That is the question.
I have noticed in the last several years, there is disturbing new social trend — hugging. And I don’t think I like it.
That is not to say that I don’t like to be hugged. Okay it is to say that. I have well-defined social boundaries. I’m not a touchy-feely kind of gal. I’m a bit
uptight on the reserved side. I like to be hugged only by people I know and love and only when I’m expecting it. I don’t like any sudden moves.
Truth be told, I don’t even really like to shake hands, being the germophobe that I am, but I know the handshake. I’m comfortable with the handshake. I perfected my handshake back in the 80s when it was the unquestionable protocol for any situation. Anything less was rude, anything more was sexual harassment.
But now, this hugging trend has complicated things because you don’t know what to expect — a shake or a hug?
A few Sundays ago we visited a church and I saw someone that I sort of know, which means that I miraculously remembered his first name. As he walked toward me I panicked. Was he a hugger or a shaker? I couldn’t remember. He drew closer and closer. Hugger or shaker, which was it? A sweat broke out on my brow. He must have been thinking the same thing because we approached each other like two sumo wrestlers taking to the mat. We ended up doing an elaborate hug-shake that resembled some sort square dance. Very weird and very awkward.
And as if figuring out when to hug and when to shake weren’t bad enough, some people have adopted the social kiss. You just thought a misdirected hug was embarrassing. Just wait until you misdirect your puckered up lips.
This actually happened to me once at a holiday party. My date and I took note of the fact that the hostess was a kisser when we saw her saying (kissing) goodbye to guests who were leaving as we were arriving. So then later, as we made our way to the door to leave, we were prepared because we had seen her kiss those people. My date leaned over to drop one on her cheek and for some inexplicable reason, she turned her head just as his lips reached critical mass and he ended up kissing her squarely on the lips. While her husband and I stood there watching, wearing puzzled and appalled expressions. Very weird and very very awkward. She had faked him out. I immediately turned to her husband and pumped his hand like a dry well. Then we got out of there as fast as we could, wishing we’d had a few more drinks so we wouldn’t remember to be embarrassed.
Shaking, hugging, kissing – too many options, too many ways to go wrong, too many ways to embarrass oneself. I think the Japanese have it right – bowing. The perfect option for an uptight germophobe with personal space issues like me.