To hug or not to hug, that is the question

I shook hands with the salesman in the Comet shop today. He’d just thrown two free knobbly plastic balls in with the price of my new tumble dryer.

They would have been a tenner!

“Pardon?” I said “You’re telling me it costs £5 for one plastic ball to rattle and roll around with your laundry to little apparent effect?”

“Oh they do save drying time – and therefore energy,” he explained smiling in an unusually friendly way for a Comet salesman.

Still in shock, I started calculating how much per knobble that would be… 12 knobbles per square inch….how many square inches per ball…. when he gave in and said “Ok I’ll do you a deal…” He was probably afraid it was going to be a long and convoluted calculation, as my maths is pretty ropey.

So he shook my hand, which was just as well as I wouldn’t have wanted him to hug me. It would have been improper to do so. Stranger-hugging is just common assault with the possibility of indecency.

My view is that it’s only ok to routinely hug your friends, although I did have to hug and kiss strangers at the son’s wedding recently but that was ok because they had all washed and smelt nice.

Although I have found that Terrible Awkwardness can result when you discover a friend is an undeclared huggophobe and would much rather a handshake or a fist bump. With those people, it’s best to learn to recognise the subtle signals and respond to them promptly.

When you see them backing off and twitchily glancing around to locate the nearest exit you should realise instantly that your hugging attentions will be unwelcome, so drop any such plans instantly before you feel the knee in the groin.

To be fair, it’s pretty horrid being hugged by someone who is physically repellant. It’s difficult to disguise the instinctive stiffening and waiting for it all to be over, so unless they have Aspergers, in which case they definitely wouldn’t want to touch anyone, they will get the negative vibes loud and clear. Oh wait, yes there is something worse than being hugged by someone physically repellant – it’s being given a slobbery kiss on the mouth by your gran. Revolting, albeit mercifully brief. (My other gran was a hugger, which was fine).

But I think it’s ok to hug your friends, unlike huggophobe Stuart Heritage writing in the Guardian today. The closest his family came to a display of affection was a dead arm, so the thought of his impending wedding and having to be the victim of many hugs was a worry. He attended a hugging workshop with surprising yet not totally convincing, results.

My women friends hug a lot.  They hug “hello” and “goodbye” plus there are other hugs for “oh poor you” or “woo congratulations!” Their hugs are warm yet brief, except when alcohol has been consumed. You could probably draw a graph illustrating how the alcohol/hug duration ratio.

Being 5′ 7” I’ve always thought the best hugs come from those chaps who are taller and broader than I am. My brother gives enormous, warm, calcium-testing hugs. The only problem is that after a good dinner and a couple of glasses of wine he tends to over-extend the duration of hug (see above; i should really have drawn the alcohol/hug duration graph) to the point where I have to fend him off. Or he will go for the repeat hug, as though he’s forgotten the first two.

My two uncles are both fantastic huggers. One is built like Father Christmas and makes me feel petite, which I’m not and the other is tall and bony, but his hugs are lovely and warm and trembly.  It’s like being hugged by the BFG and make me feel he’s properly delighted to see me.

My eldest son is practically a huggophobic so his hugs are technically faultless but very brief while my youngest, who is built similarly to my little bro, gives excellent hugs of just the right duration and warmth.

He was the subject of possibly the most effective hug I have ever seen when he was about four years at the Puffin Book Fair at the Festival Hall on the South Bank in London.

He and his brother had just had all their Roald Dahl books signed by the great man when spoglet caught sight of one of his favourite characters – Spot from the childrens’ books.

He ran towards Spot, who unusually for a dog, was standing and walking about on two legs…. and stopped dead in front of him in awe, realising that Spot was about eight feet tall.

Spot (or more accurately, the person inside the costume) recognised the sudden uncertainty, opened his paws wide in welcome and enveloped son no 2 in the biggest hug in history; so big that he disappeared entirely for at least a minute.

Sproglet emerged pink cheeked and ecstatic and ran back to me excitedly “Muuuuum. Can you buy me a Spot book?”

So the most effective hug in the world turned out to be a marketing hug.

Bah hug-bug.


About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
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21 Responses to To hug or not to hug, that is the question

  1. Darrel Kirby says:

    I am not a hugger, it doesn’t come naturally to me. I wish it did, but it always descends into awkwardness. Perhaps I should try one of those workshops.

    • janh1 says:

      Noooo!!! Trust me, that kind of workshop would do more harm than good. Some woman might give you sexleg!! 😀

      Nothing’s more awkward than me doing the mwah mwah thing. I always go for the side they least expect and some people expect one while others expect two or three. Terrible really. Why don’t they teach these things in schools?

      • Darrel Kirby says:

        Good, I can give the workshop a miss then. The mwah mwah thing definitely needs to stay on the continent. You think you’re going in for a handshake and before you know it someone is noisily kissing the air near your ear – what’s that all about?

      • janh1 says:

        Replying here, because, for some reason there’s no ‘reply’ button beneath your comment. The *mwah mwah* thing is most definitely here, Darrel. 🙂 Personally, I think people could keep their distance and just go “mwah mwah” in the same futile manner that some young people actually ennunciate “LOL” when they are with people miles away from a keyboard!

