To Hug or Not to Hug

15 Mar

Folks, I just read this article, it’s called “The Tyranny Of Hugs,” and you can probably guess what it’s about. Author, Sadie Stein, bemoans the existence of what she calls the “obligatory hug” from those of her friends that hug too much.

She cites a New York Times article, a talk she had with her mom, and an article from Slate in reference to Natalie Portman’s new movie (which apparently makes a point of saying her character does not hug “easily.”

She even includes this bear picture:

So, okay, I believe you Ms. Stein. There are lots of people who don’t feel comfortable hugging (and some who might just be made uncomfortable by these super 90s hugging bears). But why so defensive? She ends on such a negative note:

Some people are natural huggers from warm, tactile families. Others are so visibly uncomfortable that it’s a minor ordeal for all concerned. I don’t mind hugging, personally, but I prefer to dart in and kiss on the cheek before someone has the chance to enfold me in an embrace that smacks of obligation. This requires sureness of purpose, however, and should not be undertaken lightly. . . the hug’s not a social requirement, at least not so far as etiquette experts are concerned. But try telling that to most Americans under the age of 40. Showing, not telling, is what it’s all about.

I think what bothers me about her attitude is the assumption that all of us huggers are of the obligatory kind. Meaning, the assumption of those who give hugs that you feel are obligatory, also are hugging out of a sense of obligation. While I understand her desire to see less of it in the workplace, there’s more to this conversation.

She hints toward the depth of hugging without even acknowledging it. She says that huggers com from “tactile families.” What that means to me, is that hugs are often a part of your culture. And while I may not be an anthropologist, I’ve seen my fair share of this played out. Different cultures rely on family differently.

I moved a lot growing up but the communities I appreciated most were those where hugging was acceptable. And maybe I’m a big hippie but love was acceptable as well. I was able to tell my friends I loved them and hug them growing up and, despite my awkwardness, my self-doubt, they loved and hugged me back.

For me, it was about building self-confidence. While these people weren’t my direct family, I formed an extended family. It showed me that, as an awkward and sometimes shy kid, I had a support group. It wasn’t until later, first when a friend of mine’s father died, then later when my mother died, that I realized the importance of these small moments of physical/emotional contact in my day to day life.

In countries like India and China, where it might still seem taboo for men and women to be physical outside of wedlock, the hugs and hand-holding they share with friends (is not only popular) is a sign that many people desire physical intimacy, even if only of a much smaller degree.

In my opinion, it’s important to let people know how you feel about them and, with the risk of being cliche, if I were to die tomorrow I’d want my friends to know that I loved them. It may not be an intimate love but a hug is only a moment, and obligatory or not, I support them.

So what do you think? Do you support hugs?

5 Responses to “To Hug or Not to Hug”

  1. Alex Tucker March 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    I’m a hugger. I’m an “I love you” guy. To the average person I don’t come across as such, but it stems from the harsh knowledge that life can end at any moment. My mother and father were arguing the night he died; the fact that her last words to him were unkind ones weighed on my mother’s conscience the rest of her life.

    My pulmonologist, a cancer survivor, believes touch has psychological benefits and thus she makes an effort to hug her patients. I’m not encouraging glomming onto complete strangers — common sense should prevail — but I find nothing tyrannic about hugs. Ms Stein pointed out her mother is the “least touchy-feely person” she knows, so it’s not hard to see where the antipathy comes from. Juliet Lapidos of Slate is even more anti-hug:

    I feel bad for these people; they’re really missing out.

    • redshana March 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

      I completely agree with you, and your pulmonologist for that matter. I feel bad for them but also wish they wouldn’t try and harsh my hug-buzz.

  2. Laura Poff March 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    I can’t agree that hugging even stems from a hugg-y childhood or hugg-y family. My sister hates hugs. She just doesn’t really like being touched. She initiates a detached sideways hug when she knows someone is likely to come in for the real thing. I on the other hand love hugs! And we were raised by the same hugg-y parents. Mom says from birth I always wanted to be held and Katie always squirmed for the floor.

    Now the thing I do like about Katie is that she realizes there are people who need hugs (like me) and will freely let them hug her with little to no grumbling.

    Another point I wanted to make is the culture of hugging in different communities. I was a math major in undergrad and there was NO hugging. Then I started to hang out with you and the theater group and there was so much hugging from people I didn’t even know. I liked it, but could see how some would be put off by such things.

    I think the awkwardest hugs come in times where there may be one person in a group you feel very compelled to hug because you haven’t seen them in forever or your emotional bond to them is just so strong, but then do you have to hug everyone else in the group?

    • redshana March 15, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

      I definitely understand where you’re coming from. I’m of a hug and let hug mentality, you should hug who you want when you want, but there should be no pressure.

      That’s the thing, you should be able to hug or not hug depending on what you want. But, as is true with all other situations in life, no judgment should be made on whether you do or don’t.

  3. nikki March 16, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    I love you, and hugs, and your hugs! And it makes me happy that you mentioned India!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: