On V-J Day, if you’d been in the place of the WWII nurse from the Times Square photo, would you have walked away from that passionate sailor’s kiss without finding out his name?
Many years ago, a popular song from the movie Casablanca talked about a kiss being a kiss, and the song stated that the fundamental things apply as time goes by. Time has gone by and Edith Shain, the nurse being kissed in that famous Times Square photo, passed away on Tuesday, June 22, 2010, at the age of 91. When the photo was taken in 1945, the photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt, neglected to get the names of the individuals in the photo, and was unable to give credit when the picture ran in Life Magazine the following week. It wasn’t until many years later that the nurse in the photo came forward and identified herself, but the identity of the sailor has never been positively ascertained.
The question is, if you’d been the nurse, what factors might have entered into the decision to walk away afterward without ever knowing the sailor’s name?
As any woman knows, there are a number of points to consider when deciding to walk away from a sailor who’s just kissed you. It might not be difficult to walk away if you’re married. Marital fidelity held sway for many people in 1945, and being kissed by a sailor in Times Square-whether it was at the end of a war or not-might not have been all it was cracked up to be in the public’s mind, many years later. Depending on the man you were married to at the time, it’s possible a kiss from an unknown sailor might cause you to give the man a slap.
Quality of the Kiss
Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss. Other times it ignites a spark. The quality of the sailor’s kiss would undoubtedly have played at least some part in any woman’s decision to walk away afterward. It’s hard to say, though, if the kiss was good enough to give Edith Shain pause. In Shain’s Los Angeles Times obituary, she’s quoted as saying, “Someone grabbed me and kissed me, and I let him because he fought for his country. I closed my eyes when I kissed him. I never saw him.” According to the obituary, Shain stated she encountered another soldier who wanted a kiss, but she refused, and she and the friend she was with left.
There’s no question the kiss looks passionate from the photo, but did it ignite a spark? And would it have ignited a spark for you?
If you’d been there in 1945-a time when public displays of affection were still considered to be taboo-would you have felt so embarrassed that even if you weren’t married, and the sailor was a good kisser, you would have walked on without ever learning his name? It’s certainly a possibility to consider, since Shain didn’t come forward and admit to Life Magazine and the photographer that she was the nurse in the picture until the late 1970s. Why? Because she felt embarrassed about it. After that, however, she often served as grand marshal for parades and memorial events, so it’s a reasonable assumption that she overcame her embarrassment.
Of course, the question of whether or not you’d have walked away from that sailor’s kiss without ever knowing his name is purely rhetorical, because most people don’t really know what they’ll do in a certain situation until it happens. Still, the WWII nurse from the Times Square photo became an icon, and the Alfred Eisenstaedt photo remained in the minds and hearts of Americans because it so completely captured the joy in Times Square on V-J Day in 1945.
Embedded links as listed above.
Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-edith-shain-20100624,0,4968153.story