Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hugs: the Dark Side

Did you ever get hugged by someone who pulled you off balance so your face mashed into their coat and you couldn't breathe? It's hard to get enough leverage to pull away when you're bent forward at the waist and mashed into a shoulder. If the hugger is more than 12 inches taller than the huggee, the huggee is bent backward at the waist and lifted off the floor. Again, no leverage for the huggee. The hugger is in control. Is this benign? Only if you're a small child and your parents are doing the hugging. Even then, it's not always pleasant or benign.

Some huggers seem to have gone to anaconda training school, and appear willing to crush the life out of you by breaking your ribs. Sometimes the hugs go on so long you begin to lose consciousness, which can be a good thing. If you lose consciousness, you'll slide to the floor,  some officious person will shout  "Stand Back!", and eventually you'll begin to breathe again. If the hug was an overenthusiastic greeting, it was a dud.

How about the hugs that are preceded by a squealed and drawn out Hi? They're usually sung in a dying fall, in unison, by females who haven't seen each other for awhile. What kind of tradition is this? Where did it come from? Why are they doing it in my hearing? I can clean out my own earwax, thank you. It's the sound made as Wile E. Coyote falls off cliffs, on the way to crashing.    

There are hugs as power plays. If a young man is doing the hugging, often he uses it as an excuse to feel the girl's breasts or rump. And women are not entirely innocent, either. I've seen women patting male behinds as part of a hug. 

There are touch-me-not hugs where both participants to bend toward each other and touch shoulders. Upper chests may also be involved. There is certainly no contact below the waist. These hugs are usually brief, and appear to be just a matter of form.

I'm not convinced it's appropriate to offer a hug after resolving a minor argument in the workplace.  If I were 3 and had skinned my knee, a hug might be reassuring.  In the workplace? I'd sooner kiss a toad. 

Now people are using the word "hugs" as a closing salutation, instead of very truly yours, another polite lie. It's quick, breezy, dismissive, and probably insincere.

I don't think there's any need to call out the political correctness police on this one. Still, please consider that the word "hugs" on its own  may not be the warm and gracious comment you may have meant it to be. To some people, an offer to hug is an active threat.