Why I need a hug and can’t get enough

Have you got a hug today? I have. Someone, somewhere has probably written a thesis on hugs, but I haven’t looked it up. Instead here’s my take on what it’s like to give and receive them.

I absolutely love hugs. Yeah, that coming-closer-together moment when you reach out to someone and then meet for a nanosecond is so special. And the reason is quite simple: I’m still catching up on the ones I missed out on.

Let me explain. After my accident my injuries were so extensive and were mainly in the upper body so my parents couldn’t hug me for a long time. When I left hospital after 2.5 years I then began a series of trips to Dublin for many operations, and for long periods I never got those hugs and kisses youngsters get when they’re growing up. And then there was my self-imposed isolation which meant I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 29. Very few opportunities for hugs or kisses there. So I am playing catch up on missed hugs.

Trish obviously hugs me, my 20-something daughter is never shy about hugging and kissing dad (but she’s in London now), and there are a few female friends who will never bat an eyelid when they see me but simply embrace me. Which is lovely. There’s nothing quite like a friendly or loving hug. It says ‘I think you’re great’. And really, I’d hug everyone if given the chance, or at least those I know. A hug is a sign of friendship and life affirming. It says ‘you matter to me’. And isn’t that what we’d all love? For us to matter and be part of others lives?

There is a sort of code about hugs. Girls often hug each other. I think it’s endearing and cute. You won’t see guys do that. Outside Ireland males are somewhat better than their Irish counterparts who tend to just shake hands. And then there’s the contact. A hug between friends of the opposite sex shouldn’t last too long – say a second – or you risk earning a reputation. It makes the other person uncomfortable. And we don’t want that. Especially if we want hugs again!

There are certain boundaries, of course. A male meeting a female for the first time should shakes hands. I once met a female friend who I hadn’t seen in years, but was still friendly with on social media. So when I met her again at a book launch I launched myself into a hug and was met half way through the, eh, manoeuvre, by an outstretched hand. Very embarrassing. So, be wary before you make your move.

If I know someone really well and I know she’s comfortable with it, then I’ll hug her and kiss her cheek. Knowing those boundaries though is essential. And I believe I’m getting the hang of it now. But practice makes perfect, and I could do with plenty more.

So, what I’m really saying is if you meet me don’t just give me a handshake, hug me. And throw all those guidelines I listed aside and make it a big hug. And it would be great if you all formed an orderly queue and you’ll get your turn. Next!

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