True confession: I am a hugger. There, I said it. It is out in the open.
There are only two sides to this 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, “Eeewwww.”
I cannot explain why I am a hugger. I don’t remember how it started. Maybe I got a lot of hugs when I was little, and I liked that. 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 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.
But I don’t hug as many people as I once did. Not everybody wants a hug, and not everybody 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 such contact to be an invasion of their personal space. One is male, and on the frequent occasions when he merits more than a pat on the back, I give him a “virtual” hug. I will approach him, fake a hug, and say, “Here’s your virtual 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 firmly lets you know.
The hugging process can be awkward. In my efforts to be more cautious, I will approach a woman I haven’t seen in a while, and offer a handshake. Sometimes that gesture is accepted graciously with no incident. But what if she expects a hug, and is insulted when one is not given? “What? I don’t get a hug?” That leaves me feeling like a jerk, because truth be told, I wanted a hug too. I just wasn’t totally 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 what to do, 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 everyone involved.
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 next time. There would be no more sneak attack hugs.
My wife had a similar experience in her news reporting days. An elected official would darn near crush her ribs when he saw her. 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 died. Maybe hugging kept him young.
When his wife (my grandmother) was alive, I asked her if she was offended that “Pap” was always hugging the ladies. She paused for a moment 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 columns. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or RadioTV2020@yahoo.com.