  2. valzone says:

    I love it when my phone buzzes and I see you’ve written a post, I know its going to be a good read (I’m laying on the bed just now, after a shower, trying to find the energy to go to a BBQ) 🙂 As a family, we do a lot of hugging, the other day, my grandson approached me from behind, enveloped his arms around me, and me being only 5’2, and him at 6’2, he can do some enveloping, I can tell you. He said “do you love me grannie?” “Yes darling” I said. Placing a kiss on the top of my head, he said “put the kettle on then”

  3. janh1 says:

    Aw. That’s such a nice thing to say, Val. I’d give you a hug for that 😀

    LOL – gold star to that boy for a Grade A schmoozing. He will go far. 🙂

  4. IsobelandCat says:

    We never used to hug much, so I think it’s something that has become socially fashionable to some degree. I happily hug my friends and have had to accept that some of my work colleagues think it’s the thing to do on certain occasions. I had a lovely hug from the favourite octogenarian yesterday. I do dislike complete strangers enfolding me in their arms, and those hugs given by some people for their needs rather than mine.
    I think I may have more bah humhug than you!

  5. janh1 says:

    🙂 Hi Isobel. Yes to a great extent, it all depends… like your spontaneous hug from your favourite octogenarian! Bah humhug is the better phrase 🙂

  6. IsobelandCat says:

    Actually I misread you; I thought that was what you had written!

  7. I wonder if he will continue to embrace hugging (pun intended!)?

    I’m a choosy hugger. I feel very awkward with strangers, and would be quite happy with a handshake, but close friends get a hug. Although when I’ve had a few drinks I go into hug overdrive.

    I don’t really do the mwah, mwah thing, but I have come across it with friends (and friends of friends) in London. I have re-educated them to the ways of a hug.

    • janh1 says:

      Puntastic, Sophie! 😉 Hah! Hug overdrive – just like the ladies I know.

      Good move. A hug is *much* more worthwhile than the air ‘mwah mwah’ which doesn’t involve any bodily contact.

  8. John Mackie says:

    Hi janh1

    Popping in to say that I still hunt out and enjoy your blogs, wherever you choose to post them.

    Never used to be a hugger until I met and married Mrs M. In truth, I don’t recall hugging my mother or father once I had grown to adult estate. Familial kissing was in pretty short supply at one time as well except, of course, for the maiden aunts who used to insist on a smacker before handing over the cash. Long ago and far away.

    Being an artiste, Mrs M introduced me to a whole new world of hugging and cheek-brushing and I am now comfortable with it. Usually only when close friends, family or loss of a loved one are involved

    I have had the odd less comfortable experience. In about 1986, one of Mrs M’s closest friends in the Embra Festival Chorus left to start a new life in Canada. Over the years that I knew him, I came to like him a lot too, despite the fact that he marched to a very different sexual drum from myself. So, I went to his farewell party with Mrs M.

    The company was overwhelmingly male, all of whom were in his Drum Corps rather than mine. At the end of the evening we all lined up to say goodbye to him. I did kiss him goodbye but only because I knew that it mattered to Mrs M, to him and just a wee bit to me.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I was the only male kiss he had that night which did not involve tongues.

    Whatever, see you sometime and thank you for all the enjoyment which your posts give me.

  9. janh1 says:

    Greetings John! How good to see you 🙂 Oh yes, artistes have to observe the latest in greetings etiquette. We go to the Everyman Theatre in Chelters a fair bit (due to re-open soon after a major re-furb) and you can tell the great and good by the double mwahs and shoulder clutchings.

    Laughing here, as I can imagine you lining up and being more than a little preoccupied with the possibility of an enthusiastic tongue tennis farewell. Mercifully spared. 🙂

    Do come back when you can. You could even subscribe! I don’t even have a paywall 🙂
    Take care Mr M. 🙂

  10. IsobelandCat says:

    I like mwah mwah. You don’t actually have to kiss, so it can be a nice, ironic distance thing.
    OK. I’ll tell my therapist…

    • janh1 says:

      🙂 Absolutely – as I said to Darrel, dispense with the proximity to ear and just mouth it, with feeling, obviously, from a distance! So very Ab Fab (which, incidentally, is returning this autumn) 🙂

  11. Pseu says:

    You touched a raw nerve here Jan!
    My Ma has a partner and they visited yesterday – I have an instinctive reaction to him, within me which is uncontrolable, and I spend my time in his company with my radar out in case he comes close. Rather puts the kibosh on an occasion with him there.

    I agree hugs can be so special. My aunt and uncle are special huggers- I feel like a really wanted guest when I visit them 🙂

  12. janh1 says:

    Greetings Pseu! 🙂 Oh, no mwah, mwah there, then. I’m confident you could immobilise him in an arm-lock, should the need arise.

    Pleased to hear we have similarly warm and special uncles and aunts!

    • Pseu says:

      I have just popped over and see I have missed several blogs, so had hit the subscribe, so I won’t in future – I’ll be back to read later!

  13. janh1 says:

    Sooper! 🙂 It’ll be a bit quiet for a bit. Going for a weekend in Weymouth with MIL.Will be having mostly quiet, gentle strolls but if desperate I might be seen streaking across the sand and plunging into the sea for invigorating early swims! On the other hand, perhaps not.

    “I’m swimming in the rain, just swimming in the rain… what a glorious feeling I’m h.. well that might be taking things a bit far.

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