Please Don’t Touch Me.

Do you ever run into someone you haven’t seen in a while — let’s say at the grocery store, for example. You awkwardly see them and make eye contact. They see you as well. They slowly approach. This is where I freeze. I am paralyzed with fear. Is this person going to try and hug me? It may seem silly to you, but to me, it is my worst nightmare. National Hugging Day is January 21, and for this non-hugger, there is nothing scarier than an entire day of celebrating hugs.

Maybe I am being a tad bit dramatic, but from as long as I could remember, I didn’t like hugs. I would dread house parties when I was in my early 20s. Not because I didn’t like to party (Lord knows I do) but rather because of all the people I was going to be expected to hug upon arriving.

Hugging is weird. Think about it. You get so close to someone and embrace them. Arms wrapping around backs, heads touching, bodies rubbing. It’s just not the most natural action.

Now unfortunately for me, I married a hugger. He often wonders how our worlds came together. (Maybe over our love of house parties?) He is a large, huggable man. He hugs people, so I don’t have to. Friends will extend their hand to shake mine and then go in for a hug with him. He doesn’t think hugging is strange at all. He does, however, think I am.

On the contrary, I love to hug kids. When a child runs up to me, arms out, how could I not?! It makes me feel special and appreciated. Now it is a bit different with my two kids. Let’s call them super-hugger and back-in hugger. My daughter will hug everyone. My son backs into hugs. He turns around, facing away from the intended hugging target and steps back into the person. That’s his hug, just as reluctant as his mother’s. I am one of those moms who believe kids should not be forced to show physical affection.

While hugging is a fine greeting for some, here are a few alternative ways to say hello to people (ahem, like me) that don’t entail rubbing bodies together:

The hearty handshake. With your right arm extended, look the person straight in the eye and smile. If it is your first time meeting them, say their name three times in your head to help you remember. Besides, a good handshake and some solid eye contact are so much more meaningful than an awkward embrace.

The fist-pump. This is a great greeting for a casual introduction or friendly hello. If you choose to add a sound effect after contact, that really adds a bit of flair. (Need help with this one? Check out Baymax in Big Hero 6. He really perfected the fist-pump.)

The high-five (or low-five, whichever you prefer). This is my favorite greeting for children and those young at heart. Feel free to experiment. Maybe your high-five does a 180 and your hands meet again at the bottom? Totally acceptable.

The wave. This is my favorite greeting when with a group of people. A simple raise of the hand in a back-and-forth style accompanied with a nice smile will keep you from getting hugged. Be warned: The wave could easily turn into a handshake, so stay alert.

The chest-bump. Note: This should not be used as the initial greeting for meeting someone new. Both parties should discuss in advance which side your head will lean mid-bump. One would naturally assume your head would fall to the left, but as someone who has had a chest-bump go awry, I will tell you — it is best to pre-plan this maneuver.

In closing, I would just ask that you be kind to those who do not wish to embrace. I have been known to initiate a hug on special occasions, such as births, funerals, birthday parties, and airport arrivals and departures. Does this make me strange? Sure. But we all have our thing. And mine is an amazing handshake.

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