On Hugs: Embracing Ambivalence

I live in a very huggy place. S.O.P. for greeting folks you know is a good, solid hug, and even if a first-time intro miiiiight include only a handshake, by the time you’re saying goodbye to your new acquaintance, welcome back to Hugsville.

This happens to be fine with me. But I can’t help but wonder, what about people for whom hugging is NOT fine? I know a few who, in a group, go along with the hugs, but I can feel that their body isn’t into it.

Why, I ask myself, should it have to be?

Hugs are supposed to be a physical demonstration of mutual affection.

Like this. [Photo by Edward Eyer, courtesy Pexels.]

But if someone’s preference for affection-demonstrating takes other forms than physical;

if, gods forbid, they might not be feeling all that affectionate;

or if they have ANY other reason that’s nobody else’s business why they don’t want someone’s arms wrapped around them in that moment–

shouldn’t they have a right to excuse themselves without being uncomfortable?

I don’t have a specific solution to this situation, except perhaps this: When thinking of hugging someone you’re not sure wants to be hugged…

…use the ancient, tried-and-true handclasp as default.

While clasping, make eye contact.

Use those ol’ windows-to-the-soul to look for clues: encouragement to move into full hug-mode? Or keep it right there?

“Oof…I wish she’d stuck with the handshake!” [Photo by Amanda44, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

What do you guys think?