different note, I have a niece in Provo who wins “it’s-not-a-beauty-pageant-it’s-a-scholarship-program”s right and left, and is proud of her NBK/VL status which she vows she’ll keep ’til marriage. Guess romance isn’t altogether dead.

  13. Steve Evans says:


  14. I seemt to remember the Student Review in a sort of mock survey asking ten BYU bishops if French kissing was OK. It was ten variations on no.

  15. Laughing.

    Kissing for me is better than potato chips. You have one or two and you gotta have more.

    But if there are the old standards on kissing at BYU, I ought to tell you the stories sometime of sneaking kisses at BJU in Greenville, SC. The defenses are impregnable.

    I got in more trouble in the one week, when I flew the girl of my dreams (now my wife)from BSU to BJU for a visit.

    Thanks for the humor.

  16. I had somewhat the opposite experience. My first date at BYU was with a cute guy I’d met that summer at some youth leadership conference with kids from all over (we both had on our free BYU t shirts). We had met up again at orientation. We had a great date (actually, I think we went to a movie at the very same JSB, but I can’t remember which movie it was) and talked for several hours past the curfew in our HH apt. I had to sneak him out, and then he kissed me rather chastely in the very same little grove of trees you describe. My roommates and I were all atwitter that I would be the first one to have a college boyfriend.

    I never heard from him again.

  17. This post was really fun. I kissed my wife before I’d ever been on a date with her (we just “hung out”). She told me to my face I was a NCMO. She was wrong…

  18. Let me just say that it only supported the theory among my girlfriends that you shouldn’t kiss on the first date, as you might be considered loose and therefore not girlfriend/wife material. Oh, the IRONY….

  19. Kevin, this story sounds very familiar, haven’t you told it before?

    At the U, even in the hallowed confines of the Chi Omega Sorority House, not kissing on the first date was considered high school stuff.

  20. Man, down here in southern California, at least with the active girls in the single’s ward, they’d kill me if I tried to kiss them on a first date. It seems they usually think you have to wait till the third date. Then again, a lot of the ones I’ve been around weren’t allowed to watch pg-13 movies until they were 18. sigh

  21. A. I believed I knew how it worked after a few years on BYU’s campus — until the shocked reaction I received for *hugging* on a first date.

    B. The girls in our Home-Evening group were appalled to learn that one of us — a grad student, no less — never had kissed a girl. They wrote the following encouragement for him (sung to the tune of “Edelwiess”):

    Idle lips, idle lips
    Skinny, drawn, and so sallow
    Idle lips, idle lips
    Tell us why you lie fallow.

    In the right place,
    Centered on your face,
    Summon grace
    and use them:
    Touch your lips
    To her lips
    We promise you
    You won’t bruise them

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    MCQ, yes, I’ve told it a few times before, including to the now-defunct “A Single Thought” column of Meridian Magazine. I may have given a summary version of it in a comment somewhere on a blog, but I don’t specifically remember.

  23. Wait, Kevin, you told her you wanted to kiss her, and then she acted all scandalized when you followed through? Seems to me she waived her right to object and was precluded from later raising any challenges to your conduct.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    I kissed my wife on our first date. She was the first girl I kissed after my mission (and the best!).

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    …but not the last, Steve?

  26. Anna, your argument is technically referred to as “waiver and estoppel” and, while legally valid in most jurisdictions, resort to the courts of appeal in this particular case would still probably result in the stink-eye.

  27. BTW Kevin, I actually know one of Elder Nelson’s daughters. Want me to find out what Maura said to her roommates about you?

  28. Steve Evans says:

    Kevin, she was the last, too. Now, between first and last there might have been a few…

  29. In many parts of South America teenage boys and girls give each other a kiss on the cheek as a greeting. I think the practice should be taken up here, but the icy English influence has kept it at bay. I’ve seen the English blood and Italian blood mix in my family and extinguish warmth of human touch. Fortunately, the gospel has turned that around.

  30. Manaen,
    My husband was my first kiss and I was his… and it took place on our first date, after his mission when he was 23 years old! I am still pretty proud that he’s never kissed anyone but me! And vice versa… it’s nice not to have to compare to anyone else.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    No thanks, MCQ, even if it were the right daughter it would be too mortifying.

