Wrapping up a lovely brunch on Sunday with a few of my closest girl friends, we stood on the sidewalk for a few moments to say our goodbyes.
“It’s like we’re all waiting to hug each other,” my friend Jodi quipped.
“Well, you know that’s not on my mind,” I retorted.
Everyone laughed. They know I’m not a hugger.
Before you get all judgy and assume I need counseling for some deep-seeded aversion to affection, let me explain. It’s not that I don’t hug people. I just subscribe to a self-imposed hugging etiquette that’s evolved over time.
The Family Hug
Hugging family comes naturally to me. We’ve always been a fairly affectionate group, and that continues with my nephews, who I bear hug every chance I get.
The Long-Lost Friend Hug
If we haven’t seen each other in months or years, you can bet that I’ll immediately spread my arms and go in for a hug.
The Romantic Hug
If we’re dating, we’re hugging. I also insist on hand holding and the quick smooches. The same hugging protocol holds true for potential boyfriends while in the initial stages of dating.
The Gratuitous Hug
This is the type I hate! You know, the kind of hugs many people exchange every time they say hello or farewell, even if they see each other on a weekly or daily basis. They’re the American equivalent to faire la bise (French cheek kissing), which oddly enough I support 100%.
I find these perfunctory exchanges awkward. From the strange side-arm embraces to the full-frontal hellos – Blech! No thank you.
Which brings me to…
The Pat, Pat, Pat Hug
Perhaps I developed this response as a coping mechanism. When forced to participate in an unwanted hug, I keep it short by implementing a quick triple-pat on the shoulder.
“Sure, Bob, even though I just saw you yesterday and we’re not that close, let’s hug hello.” (pat, pat, pat) Done!
After discussing this topic, ad nauseam, with friends who love to make fun of me for it, I know I’m not alone. Heck, you might do it yourself and not even realize it. I know I didn’t until my early 30s.
I became aware of the pat-pat-pat maneuver when saying goodbye to an on-again, off-again ex. We had finished a conversation in which he declared that he wanted to be on again, again. I told him I needed time to consider it. He agreed. As I walked him to the door, he hugged me.
“Oh my God! Please tell me you didn’t just pat me,” he cried out in horror.
“Um, what? Don’t be silly.”
But his insight was spot on. My involuntary patting foreshadowed my feelings at the time. No, I did not want to rekindle that relationship.
And that simple gesture further shaped my hugging philosophy. Good hugs belong to family, long-separated friends and romantic relationships. Inappropriate huggers, would-be exes and the occasional distraught child (or pet) get the pat, pat, pat.
How about you? Are you a hugger? If not, how do you dodge them? Please share!