Antique Crazy, Mildly Amusing

To Hug Or Not To Hug…

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.

56 thoughts on “To Hug Or Not To Hug…

  1. OK, I often read your blog and am VERY amused, but this is the first time that I have LITERALLY laughed out loud…picturing the approach of “two sumo wrestlers” ready to take to the mat…too hilarious.
    Thanks for making me laugh!

  2. I’m a lurker… but I must comment… because I am a kiss offender… I come from Australia, and EVERY time I go home for a visit I come home and kiss my father in law… EVERY TIME!! Since I apparently am never going to learn, I hope he is getting used to it! 🙂

    Great post.

  3. At dinner with friends we came to find out that the husband is a hugger-hater as well. We were so shocked because he was saying that he only hugs his wife and kids. Not his sisters or mom and NOT EVER his dad. He gave us a classic one-liner that my husband is determined to use in his make-believe
    t-shirt business.

    Here’s the concept: the shirt has two people hugging in the crossed-out circle and beneath the caption reads: “Huggin’ is Creepy”. We’ll have to give credit to the friend because this is his motto afterall. I’ll be sure to send one your way 🙂

  4. I totally understand the awkwardness of hugging. I am not a big hugger of people outside my family either! I’m glad I’m not alone! 🙂

  5. Oh my, that is SO me. I’m very uncomfortable with people I don’t know touching me in any way. I don’t even like to get massages, though I will tolerate a pedicure, just barely.

    I think the hugging is a Southern thing. I never did this when I lived in WI, and I don’t remember my mother and father doing it with anybody other than close relatives. Whenever I encounter a non-hugger, it’s almost a sure bet he or she was raised elsewhere.

    Been in the situations you describe many times. Ack.

  6. LOL! If you REALLY want to be confused, try moving in circles that are a mix of French, Arab Muslim, and Mauritanians. French do the air-kiss on both cheeks with everyone; Muslims kiss woman-to-woman and men-to-men but shake hands with the opposite sex; Mauritanians kiss woman-to-woman and men-to-men but DON’T TOUCH AT ALL between the sexes and it’s NAUGHTY to shake hands. Phew! You must get this right or offend people. BUT, just to keep it interesting, some people have traveled so are trying to adapt to YOU so you never know what to expect or what that proferred hand might signify.
    I’ll never forget, after spending 2 1/2 years here remembering NOT to shake men’s hands (which is sort of like announcing I’m a hooker), going to France and visiting a church where all the men were kissing me afterwards. I thought my brain would explode.
    Sorry to leave such a long comment. Enjoying your blog as always.

  7. HA! I had a misdirected holiday party kiss from the husband’s boss this year…not on the lips, thankfully, but I thought he was trying to tell me something in my ear. So he kissed my ear. Because he wasn’t kissing anyone else and he was a little tipsy – I didn’t know what he was up to. Ear kissing is a little more intimate than I like to get with people that I’m, well, not intimate with. 🙂

    Bowing, definitely bowing is the way to go.

  8. OMG! I can’t believe I didn’t think to blog about this one. I find this SO AWKWARD!!! I do hate the social kiss. Blech. And the hug, I’m getting used to it, but still. EW. And, I am very, er, well endowed. Which makes the whole social hug thing very complicated. I try to hug like a tent, you know, only making contact with arms to shoulders, but not allowing the, um, boobage to make contact. Very, very awkward indeed. Great post! And as a fellow germophobe, I’m all about introducing bowing to American society. Or let’s bring the bow & curtsy back. Thanks for the laugh!

  9. Hugs don’t bother me, provided good hygiene is in use. What DOES bother me is handshaking with men who don’t see the line between FIRM and BONECRUSHING. On more than one occasion I have instinctively yelped while snatching my hand back. Good grief!

    And in regards to our pre-dinner hug the other night, all I can say is Shalee made me do it. 🙂

  10. Another fellow germophobe here. I don’t like hugging or handshaking unless it’s with close family members. Who knows where those hands and bodies have been?

    I think hugging is special and should be reserved for people you love!

  11. We’re shakers here. I think it’s because part of the manners that are drilled into you early involve handshake protocol– man does not offer hand if woman does not offer it 1st, imptce of eye contact and firm handshake, etc.

    After all that energy spent on learning the shake, I don’t think I could teach my boys proper hugging and kissing!

  12. I am glad to know I am not the only one. It is SO awkward whe you don’t know what to expect. I was at a New Year’s Eve party several year’s ago where one of the husbands kissed all the women on the lips. I was very uncomfortable to say the least, but I seemed to be the only one. Ugh.

  13. *Awesome* post! I’m still getting the willies just thinking about it!

    I’m great with the quick no-body, shoulders-touch hug, followed by a cleansing thump-thump on the back.

    Begrudgingly, I’ve even learned to tolerate the cheek-to-cheek fake kiss ’cause my in-laws are kissers.

    Other than that, I prefer to reserve hugs for *close* (immediate) family members.

