What's with all this damn hugging going around?
Nowadays, hell, you can throw your arms around somebody you scarcely know and they will not feel you are guilty of misbehavior or weirdness for wanting to encase them. Sometimes people go a bit overboard with this, in all likelihood.
"Harry, I want you to meet my sister, Griselda. She's just back from 20 years in Istanbul."
Harry is delighted to meet Griselda for the very first time and immediately enwraps the unfortunate woman in a bear hug. Griselda, who has been in an Instanbul convent, is a bit nonplused, but since you are her brother's old friend, she accedes to the hug.
At one time hugging people of casual acquaintance would have been quite unacceptable. It was the sort of thing Italians did, but not WASPs. I don't remember ever hugging my mother. Really. Sometimes there were old aunts who wanted to hug. Frankly, it creeped me out. Hugging was something you did with somebody that you wanted to separate from their underpants at the earliest possible instant. In other words, for an entire generation, hugging was a sexual thing. And, blessedly, it's still a sexual thing, but not just a sexual thing. Now it is a friendship -- and also acquaintanceship, sometimes very casual acquaintanceship -- thing.
Even more revealing of changing mores is the 'guy hug'. Now that is something quite different: two heterosexual grown men throwing their arms around each other has been deemed acceptable. Formerly that would have been considered certifiably weird, and just a little too bohemian for the average guy.
Personally I like hugging. I think this change in dynamic is healthy. That is because hugs are healthy. They are genuinely therapeutic -- you could look it up. I mean, I am old fashioned enough that I largely prefer to hug ladies, but there is nothing wrong with hugging another guy if the situation warrants it.
When I was bossman at the rehab centre I ran, no client ever finished his 28-days without a big bearhug from all the other guys in the place, as well as from everybody on staff, male and female. Sometimes these were mightily wounded souls who had never had affection and care of a non-sexual nature, and often the gesture would move them to tears. This included some of the big, tough, jailhouse tats mothers who had come to us from the joint. And they would mist up. Hugs therefore are powerful.
A few years ago I reunited with somebody I had known in school, and had not seen since high school. I found her on the internet and contacted her. She was delighted that I had. Since she only lived about 60 miles away, we agreed that we should meet for lunch. It was a neat idea, since decades separated the last time we had been eye-to-eye. When she arrived, we immediately hugged. We didn't even think about it, we just did. I will confess that when I knew her in high school, all those days ago, I had a bit of a crush on her. Consequently, in light of the mores of the day, I wouldn't have dreamt of spontaneously hugging her back then. Now, the rules have changed, and I am very glad they have.
But, there is an ironic flip-side to this. While we have become more demonstrably affectionate as a society, we also feel much more alienated than we did when she and I were at school together. Neighbors no longer know neighbors, and we are wary of the folk three doors down because they might be operating a meth lab. Kids pack heat to school, and sometimes blow one another away. playgrounds are trashed and graffiti of the most disgusting sort is splashed on public edifices. Road rage actually takes lives, rather than just pissing people off.
So, yeah, it's great that we hug, but I think we've got a hell of a lot of work to do on all the rest of it.