Anatomy Of A Hug

Soundtrack, “Hello In There” by John Prine.

Hugging is a strange and awkward gesture. It’s a custom used both as a greeting and a farewell. Somewhere beneath the skin, the bones, the muscle and the surging blood vessels, we share a primal need to reach out to embrace one another. And in doing so, we become totally vulnerable to a huggers intentions. You may be exposing yourself to an emotional pick pocket, or a freeloading groper—not to mention a host of uninvited germs and viruses. There is no escaping a determined hugger, they’ll track you down and then attach themselves to you like a lonely depraved sea urchin.

Arm in arm and cheek to cheek, we appear to fit together as if by design. At birth we go from the womb to a mothers embrace, and as children we are mercilessly hugged by our immediate family, friends and relatives. But, as we grow older such signs of affection become fewer and far between. I’ve noticed that old folks tend to give longer hugs then younger folks. It’s as if they know they have to take full advantage of each hug they’ve been granted. You can see their eyes twinkle as their soul-ness battery is being charged.

If a baby is not held and loved it will fail to thrive. Such physical neglect will cause an infant to slowly wither away and die. In some ways, we humans are very durable and resilient, yet in other ways we are as fragile as gossamer threads.

Our bodies are very personal to us, they’re our fortress, our little vessel we captain throughout life. To splay ones arms open to another is a sign of unspoken trust. To afford someone this form of naive intimacy requires courage and at times a restrained tolerance. Some hugs are like dental appointments, you know its the right thing to do, but it’s a task you’d just as soon get over with as quickly as possible.

I wish I could hug better, but it really isn’t in my style. I freeze up when blitzed by a crazed bear hugging intruder. I feel my body go ridged when a hug is unexpectedly thrust upon me. In truth, I’d rather just give a hand shake or better yet, a knuckle bump then offer up my entire body for a casual squeeze. I don’t much care to be touched unless I feel extremely close to another person.

Some people are serial huggers. This includes those affection starved co-workers who feel compelled to hug you at the office potluck, or the new age neighbor who surprises you on a walk and embraces you as if you were their long lost sibling. Or, how bout the spine cracking dude-hug from that blundering sweat and beer stench-ed “bro”. It eludes me how any woman could find a fumbling, whisker burn of a man-hug, in anyway appealing. Then you have the weird old cologne drenched guy who gives long back rubbing hugs to any female he can stalk, corner and then smother with creepy-ness—-yuk…..

There are several kinds of hugs. There is the limp wimpy ones and then there’s the stern “I mean business” kind of hug. There’s the macho hug where guys grasp hands and bump shoulders, often used to fiend off any speculation of gayness. Grannies and little kids will sometimes slip in a sweet peck on the cheek. Hot chicks get tired of being hugged all the time, so they often discreetly lean into you maintaining their personal space and then making a hasty retreat.

A good hug comes from the heart. I don’t want one of those “have a nice day” hugs, or one of those cold obligated hugs that are offered up at weddings and funerals. A fake hug has a “one night stand” indifference to it. “Hey, here’s my number, maybe we can hug again sometime.” These are self serving desperate hugs that leave you feeling empty and used.

You’ll know a real hug when you’re lucky enough to receive one. They’re soft, warm and yielding, like chocolate melting in your mouth. In fact, once you are done hugging, you feel as if that person has left a little piece of their heart inside yours.

“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” —  Robin Williams

Sometimes the people who act like they don’t need hugs are the ones who need them the most. Even though hugs may be strange, awkward and weird, they convey a lot more than words ever could, I know this because I’m a writer. Words can express ones feelings, thoughts and emotions, but the human touch is nourishment for the heart.

“All humans are fragile, hugs help hold us together……” VU