Shrugs not Hugs

Posted on January 3, 2014


A lot of things have the capacity to make me quite uncomfortable.  Elevators.  Large crowds.  Improperly used ellipses.  Tim Curry.  But probably the most anxiety inducing of the little discomforts I am regularly subjected to is The Hug.

Mmmm, no thanks.

Don’t get me wrong.  Hugs can be pleasant at times.  And I am not some fascist anti-hugger who hates squeezy displays of affection.  But their pleasantness depends on several factors that rarely equate to an optimal hugging experience. There is no denying the awkwardness of maneuvering your arms in such a way to reticently embrace that friend from junior high whose name you can’t quite remember and tried desperately to avoid making eye contact with at Target.  Damn the need for a cheap bathing suit.

Mussolini prefers high-fives

First, there’s the inherent cumbersomeness in just the physical act of hugging.  Like, where do your arms go, man?  Around the neck pseudo-make-out hug?  Waist hug with ass-grab potential?   Strategic synchronized diagonal one-arm-over/one-arm-under embrace that requires a telepathic understanding of the second party’s hugging intent?  And then there’s that whole issue with differences in height.

“Ass-grab waist hug not even an option, bro.”

But even more uncomfortable than the many technicalities of brought on by hugging is the ambiguous social protocol for hugging.  You know, deciphering the appropriateness of pressing one’s body very closely against another human being’s.  And just how huggy of a hug should you go for if you do, in fact, deem the occasion hug-worthy?  One-armed soft shoulder pat or full-fledged two-arm embrace?  And how many seconds are required as to A) not come off like you thoroughly detest human contact and B) not be weird uncle lingering hug creepy.

Do you hug your mom’s second cousin at your family reunion who remembers you running around in diapers but of whom you have zero memory?

Or what about that guy you sort of dated which went just south of Nowhere and eventually dissipating into virtual nonexistence who you unexpectedly run into at Starbucks four months later? Fist bump?

Or that friend-of-a-friend you see fairly often at group events but of whom you’ve never had any sort of substantial conversation with and aren’t entirely sure if their name is Kristi or Krista?

Or your brother in-law’s brother at birthday celebrations?  Or your old neighbor at the grocery store?  Or your second grade teacher?  Or your former boss?

Accepting the side of pure, nasally-impaired Evil not the time for a hug?

I suppose the uncomfortableness of hugging comes more from the anxiety of committing a social faux pas than anything else. Personally, I can’t really think of a hug so detestable as to have had the capacity to linger in my mind as a day in life’s history I desperately want to forget (I’ve never had to hug Voldemort though, so maybe it’s possible).  But there is always that nagging fear that your loving embrace is unwanted by the hug-ee.  Nobody wants to feel the bitter rejection of unreciprocated hugging.  So I usually end up hesitantly waiting for the other, hopefully less neurotic, individual to initiate a situation- appropriate greeting, a split second of indecision probably just as bad as an awkward embrace.

Sometimes choosing not to hug someone is just as uncomfortable.   That half-step forward, pause, then weird frantic wave can often make for an even weirder three seconds.  “Oh, didn’t see you standing right there in front of me.  Hi.”

Then you yourself have become that terrible hug-rejector you so greatly feared.

You monster.


Posted in: Life