  32. MCQ, I’ll mail you a shiney quarter if you do and return and report. :)

  33. mondo cool says:

    Way off from kissing, but very telling about two BYU co-ed’s smug self-righteousness – An acquaintance of mine at BYU (we weren’t, but our fathers were friends) had a little trouble with WoW/BYU Standards. He was unable to drive home & called me to give him a ride. He lived off-campus and as I helped him in the house, we “forestalled” his roommate and his girlfriend in the front room. I was completely surprised at the roommate’s reaction to him – and me. He said he was going to report me to Standards. I asked him if that was a good idea.

    I don’t know if anybody every told me not to, but I don’t remember dating any BYU girls from the “local culture.”

  34. Matt, as I’ve said before, Kevin’s a big guy. I’m not going against his wishes for a lousy quarter.

  35. My college experience was different from what you describe. My similar experience was discovering women I didn’t know in my bathroom when I left the shower.

  36. MCQ- I’ll double it!

    Wow. This whole thread is just amazing- and exactly why I am sooooo glad my kids are growing up LDS.

    The adult-convert in me is thinking back to the college/dating days, and if you all had any idea what is expected of girls on dates these days, you would blush to your roots. The things I’ve seen at concerts or in night clubs- holy heck!

    It makes this chaste talk about kissing on the third date positively delightful and refreshing, and makes me want to smile at the world.

  37. OK, we’re up to 50 cents, do I hear 75? I’ll start dialing her number when we get to a buck and a half.

  38. This post really brought back memories. I was a freshman living in Heritage Halls this same year. I remember having some passionate moments with a guy in probably that same grove of trees (definitely not on our first date, however!) and having my hard contact lens pop out of my eye. We went back and got a flashlight and actually found the contact in the grass. Made for a quick end to the kissing session, though. That grove of trees was a busy place!

  39. I’m good for a buck!

  40. Ok, I’m dialing! Since we’re talking about 1976, that would not be the daughter that I know, so she’s going to have to call her sister. I’ll let you know if I can find out anything. Kevin, if you want to help, email me Maura’s real name.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    MCQ, e-mail me at klbarney at yahoo dot com. I have to admit that I’d be curious what she has to say, if anything.

  42. Wow! Several times in the past I have been really glad I didn’t choose to attend BYU (not that they would have accepted me) but with this additional story, I am again very glad I chose a state school. My student ward had its issues but this was definitely not one of them! My little sis, though, did attend Ricks (now BYU-I) and would probably have been one of those girls with a nasty look for you. I, however, would not have been (once again, why BYU would have rejected me).

    So sad but I’m glad you lived through it! That’s another gem of advice for those young kids headed off to BYU or any college.

  43. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, CLZ, my impression at the time was that BYU was Berkeley next to Ricks (now BYU-I)!

  44. Dark Chocolate says:

    I don’t think of those of us who don’t kiss on the first date are necessarily prudes. I prefer, personally, that physical affection is accompanied by a relationship, which would mean knowing each other a bit better. That doesn’t put me in the waiting-till-the-altar category either, necessarily.

    I did, however, kiss someone the second time I saw him. ;) We had talked for a cumulative of about 24 hours, though.

  45. California Condor says:

    Good post that offers a glimpse of the BYU of yesteryear. Times had changed by the time I was a freshman at BYU in 1996-97. No student “branches,” just wards… and certainly no ward dance parties. I’m grateful for that because I have an aversion to dancing. For Generation X Mormons, we just had big free-for all dances where a few hundred people would show up and get their groove on to pop music hits trailing back about 10 years into the past; some songs were overplayed a lot, some repeat offenders were U2’s “With or Without You” and New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.” But those songs are admittedly pretty good so it’s forgivable that they were played at pretty much every Mormon youth dance in the 1990s. I will not, however, forgive the ad infinitum playing of Bryan Adam’s syrupy love ballad “Everything I do, I do it for You.” Anyway, up until just after my mission I actually was convinced that dancing was a non-negotiable part of being a single Mormon. But then the scales fell from my eyes and I realized that I could refuse to attend dances and it was liberating and I’m proud to say that I have avoided dance floors since 1999.

