Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Let's hug this out, but please don't touch me.

I drove my teenage daughter to school this morning. Rather than immediately bolting the high school campus to put some distance between me and our country's future as expeditiously as possible, however, I briefly sat at the helm of my dirty minivan and watched the children interact.

These kids are huggers. Big huggers. But not in the traditional sense. They don't engulf each other in hulking bear squeezes; in fact they don't prolong the gesture for longer than an eyelid spasm.

Adolescent female embraces more closely resemble human air hockey, where a cushion of atmospheric resistance buffers two tight American Eagle tee shirts from touching. Slight, accidental brushing of fingertips may contact an unsuspecting scapula, but such an incident is rare and highly discouraged.

I'm not going to lie...I love hugs. I love hugging and being hugged; I love wrapping my arms around my daughters after a week of trail blazing camp or a day at school. Hell, sometimes I hug my cat.

I love watching two people or a large group hug, especially when it's a family reuniting with a camouflage-clad member returning from a hostile place.

It seems, though, that our society has developed a tiered system of pseudo-hugs, "hugs lite" if you will, where the intention is to display intimacy, but with far less physical commitment. Lets look at a few of these subsidiary embraces:

The dude hug: Guys, especially straight guys, are insecure about hugging each other. For some reason, a heartfelt, uninterrupted embrace signals testosterone deficiencies and weakness. Therefore, men will commonly begin with a handshake and utilize the shared grip as levers to pull each other inward for a quick chest bump and back slap with the two unencumbered hands. Done. Now separate to a safe, heterosexual distance and look the other way.

The side hug: Usually quite awkward, the side hug is a move which is settled upon, rather than planned, after a series of uncomfortable, jerky actions and responses. Similar to a gateway drug, a side hug is a gateway gesture of tentative intimacy until next time, when the full frontal hug may be appropriate.

The "pat pat" hug: This baby burping technique signals, similar to the dude hug, an insecurity with the coupling. Next time you hug someone you don't know very well, see if you do this.

The drunken hug: I'll tell you, if I had a nickel for every time I've done this one. Just kidding. Not really. The drunken hug is usually accompanied by the words "I love you" whispered into the huggee's ear. Hopefully, it's not someone you'll see at the office on Monday morning.

The sorority girl hug: Please see high school girl air hug above and add an air kiss and a disparaging remark after the recipient is out of ear shot.

I've probably listed enough hugging subsets to make my point. My challenge to you, the reader, and myself, is this: Hug someone you don't like very much, and really hug them pats, no air buffer. They'll be surprised, annoyed and they'll feel petty about any disagreements you've had in the past.

Mission accomplished.


  1. Sometimes the pat-pat comes when one person is done with the hug and the other isn't. I'm never the pat-patter. And I'm not afraid to announce, "I'm not done, so quit yer patting." Sometimes it's accompanied by "The more you pat, the longer we're staying here, regarless of the fact that dinner is burning."

    Except when hugging the cat. Her version of pat-patting is scratching with the intention of leaving an open wound requiring stitches. Ouch. Done.

  2. My husband likes to say, "Hug until it's awkward."

    Especially amusing is Penny and him hugging! hahha!