My beautiful and strange friend Lesley recently had us all in tears as she told us possibly my favorite hugging story. She had just gotten her eyebrows waxed and the lady who did the waxing opened the door for her to exit but left her arms wide open. Never one to deny a hug, Lesley shrugged her shoulders and went in for the hug. Right as she made contact, she noticed the lady's surprised expression and realized that the poor lady had simply been opening the door for her to go out. Lesley found a new waxing place. This had me rolling and thinking about how awkward hugs can be.
Recently my sister has been hugging me a lot. Not because I need one or because I want one. Rather, she comes at me with open arms precisely because I don't need a hug nor do I want one and she loves to watch me squirm. Hugging makes me squirm because hugging makes me awkward. I really have never been a fan of bumping bodies, even with the people I love. (only exception is giving "squeezers" to my nephews) I've been mocked and ridiculed for my lack of affection but I wouldn't be so opposed to the hug if everyone followed the following guidelines:
* Hug only in appropriate situations. Not every goodbye warrants a hug. Nor does every greeting. I had a friend who would hug every person he hung out with, even if he had just met them. He hugged his parents every single time he saw them which was multiple times a month. I LOVE my parents but this is simply too much hugging. There is a time and place. Here are three simple rules of thumb to follow when deciding if a situation warrants a hug or not:
1) If you don't know their last name, don't hug them. You may press your body against theirs once you pass this intimacy litmus test.
2) If you've seen them recently, they don't need ANOTHER hug when you greet.
3) If you will see them again soon, no hug is needed upon departure. A head nod, a wave, and a "see ya later" will do just fine.
* Make it clear that you are initiating a hug. Don't leave your hugging partner guessing if you are coming in for the handshake or the high five. My friend Amy just told us about her hugging experience with her husband's boss. He raised one arm for an apparent high five. She went to slap him some skin and then realized a moment too late that his raised arm was actually preparing for a hug. This terribly awkward moment could be avoided if everyone made it clear nice and early that they are planning a hug.
When I first met the guy my friend Christy had just started dating, we had a classic awkward goodbye. I will very rarely initiate a hug. However, I knew how much Christy liked Andrew (she later married him) and I was so excited about him possibly being "the one" that I went in for the hug. But I went a little too late. He went for the handshake. In hindsight, that was the socially appropriate goodbye. To make matters worse, I then quickly switched hand positions to accommodate his handshake while he simultaneously switched for the hug. This awkward maneuver could have easily been avoided if I had raised my arms a bit earlier.
* Make it clear what TYPE of hug you're initiating and make sure it's appropriate. I don't need a bear hug from a new acquaintance. Nor do I expect a side hug from a long time friend. However, sometimes it is unclear what type of hug is appropriate. In these grey areas, eliminate awkwardness by positioning your body in a manner which clearly communicates to your hugging partner what you expect. Example: young girl (me) hugging her pastor. I know the family quite well but I never know what is appropriate and always let him dictate the contact. We currently alternate between firm handshakes, awkward side hugs, and occasional full frontal hugs where a wide gulf separates us and the only contact is our arms patting each others backs. It's awesome. And although it's always somewhat awkward, it could be much worse if he didn't always clarify what type of contact he was initiating.
I'm awkward enough as it is. Can we please just agree to follow these guidelines and save everyone the confusion associated with body bumping?