  14. I was never a hugger, but my in-laws and almost all my husband’s friends are, so I’ve adopted the behavior as well. But just with them. I hug my mom, but really no one else in my family.

  15. Amen! I hug my husband and my kids all the time, and I guess I’m hugged out, because I don’t feel the compulsion to hug or be hugged by anyone else. I always figured it was just one of my many personal quirks, like how I hate talking on the telephone. The worst is getting hugged after the mortifying experience of bursting into tears in public (fortunately, this rarely happens any longer since I passed out of puberty a millenia ago…) But still… if you catch me with my mascara running down my face and settling into the fine lines that Oil of Olay had promised to erase, just hand me a tissue and keep moving…

  16. Oh how I can relate. Oh the countless awkward greetings I’ve encountered. I’ve now taken to attending and leaving all social gatherings carrying large objects in my hands to avoid the kiss/hug/handshake debacle.

  17. Good! I’m not the only one who really doesn’t like to hug. Apparently I’ve been that way since I was a baby. My mom called me her “little prickly-pear cactus.” I’ll make a few allowances for relatives and friends who have moved away, but I really prefer a huge bubble of personal space.

  18. Personally I prefer a fake ‘hug’ or a tip of the head and a big “hello!” and smile… to a hand shake. I despise hand shakes. 🙂

  19. Okay so I truly enjoy every one of your posts, which is really quite a compliment, I have such high standards and all. But this is my favorite of all time. I LOVE THIS. And how perfectly and humorously you peg the entire social mess those who wish they were French are creating. Thanks for the thoroughly enjoyable laugh and the early morning laugh out louds.

  20. You bloggers and your hang-ups. Note to self: Shalee hugs, AM does not. HolyMama hates winkers (or is it wankers?). It doesn’t really matter, I suppose. I have the memory of a gnat so next time you see me, run for the hills.

  21. Oooo… I bet you were sorry to see me coming last October. I’m such a hugger! And it IS a Southern thing. I grew up with it. Plus, I figure that life is too short to not show a little love.

    And I’m SO keeping track to that I can freak everyone out the next time we meet… You wanna put me up again, AM?

    And yeah, I did put Jeana up to it. Actually I demanded it or else I would come down there and do it myself. She took the lesser of two evils…

  22. LOL, yeah social hugging is awkward. I only like hugging family, some friends it’s ok, but beyond that is just weird. I don’t think I’ve come across the social kiss yet though, yuck!

  23. I LOVED this post! I am all for personal space. No social kiss encounters for me…thank goodness! I dont like but will tolerate the hugs but I draw the line at kisses! Now I have a new worry to add to the list of things to worry about that I cannot change!

  24. I had to laugh when I read this! My daughter is SO much like you. She is a loving and caring person but rarely likes to be hugged. I’ve compared her to the black and white cat that tries to run away from Pepe Le Pew (sp?). She got married a little over a year ago and has complained about this guy at their church giving these squeezing tight, up-against-him hugs. She and my new son-in-law think this guy just likes to get a little too close to the young ladies (he’s very selective about who gets these tight hugs) so they leave the church out another door from where this guy is. Sad, isn’t it? This really caused her major stress because she didn’t like it AT ALL. I think hugging should be for family and very good friends…..only if you know they don’t mind.

  25. I hate the huggy thing….unless its very close friends or family…I mean come on…even if I met you I wouldnt attack and hug….I would smile from a distance and keep my germ x within reach….LOL!

  26. I loved this post… I had to laugh out loud because one of my dear friends (Sweet Potato Queens, we call ourselves) is so not into this huggy kissy thing. I couldn’t wait to share this with her.. I do hope it was ok? oops… but we are forever laughing at her… begging for hugs from her…
    Yes, I agree with one of the comments.. it is maybe a southern thing, I think.. “come here darlin and give me a hug”….
    Great blogsite.
    Georgia Peach

  27. Loved this post! Just this week I had someone tell me I had a warm heart, but did not give warm hugs. Well, there is a reason for that. I don’t like to hug people outside of my own family. I also hate the social kiss thing. Handshakes? Germaphobe that I am, I prefer just to nod and smile. I might send a hand written note to someone after I meet them, but I’m not jumping right in to the hugging thing. Thanks for the post. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has boundaries!

  28. Not a kisser. . .am a hugger. . .I went to a tiny Christian university and the hug was like water there–everybody did it–of course it helps when there are only 3,000 people on campus and you know half of ’em. The whole kiss thing makes me a bit uncomfortable–I haven’t run into many kissers.

    But for heaven’s sake, if you’re gonna shake a hand, give me your ENTIRE hand–not just your fingers, not just your palm, and not some floppy eel shake–EEEEWWWWWWWW–if that’s the best you can do, then just give me hug.

    (By the way–I have NO doubt that you can handshake with the best of ’em–the “you” in the above paragraph is directed to the general population.)

