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.