Thanks to this image, my blog is now banned in Mississippi.
I’m getting pretty goddamn sick of hugging. If I could push a button and change one facet of human interaction, it would be to reduce worldwide hugging by about 70%. No, wait – it’d probably be to make people quit posting passive aggressive Facebook updates like “SO SICK OF ALL THIS DRAMA. UGH.” But if I could change two facets of human interaction, it’d be passive aggressive Facebook updates, immediately followed by hugs.
I don’t take issue with the act of hugging itself – in spite of my well documented personal space issues, I still enjoy a good hug between family members, friends, or two dudes after a protracted absence (commonly referred to as a ‘bro grab.’) The reason I want to get rid of hugging is because it’s absolutely out of control now.
Maybe this is just an LA thing, but has anyone else noticed that everybody hugs everybody these days? What used to be an expression of affection between people who knew one another really well has now become just an overly invasive handshake.
I’ve been hugged by people right as they’re introduced to me, before I have any time to ascertain who this person is or if they’re the sort of person I want to wrap my arms around and press against my body. (What if they’re a suicide bomber? How would I know before it’s too late!?) Once, I even got hugged by a manager at a production company after showing up for a job interview. Didn’t even get the job.
It pisses me off because in the past few years I’ve gotten really good at handshakes, to the point that a lot of people compliment me on how firm and reassuring my handshake is. My handshake is so damn good that sometimes I worry it oversells the experience of knowing me – my strong, well-practiced grasp is reminiscent of a go-getting, adventurous salesman who drinks Ketel One at lunch and knows things about horses, not a guy who writes a lengthy anti-hugging manifesto on the Internet.
But if there’s one place that you should oversell yourself, it’s in a first impression. And now that a significant number of the people I’m meeting want to hug me right off the bat I’m kind of at a disadvantage, because I’m not great at hugging.
While handshakes are pretty simple – touch hands, squeeze, let go – hugs are a minefield of variables to overanalyze.
Do I keep my ass pointed awkwardly out and only bring in my upper torso, or is it socially acceptable for my genitalia to be that close to your genitalia before I even know your last name?
Is a one-armed hug acceptable? I usually have a drink in my hand when I’m meeting people and I’m reluctant to risk $9 worth of Old Fashioned by swinging it around behind somebody’s back while I hug them, so I go for the one armed hug – but is that the equivalent of a limp, moist handshake?
How tight do I squeeze, and for how long? A very loose, brief hug seems distant and noncommittal, while a very tight, long hug is attempted murder. A short, tight hug seems like the way personal trainers greet one another at Jamba Juice. A long, loose hug is straight out of Buffalo Bill’s playbook.
When you hug someone, you’re basically saying, Come here – experience me! This is what I smell like, this is what my clothes feel like, and here’s my upper torso so you can tell exactly how flabby I am. A hug turns me into a tactile, sensory experience, and I’d rather not be one of those – at least, not to a complete stranger.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to turn down a hug. No matter how ironclad your reasoning for not wanting to hug somebody, if somebody comes up with their arms out and you say, “No, thank you,” you’re going to be the asshole.
Since it’s impossible to take a principled stand on the hug epidemic without looking like an enormous tool, I’ve been forced to play ball. I now go into most social situations with the grim understanding that I will probably have to hug a few strangers before the night is through.
This is particularly difficult when dating. I’d say roughly 80% of the women in LA want to go for a hug at the start of the evening, while 20% have some trepidation about pressing their body up against a guy they barely know. The 20% who don’t want to be hugged are definitely the ones I have the most in common with, but what drives me up the wall is that I usually only find out that they don’t want to hug me after I’ve tried to hug them and been awkwardly shot down.
I think hugging is amazing in the proper time and place, but much like cupcakes and the word ‘amazing’, it’s being overused to the point that it doesn’t have meaning anymore. What do we have left for affection if you greet your best friend the same way you greet your new mechanic?
Why should we have to pretend that we want to be best friends with everybody we meet? Is it so wrong to meet someone and think, “You know, I’d really rather get to know you before wrapping my arms around you and shoving my entire body up against yours.”
I'm not saying we should be rude - I just wish we could save our affection for the people who really deserve it. I mean, look at England! They've forgone all emotion for years and they're doing just fine.
Truman Capps will immediately forego everything he’s said here if he meets Alison Brie.