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Six of History's Most Awkward Public Displays of Affection

1. Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley

Lisa Marie Presley had accompanied her husband, Michael Jackson, to the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards for moral support. Shortly before the ceremony, Michael informed her that he was going to bring her onstage and give her a big "this-isn't-a-sham" kiss. She was horrified and warned him not to do it, but her pleas were ignored. Onlookers noted that Lisa exploded in anger backstage afterwards, but Michael was oblivious, saying how great things went. Just think, nobody thought this would last.

2. Hillary Clinton & Suha Arafat

Then-First Lady Hillary Clinton made a political gaffe by embracing and effusively kissing Suha Arafat after the latter had made an impassioned and inflammatory speech about Israelis using poison gas against Palestinians.

3. Richard Gere & Shilpa Shetty

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Earlier this year, Indian film star and Celebrity Big Brother winner Shilpa Shetty appeared onstage with Richard Gere at an AIDS awareness rally in New Delhi. Unfortunately, Gere was unfamiliar with the strict Hindu mores and proceeded to playfully twirl Shetty into a dancer's dip, kissing her on the cheek several times. This display led to public burnings of photos of Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty, plus overall condemnation of the pair.

4. Jacques Chirac & Laura's Hand

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This photo didn't incite any international incidents, or cause American restaurants to rename foods. First Lady Laura Bush was simply another conquest for Chirac.

5. John Bryan and Fergie's Toes

Fergie.jpegThe Duchess of York was at Balmoral Castle in Scotland with the rest of the Royal Family when the Daily Mirror published the so-called "toe sucking" photos. Sarah's father-in-law, Prince Philip, handed her a copy of the paper and told her that it might comfort her to know that "there but for the grace of God go I." He left the room and moments later the Queen's private secretary told the Duchess that she might feel better if she left immediately and returned to London, effectively banishing her from the premises. The only feeble defense both Fergie and her lover, John Bryan, could muster up was that he hadn't been sucking her toes, he was simply kissing the instep of her foot.

6. Madonna & Britney Spears

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And we've come full circle, back to the MTV Video Music Awards. In 2003, Britney and Madonna did their best to shock the audience with what looked like (thanks to TiVo) an opened-mouth kiss. When Britney was interviewed a few months later on Primetime Live, she swore there was no "tongue action" and that it only appeared so because the two of them were "good actresses."

Bonus: Al & Tipper Gore

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Good suggestion from reader Harold: Al & Tipper making out at the 2000 Democratic convention.

Previously on mental_floss:

11 Pictures Politicians Wish Were Never Taken
9 Legendary Cartoon Voices
Six Supergroups Who Saved The World
8 Nuclear Weapons The U.S. Has Lost
"¢ Quiz: Girlie Middle Names

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9 Things You Should Keep in Mind Around Someone Observing Ramadan
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To mark the ninth (and most holy) month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world observe Ramadan. Often compared to Lent in Christianity and Yom Kippur in Judaism, Ramadan is all about restraint. For one month, Muslims observing Ramadan fast during the day and then feast at night.

By abstaining from food and water (as well as sex, smoking, fighting, etc.) during daylight, Muslims strive to practice discipline, instill gratitude for what they have, and draw closer to Allah. To be respectful and not annoy observers, here are nine things you should never say or do to someone observing Ramadan.

1. DON'T JOKE ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS.

A traditional iftar meal.
A traditional iftar meal.
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Although it might be tempting to joke about Ramadan being a good excuse to lose weight, it is a time for spiritual reflection and is a serious matter. Observers undertake the challenge of fasting for religious and spiritual reasons rather than aesthetic ones. And, once the sun sets each night, many Muslims prepare a hearty iftar (the meal that breaks the fast) of dates, curries, rice dishes, and other delicious foods. The suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) is often fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and dishes that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. So the idea of a cleanse is pretty far from their minds.

2. DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS.

An Indian Muslim student recites from the Quran in a classroom during the holy month of Ramadan.
NOAH SEELAM, AFP/Getty Images

There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, but not all of them observe Ramadan the same way. Although most observant Muslims fast for Ramadan, don't assume that every Muslim you meet has the same methods, traditions, and attitudes towards fasting. For some, Ramadan is more about prayer, reading the Qur'an, and performing acts of charity than merely about forgoing food and drink. And for those who may be exempted from the daily fasting, such as pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, or those with various health conditions, they might not appreciate the reminder from nosey busy-bodies that they aren't participating in the traditional way.

3. SAY "RAMADAN MUBARAK" INSTEAD OF "HAPPY RAMADAN."

A sign which reads
A sign which reads "Ramadan Kareem" in Arabic is seen pictured in front of the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai.
GIUSEPPE CACACE, AFP/Getty Images

Rather than wishing someone a happy Ramadan, being more thoughtful with your choice of words can show that you understand and respect the sanctity of their holy month. Saying "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Ramadan Kareem" are the traditional ways to impart warm wishes—they both convey the generosity and blessings associated with the month. The actual party comes after Ramadan, when Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, an up to three-day festival that involves plenty of food, time with family, and gifts.

4. DON'T BE A FOOD PUSHER.

Muslim woman saying no to an apple.
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Even if the idea of not eating or drinking all day might be unfathomable to you, don't push food onto anyone observing Ramadan. While fasting all day for a month can cause mild fatigue, dehydration, and dizziness, don't try to convince participating Muslims to eat or drink something—they are fully aware of any side effects they may feel throughout the day. Instead, be respectful of their decision to fast and offer to lend a hand with something like chores, errands, or anything unrelated to food.

5. ACCEPT THAT WATER ISN'T ON THE MENU.

Dates and a glass of water.
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Muslims who observe Ramadan don't sip any liquids during daytime. No water, coffee, tea, or juice. Zilch. Going without water is even harder than going without food, so be aware of the struggle and accept it. It's all part of the sacrifice and self-discipline inherent in Ramadan.

6. RESPECT PEOPLE'S PRIVACY.

Pregnant woman doing yoga.
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Some Muslims choose not to fast during Ramadan for medical or other personal reasons, and they may not appreciate being badgered with questions about why they may be eating or drinking rather than fasting. Children and the elderly generally don't fast all day, and people who are sick are exempt from fasting. Other conditions that preclude fasting during Ramadan are pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menstruation (although, if possible, people generally make up the days later).

7. BE MINDFUL OF ENERGY LEVELS.

Woman running on the beach.
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Eschewing food and drink for hours at a time can cause lethargy, so be aware that Muslims observing Ramadan may be more tired than usual. Your Muslim friends and coworkers don't stop working for an entire month, but they may tweak their schedules to allow for more rest. They may also stay indoors more (to prevent overheating) and avoid unnecessary physical activity to conserve energy. So, don't be offended if they aren't down for a pick-up game of basketball or soccer. We can't all be elite athletes.

8. DON'T OBSESS OVER FOOD AND HUNGER.

Family playing in the park.
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One of the worst things you can do to someone on a new diet is to obsess over all the cheeseburgers, pizza, and cupcakes they can't have. Similarly, most Muslims observing Ramadan don't want to have in-depth conversations about all the food and beverages they're avoiding. So, be mindful that you don't become the constant reminder of how many hours are left until sundown—just as you shouldn't joke about weight loss, you shouldn't call attention to any hunger pangs.

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO EAT YOUR OWN FOOD.

Coworkers discussing a project on couches.
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Although it's nice to avoid talking about food in front of a fasting Muslim, don't be afraid to eat your own food as you normally would. Seeing other people eating and drinking isn't offensive—Muslims believe that Ramadan is all about sacrifice and self-discipline, and they're aware that not everyone participates. However, perhaps try to avoid scheduling lunch meetings or afternoon barbecues with your Muslim colleagues and friends. Any of those can surely wait until after Ramadan ends.

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