Hugs

14 09 2009

Jon at SCL recently put up an amusing post about hugs. and I am going to voice some of my own, less amusing thoughts here.

When I was growing up, hugs among my peers were not that common.  I would hug my friends at the end of camp, my family on significant days, and other people I had not seen for a while or would not be seeing for a while.  I suppose I could just assume that my childhood was based on some Baby Boomer tradition of a man keeping his distance, but I prefer to think that I was raised fairly normally in this regard.  Hugs are something very special.  Really, I prefer the term “embrace” as it carries a bit more weighty of a connotation.  Because that is what you are doing.  You are embracing someone with your body, and they are (or should be) returning it.

Hugs today rarely carry this weight.

In college, I saw (and reluctantly engaged in, on a few occasions) hugs occurring all over the place.  People would greet others with hugs when they happened to walk by between classes, when they met to study, when they saw each other in chapel, and so forth.  I got so sick of being coerced into returning hugs that I tried to develop an anti-hug demeanor:  Arms crossed, one foot in front of the other, body slightly askew from the person whom I was facing.  It communicates a sense of haste and business that tends to ward off the guy huggers, but I have yet to come up with a foolproof defense against the overzealous females.  (Please make jokes now)

Ok, yes, I can hear you.  “You are a cold, heartless !#!@$@# who has no affection for his friends.  I think hugs are great!  We should hug more people all the time! It’s a great way to get closer to each other, and I think it’s something we should make more of an effort to do!  Aren’t we supposed to great each other ‘with a holy kiss’ anyway?  What’s your problem with any sort of intimacy with your friends?”  -Hugger in Houston

Hugger,

You are the type of person I am trying to avoid touching.  Can I be blunt?  No?  Too bad.

I believe that a lot of people (Especially peopl in the 14-25 age range) use hugs to gain a false sense of intimacy with their friends.  While I’ve heard some people say that this is mostly true only in women, who naturally seek intimacy with their friends, and that men are merely following their lust for physical companionship,  I don’t believe so.  I think men and women like hugging everything in sight because it, their eyes, represents a level of intimacy that humans naturally desire.  As the stigma about physical contact in our culture are quickly wearing away, hugs have rushed in to fill the gap as a sort of innocent way of forming this bond.  Embracing someone is  something that should be reserved for people you love.  Pressing your body to theirs should signify that you see them as part of yourself.  Family, very close friends (and even these, only on select occasions) and lovers are the only ones who should be making this bold statement.  I don’t want to avoid hugging everyone because I don’t like everyone; rather, I want to avoid hugging everyone I like because of the few people that I love. I realize that this definition of love can make us uncomfortable, and that guys often cannot say this to each other in today’s hyper-sexual climate without incurring derision.  I want my embraces to communicate the love of Christ to those I care for.  Why do we need to dilute something as wonderful as a “hug” (you know I’m serious because I’m putting quotes around real words) just to pretend that we’re close to everyone in our lives?  I realize that some people may feel awkward not hugging someone they consider a friend, but here is the crux of my argument:  Friendship should be reinforced by actions for the other person instead of actions to each other.  Thisis not to say that one should never hug a friend or “buddy” who is in real need of consolation or love at the time, but simply that if one cannot feel close to a friend without hugging them, then you are probably nowhere near close enough to them to warrant a hug in the first place.  My philosophy of affection between casual friends is that if we can demonstrate care and love for each other before we begin to show our love in actions to each other, then such affection will carry with it the weight of true care and love rather than manufactured and hollow intimacy.

And hey, that holy kiss thing?  I’d much rather peck someone on the cheek than I would squish my body up against theirs.  I can gargle some mouthwash any time of day, but doing laundry costs $1.75 at this apartment.

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