    Near the end of the dot-com boom when the Internet was the cat’s meow, there was a NCMO website that scandalized the BYU campus. Someone at BYU or in Provo launched in early 2000 and it made headlines in the Daily Universe. It was pretty funny. But I think it was overhyped and I’m not sure if anyone actually used it to hook up for a make-out session. But I do remember my student ward bishop preaching against it, I believe perhaps even in Sacarment meeting, and being furious and disgusted as such a website.

    I like Elder Oaks; it’s hard not to respect someone credentialed with a University of Chicago law degree. But I take issue with his mischaracterization of “hanging out.” (A BYU-Idaho graduate was scandalized when I told him this). I feel that “hangin out” is a natural, low-pressure way to spend time with members of the opposite gender that allows LDS singles to get to know each other and potentially pair off in couples naturally. A traditional formal date is a high-pressure situation that can be quite often awkward and that might not lead to natural courting. I feel that Elder Oaks misdiagnosed the problem of people getting married older.

  46. Spoke to her husband, she will call me back.

  47. Christopher Smith says:

    lol. This is a funny story.

  48. Lulubelle says:

    At BYU, I mostly remember freshman year at the dorms and loads of NCMO sessions outside DT. At most universities, it was more drunken nights rolling around with a stranger. At BYU, our one-night stands were making out. Still pretty tame by worldly standards. I’ve never understood the “no kiss on first date.” I still don’t…

  49. tesseract says:

    Condor Cat –

    HAha.. I was a freshman at BYU 97-98. my hubby and I have a music project now and are currently doing music covers folk style. Oh yeah, you know Bizarre Love Triangle is one of them! You’d hardly recognize the song! That Bryan Adam’s song was definitely the worst at dances. sooo horrible.

  50. Kevin Barney says:

    California Condor no. 44, I actually agree with you about hanging out. I’ve seen it in the case of my son who is a major hanger outer and it has been nothing but good for him.

  51. I met my wife at BYU – a few years before either of us was old enough to attend college (and I didn’t attend BYU), so I have nothing to add except to echo Tracy M. Compared to what I saw at the college I attended (as a married freshman), this is SO refreshing.

  52. Left Field says:

    Kevin, I don’t know what to think, man. Here’s the first time you told the story. Suddenly, there’s lots of new details and clear contradictions. The first time, there was only one girl you often danced with. Now suddenly, there’s two. What, you were dancing with two beautiful women, and you just “forgot” to mention the other one? Before, you alternately held hands and put your arm around her while you walked. Now you’re already doing it at the movie. And it’s no longer unnamed roommates. Now, you’re telling us it was Russell Nelson’s daughter! Isn’t it interesting how the story gets better and better every time you tell it? Clearly, you’re just making this up as you go along.

  53. You’re kidding, right, LF?

    I don’t see any contradictions, just details that he didn’t include the first time… And there is nothing strange about that, given that the first telling was a summary version (appropriate for a comment-length post where you only want to hit on the things most relevant to the topic) and the second telling is the complete, fully-realized story, complete with all details, relevant and not (where with it being the opening post, Kevin can make it as long as he wants to without becoming a nuisance commenter).

    So, all I see is the summeray version and the more fleshed-out version. Where are there any contradictions?

  54. Kevin Barney says:

    LF, that first telling was just the highlights, as it was only a comment. This post simply contains a more detailed version, which was intentional as it was an actual post and not merely a comment. And Russell Nelson’s daughter was neither of the girls I mentioned; she was just a new roommate in that apartment of six girls. Her presence there was an incredibly minor detail.

    When I first wrote this up for A Single Thought, I included both girls in the story and they edited the second one out for space and flow, so in shorter versions I’ve tended to follow their editorial judgment. But this is the longer version.

    I held hands and put my arm around her both during the movie and as we walked.

    If you have any other questions about what happened, feel free to ask.

  55. Kevin Barney says:

    Which is to say that lurkgirl got it exactly right.

  56. Left Field says:

    Hmmm. Perhaps my parody was too subtle.

    Maybe someday, we’ll be able to meet Brother Joseph and have him also offer to answer any questions about what happened.

  57. Kevin Barney says:

    I thought you must be joking but I wasn’t quite sure, so I figured better safe than sorry. Your joke was so realistic it could have been sincere… (g)

  58. Left Field says:

    First, you’re dancing with one personage, and then next time you tell the story, there’s two. Somehow,those multiple First Kiss accounts just rang a bell with me.

