The Persona of Hugs



Updated: 2009-August-14 

Update 2009-August-14. My website has a way of tracking which of my writings is actually searched for and read and I have been amazed the number of times "The Persona of Hugs" has been accessed. Apparently I am not the only one that suffers confusion about this human interaction.

Since my initial effort in 2005, I have had time to flesh out my thoughts and thus have now added and subtracted from the original. Hope it helps.





Hugs. Everyone seems to know how to “give” or “receive” a hug or so it seems as nobody ever talks about hugs and I cannot remember any schooling on it but I seem to be confused about the whole subject.  What?  Why?  Is not a hug, just a hug?  Well, it does not seem that straight forward to me. 


Perhaps if one grew up in a family, which was “touchy-feely”, as the saying goes, one might naturally learn one’s way around hugs but unfortunately that was not the case for me. And so, now, at my age, I face trying to sort out all the different kinds of hugs there are and actually get my body to provide the right hug at the right time.  Body language I guess, the hug, the ultimate body language.


When I used to give public speeches I always seem to have a different persona for every speech: in one speech, I would be a preacher, in another a professor and still another, some aw-shucks homeboy and so on.  Perhaps if I had continued to give speeches I would have settled into one persona I was really comfortable with and fit me, but I didn’t.  Hugs sort of remind me of those speeches, as it seems to me, that hugs have personas to them.


Questions.  When is it legal to give a hug?  I do not want to make the other person uncomfortable. How does one tell, perceive, that the other person is receptive to a hug?  Does one always say, “Let me give you a hug.” before giving a hug?  How long is a hug supposed to last?  How long is a hug held before it can be considered too long?  What does “too long” mean?  How tight does one hold the other person?  Who ends the embrace, hug, first and does pulling away first, convey anything?  Oh, why am I so ignorant of these matters?


A hug: the arms of 2 or more people wrapped around each other (3 or more people does not bother me as that is more like a rugby team preparing for a kickoff and not all that personal).  What is so hard or difficult about that?  Well, let me see, first there is the close personal contact, the arm wrapping.  Never have had any problem with handshaking although sometimes it is hard to tell how hard you are holding, squeezing the man or woman’s hand and I was told as a kid, grip tight, like a man.  But a hug is more up close and personal, an embrace with arms around another person and I think I am just plain uncomfortable with the embrace.


Now when it comes to hugs between men, the “rules” seem pretty simply.  Men do not in general hug each other.  For men, the handshake is sufficient in just about all situations although I seems to me, I have observed that hugs between men are legal when the men are father and son, brothers or special relatives or when the men are very, very close friends and a greeting stronger than a handshake is warranted.  In this case, the hug is always strong, manly and tight.  It can last anywhere from short to long and it does not matter who releases from the embrace first.


Hugs between men are also possible in the form of a condolence but only when the receiver of the hug is well known or a relative and the condolence hug is short in duration and light in intensity or embrace strength.  Hugs also seem legal between men when one is congratulating another on some accomplishment or in the case of heart-felt gratitude, but again, the hug must be short and strong and the giver of the hug pulls out of the hug first.  In the end, a handshake is always the “hug” of choice for men. 


Hugs between Women.  Since I am a man, I cannot say much about this body language combination but it has been my observation that hugs between women do not carry much, if any meaning and seem acceptable between any 2 woman for any occasion at all.  I could be wrong though.


I guess the real problem I have with hugs is when I hug a woman.  In my brain, which scientists like to call a neural network, I think embrace is strongly linked, networked to the sexual.  Perhaps, since I was not hugged all that much as a kid, I link any embrace of a woman is linked to all my experiences, which came when I started dating woman.  So there must be really strong memories which say an embrace is before a kiss, which is before, well, you know.  The point being, that according to the neural network people, every embrace is going to trigger memories, thoughts, feelings and other, all related to sexual.  I do not want it to, but there it is.  I wonder if it is so for you as well?  I wonder if this holds true for woman as well when they hug a man?  With enough non-sexual hugging of woman, can a man get balance out his hugging network so it is not dominated by the sexual embrace?  I certainly hope so, think so.


The hug between a man and a woman seems to come in several different flavors.  First of all there is the sexual and cannot be ignored.  Certainly there is a special chemistry to a man and woman embracing, no matter if it eventually leads to love making or not and thus, I think every time a man and woman embrace, they must be aware of the sexual aspect to it and not let that aspect dominate the hug when other conveyances are intended. 



(Unfinished….you do the rest…..)



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