  29. I’m with you. Kinda. I’m actually ok with the hugging bit. It’s the kissing that gets me all squirmy. Too familiar and intimate for me. Ick. Life would be so much easier if we were all hermits, no? *wink*

  30. I’m totally with you. I once had a misdirected kiss from a great-Aunt who sported a moustache. I think I threw up a little in my mouth.

    At church, after shaking hands, embarrassingly, my husband and I have a handy-wipe ready to descreetly disinfect ourselves. Lately, I’ve avoided that portion of the service altogether by hanging out in the nursery to settle Junior in.

  31. I guess I’m a hugger. I come from a long line of “southerners” and we all hug, so it’s not uncommon for us to hug ya when we see you! 🙂
    Don’t run away, come back! *LOL*

  32. I think you just need a hug I am a hugger. I was not a hugger, could not even hold hands with potential hubby in college. But he brought me to the “dark” side, or should I say the “hug side”…. =)

  33. I’m with you…but I don’t really give or take hugs very easily except from my husband and children–not even my parents or siblings. My younger sister, now, she’s a hugger. We’ll do things together with friends, and when we all part, she hugs everyone but me, even though I am her sister. She just knows I’m not a hugger. 🙂

  34. Several of my readers suggested I might enjoy your sense o’ humor and writing style. They were right. Glad I stopped in…and also glad I hung around after and read the comments. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know the origin of the “side” hug or where to get a line on those “Huggin’ is Creepy” tees. 😉

    I like your party Antique Mommy. I’m tempted to sign off with an X, but no, I really don’t know you that well – and even if I did, I’m not an X girl either.

    Ciao for now…

  35. I don’t mind the hugging and handshaking, per se, but the hard part IS figuring out the other person’s expectations. I have one neighbor whose family is from Europe (Germany or Switzerland, I think), and she does the cheek-kiss thing. I definitely hug my family, sometimes my in-laws, and close friends. If I can’t figure them out, I try to wait for some sort of sign. Other than that, I just extend my hand first (or not, if I don’t feel like it).

  36. There is also an added complexity to the European cheek-kiss. Some cultures do two, and some do three. The first time we visited my husband’s “second parents” (his high school exchange-student parents) in the Netherlands, his “mom” warned me, took a firm grip on my shoulders, and away we went…right, left, right. Or was it left, right, left?

  37. Wow, you are a LOT like me!! I am not a hugger or kisser (unless it is with my husband or children only) otherwise, I prefer my personal space. I’ve been told I am a “stiff” hugger! I am also a huge germophobe and always wash my hands after I have been anywhere outside of my house, and make my kids do it too. They roll their eyes about it, but they know I won’t let up until I actually see them wash!!

  38. Bonjour (we’ll skip the French way of double kiss on the cheeks.) I am visiting from the SHARE THE LOVE BLOG AWARDS in which you are a finalist. Congratulations! Your blog and style of writing is wickedly funny! I laughed out loud on this post!
    If ever you should come to France I promise I’ll just wave!

  39. One of the outstanding memories of our trip to France (where we stayed with a family there for a week) was that every time you came and went you kissed each cheek three times. kiss-kiss-kiss-kiss-kiss-kiss. I was always worried I’d miscalculate!!
    Wonderful post – as usual.

  40. Unfortunately for you … I’m a hugger… but … when we met in October, I sort of got the “I’m not a hugger” vibe from you, and funny enough … from Carol! So I hope I was respectful of that (I can’t remember so many little details like that from so far back). Some people are huggers, and some aren’t. It’s what makes the world go around.

    In my case, hugging is a sign of affection, and sadly, I’m affectionate with everyone. Sorry non-huggie people! I’ll try to be more thoughtful.

    Actually, in all honesty, if I’m meeting someone at a restaurant or something like that (or even at church), I will normally just place my hand on their shoulder or arm and give it a gentle squeeze instead of an all-out hug. I think it’s less invasive or “in-your-space/face” yet shows care.

    What are your thoughts on the hand on shoulder, gentle squeeze/pat move?

  41. Another uptight germophobe with personal space issues here. I won my hug-shake standoff with the guy at church, though. He was even coming in with arms wipe open but had to yield to the out-thrust hand about to jab him in the stomach had he not put those arms down. … Really enjoyed the post.

  42. I know this situation. I am from Minnesota at heart. A formal handshake – maybe, is the norm. Then I’ve gone to Mexico where it is custimary to grab a hand and kiss cheeks. One cheek. And I’ve grown accustom to that. But now – I go to MN to visit people and I have on occasion grabbed a hand and offered a cheak – so in sort – forcing a cheek kissing. Weird. So then I have often appologiezed . . um, sorry for eliciting your kiss . . .um it’s what we do in Mexico . . .um – he he he .

  43. I have been going to go to self help 12 Step programs, for over 20 years. We had great recovery without all these hugs hoisted on us. Close friends might hug but it was always done in a respectful polite way and one could say no thanks. When I turn people down politely now, I get real rude huffy reactions that make me think the potential hugger isn’t all that loving.

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