  59. Ah, Got it.

  60. I thought “NCMO” referred to any enlisted man ranked corporal or higher.

  61. Left Field, that was absolutely hillarious. Good work.

  62. gst

    Only if you spell noncommissioned thusly:

    non com missioned

  63. Left Field says:

    Upon thinking about this and some of my own dating experiences (back in the day), I have come up with a hypothesis. I think perhaps for some people, there is an unspoken code that prohibits any overt verbal discussion of the level of intimacy in a relationship. For these people, perhaps, part of the “game” of dating is in reading nonverbal signals. By verbally announcing your intentions, you unknowingly violated this code and spoiled the “game.” If this was the case, she might have responded well to some nonverbal indication that you wanted to give her a kiss. If she felt that you had spoiled the moment by announcing yourself, the closed-lip thing might have been her way (given the code) of telling you that you messed up. Then you really messed up by ignoring the signal and trying again. You, me, and Anna (comment 23) would have expected her to verbally wave you off if she wasn’t ready for a kiss. But we don’t know about the code. She was perhaps appalled that you even thought to discuss a kiss beforehand, and waved you off in the nonverbal way she thought was appropriate. I’m guessing that what Maura told her roommates was that you were some sort of unromantic slob who ruined a good moment and then made it worse by aggressively persisting in trying to get a kiss even after she gave what she thought was a clear No signal.

    Back in my single days, I may have violated the code by directly asking if a person was really interested in going out with me, and expecting a direct honest answer. Rather, I was supposed to try to read the smoke signals.

    I think the “game” stinks.

  64. When did they start letting guys live at Heritage Halls?

  65. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    The “game” only stinks, LF, because men are notoriously bad at reading body language!

  66. or suppressing body odor – Maybe, Kevin, that was the real problem all along and she was too polite to tell you.

  67. 65 – Yet you still insist on communicating with us that way, when you know we’re “notoriously bad”, and then blame us when the communicating doesn’t work! :) (The smiley face is my internet form of body language telling you, “I’m not serious about what I just wrote, even though there is a serious point to what I wrote! Did you get that? Hope so!”)

  68. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    Ah, communication! So many forms! So many regional subtleties! It’s a complex game! But oh so lovely when played well! So, we persist!

    Sweet and funny story, Kevin! Thank you!

    p.s. Do I need to pony up a dime to hear what RMN’s daughter said?

  69. truebluethru'n'thru says:

    A few commenters (for example mpb in comment 7) have mentioned smug self-righteousness. Smug conjures up for me an image of people’s sort of coolly questioning thing’s propriety. Let me make up an analogy to help us look at “smugness”.

    A guy walks into a Seven Eleven and, seemingly absentmindedly, puts something from a shelf into his pocket. The clerk, seeing this, thinks to assist the patron to rectify this oversight and says, “Did you forget the [whatever it is] you absent mindedly slipped in your pocket?”

    In case 1, the customer is suprised and apologizes for his absentmindedness. But in case 2, the customer finds the clerk smug.

    Smugness is exasperating since those subjected to smugness must forego a uniform chorus of warm validation their decisions rightly deserve, we guess–say in the instance of something particularly petty. (as in, say, the item pocketed in a store was a piece of penny candy from the bulk bins, you know?)

    At the Online Etymological Dictionary and see that

    [in] 1551 [meant] “trim, neat, spruce, smart,” possibly an alteration of Low Ger. smuk “trim, neat,” from M.L.G. smücken “to adorn,” and smiegen “to press close” (see smock). The meaning “having a self-satisfied air” is from 1701, an extension of the sense of “smooth, sleek” (1582), which was commonly used of attractive women and girls.

    So I’m getting smug as meaning “an obnoxious self-satisfiedness in one’s own attributes of righteousness”?

  70. truebluethru'n'thru says:

    Yet if the clerk have been more aggressively accusatory, “Listen, buddy, I saw you put that in your pocket! If so, I’ve just had it up to here with that!”, I see less cool smugness there.

    So what makes something smug isn’t the mere fact others experience a reaction, but that they exhibit an air of self-satisfaction in so doing?

    (Philosophical questions, not preaching.)

  71. Kevin Barney says:

    Patricia #68, I don’t recall that she said anything at all, it was just the way she looked at me as though I were pond scum.