True confession: I am a hugger. There, I said it. It is out in the open.
This has become a hot topic in the “#MeToo” era. Politicians ranging all the way to our nation’s highest office (and those who aspire to it) have been flagged for various alleged incidents of grabbing, hugging, kissing, snuggling, and touching.
There are only two sides to the hugging debate. Pro-huggers will react to this by saying, “Well, good for you! There’s nothing better than a good hug!”
Anti-huggers are more likely to say, “Ewww, creepy.”
I cannot explain why I am a hugger. Maybe I got a lot of hugs when I was little. I am an equal opportunity hugger. Young, old, male, female. Watch out. If you’re in my zip code, you might get hugged.
I hug my wife, of course. I hug my adult sons, and thankfully, they hug back. I hug my friends and co-workers when they have accomplished something, or when they just need a little encouragement. I hug total strangers who say nice things about my work. Hugs can console, and they can congratulate.
However, I don’t hug as many people as I once did. Not everyone wants a hug, and not everyone likes hugs.
I have two co-workers who are among the friendliest, hardest-working folks I know. However, they have made it clear: they reside in a no-hug zone. They consider a hug to be an invasion of their personal space. One is male, and I will often tell him he deserves a hug. He smiles, and expresses his appreciation that I didn’t cross the boundary.
Another is female. “I’ve just never been a hugger,” she said. “If I let you hug me, what’s next?” For her, hugs are off-limits, and she politely lets you know.
The hugging process can be awkward. In my efforts to be politically correct, I might approach a woman I rarely see, and offer a handshake. Sometimes that gesture is accepted graciously. But what if she expects a hug, and is insulted when one is not given? She will say, “What? I don’t get a hug?” That leaves me feeling like a jerk, because truth be told, I want a hug too. I just wasn’t sure the feeling was mutual. Of course, I’ve been on the other end of that quandary too: expecting a hug, and then settling for a handshake. It is a letdown.
You have surely noticed the different types of hugs. We hug a friend or relative like we mean it: a full-bodied, affectionate hug. For a more casual acquaintance, there’s the neck-hug. For someone you don’t know that well, there’s the side-hug. Our “guy” friends get the bro-hug. The most embarrassing hug is the head-knock. Neither side is sure, so in the midst of all the clumsiness, while trying to decide between the full-body, the neck-hug, or the side-hug, your head collides with the other person’s noggin, creating a massive headache for both.
Much like a handshake, your fellow hugger can either commit to the hug, or leave you limp. (And there’s nothing worse than a limp handshake). Most people know how to hug appropriately. Firm, yet gentle. Brief, yet meaningful. Still, there are potential surprises. One of my most memorable hugs happened a few years ago. On the scene of a news story, an attractive young reporter from a competing station greeted me warmly. I barely knew her, but soon became very familiar with her. As I offered my hand, she pulled me in for a bone-crushing hug. She was about half my size, but mercy, she was strong. That’s when I learned the meaning of the expression, “She took my breath away.” When I regained consciousness, I vowed I would be ready for her in the future. There would be no more sneak attack hugs.
My wife had a similar experience in her reporting days. A high-ranking elected official would grab her, and darn near crush her ribs. After a few of those bone-breakers, she learned to head the other way when she saw him coming.
My grandfather Floyd Carroll was widely known as a hugger. He lived quite well until the ripe age of 94. He was cooking, driving, and hugging until the day he took an afternoon nap and died. Maybe hugging kept him young.
I asked my grandmother if she was offended that “Pap” hugged the ladies. She paused and said, “No, he’s like that old dog out there. He likes to chase cars, but if he caught one he wouldn’t know how to drive it.”
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” a collection of his best stories. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or firstname.lastname@example.org