Hugging:The good, the bad and the awkward

You’ve all had them: good hugs, bad hugs, and plain old awkward hugs. There are people who are hug enthusiasts. They hug anyone and everyone  and take every opportunity to do so. There are the anti-huggers. Anti-huggers do whatever they can to avoid a hug and will often extend a hand to shake to impede the advances of a proposed hug. Chances are, most of us fall somewhere in between the two examples of huggers given.

I’m not a huge fan of the hug enthusiast movement. I like a good hug but I think the over use of it just cheapens it. I’ve spent a lot of my life dancing. In my youth I spent a lot of time at dance lessons, competitions, and exams. I taught dance for ten years as well.  A lot of  dancers fit into the category of hug enthusiasts. Hugs before you do a dance, hugs after you do a dance, hugs when you did good, hugs when you did bad, hugs when we see each other at dance class, hugs when we see each other at school,hugs when you got new dance shoes, hugs when you stubbed your toe, hugs when your hair color didn’t quite work the way you had hoped. I never quite understood it. I remember getting off stage after I bombed a ballet solo at competition and there was a small group of girls there to offer me hugs and tell me how “great” I did. As much as I appreciated the support all I really wanted to do was go kick the wall and scream. A hug seemed a poor substitute for a good kick and scream.

I’m also not a fan of the side hug, most of the time. The side hug has recently had the spotlight shone on it by a “Christian” movement claiming it is more appropriate to side hug. For real? To me there are only a couple instances when the side hug is acceptable. When someone is sitting or is in a position that would make front hugging awkward, side hug away. I’ve offered the side hug to the odd hug enthusiast who can’t read my body language screaming, “No hug please”. In such a situation it is more a move that I execute in order to avoid a hug when it is forced. I once had a good friend give me a side hug when I would have thought it was a perfectly acceptable to offer a front hug. I found it somewhat offensive. Really if you insist on always side hugging why bother hugging at all? You might as well just shake hands, but maybe that’s too similar to holding hands to be acceptable.

The awkward hug can come in a variety of ways. A  hug does have  a lot of components to execute properly for it to work out right. First the art of being able to read someones body language to know weather they are open to a hug. Then the placement, Arms above or below the shoulders? Or perhaps the over/under approach? You have to consider what is the appropriate force with which to squeeze with and for how long to squeeze. With all these small details it is without a doubt easy for something to not quite work out right, resulting in the awkward hug. There are the times when you think someone is going in for the hug so you offer it and then realize they weren’t. Suddenly they realize that you’re going for the hug so they adjust but you have aborted the attempt and all chaos breaks loose. There are stiff body huggers. You know the kind that feel more like you’re hugging a wood plank than a person. There are the choking huggers. I’ve been deprived of oxygen by hugs forcefully executed around my neck. There is also the oh so awkward, “When are you going to let me go”, hugs. The ones where you go to let go but aren’t released from the hug. You wonder, “Can’t they tell I’m done here”? But they continue hugging.

Sometimes hugs go beyond awkward straight to bad. I can recall one such hug. I won’t go into great detail but the person who initiated the hug, once in hugging position just kind of held me into them like some sort of half dead limp fish. It was a BAD hug. This would have been an instance where a side hug would have been a perfectly good substitution for the front hug. I still get shivers thinking about it.

I enjoy genuine non-obligatory hugging. I don’t feel a need to hug someone every time I see them both at greeting and parting. I hug people if it’s been awhile since I’ve seen them or if I know it’s going to be awhile till I see them again. I hug people to congratulate them, comfort them, or just as an extra expression of my love for them. I try to read peoples body language and respect the anti-huggers personal space. I think you can tell when someone is “fake” hugging and I am grateful for people who know how to give genuinely caring, wanted hugs.


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