Allow me to begin with a confession: I hate the one-armed hug, the side hug, and the distant-hug-paired-with-the-equally-awkward-multiple-shoulder-pats. You will rarely IF EVER receive one of these hugs from me. And if you have in the past, I apologize. I assure you I felt horrible long after we parted ways.
I’ve been a hugger for as long as I can remember, and come from a long line of people who hug relatives, friends, neighbors, clerks at the grocery store, nurses at the doctor’s office, bartenders, vet techs, hair stylists. You get the idea. I dole out hugs on a daily basis to close friends, old friends, new friends, co-workers – and yes, sometimes complete strangers.
Hugs are my currency, and I use them at will daily. My hugs involve both arms and, if I am fairly certain you won’t freak out, pull you in close. If I’m going to take the few seconds out of my day to create a meaningful moment with you, I’m darn sure to make it count. Hugging in any way less than that just doesn’t seem worth the effort.
I want my hugs to convey any combination of the following sentiments:
I see you.
You are hilarious!
You are too kind.
You are welcome.
You are such a special person to me.
I’m so sorry that happened to you.
I prayed for you today.
I love you.
You are such a good dog! (Reserved exclusively for Barley and Teddy.)
I recently exchanged hugs with a good friend rather quickly, and in the flurry of our surroundings I didn’t deposit the three heavy bags weighing down my right arm. I was too caught up in the moment and just wasn’t thinking. (Forgive me.) So I went in with the one-armed hug using my left arm (one of the worst!) but attempted to counteract my unintentional misstep for holding the hug a heartbeat or two longer than usual. I think it helped.
That’s another important point I want to make about hugs: LET THEM LINGER. A hug can transform another person’s day in ways that words just won’t. And I speak from a cozy space of experience, because I’ve been on the giving end of these kinds of hugs, and the recipient. A too-quick, sporadic hug on my way out the door doesn’t seem worth it. The extra five seconds I spent hugging you won’t make any difference on the rest of what I need to get done that day.
In our Omaha community especially, the hug, at times, looks forced and uncomfortable. Almost staged. I see it far too often, and I cringe. It’s signaling something along the lines of, “We should hug, so it appears our relationship is far more friendly and close than our words or other body language or shared experience actually reveal. To be honest, I don’t even know you well enough to determine whether you’d welcome a hug from me.” And when that happens, it’s all wrong. A million, billion times wrong. Don’t give hugs you don’t mean just because everyone else around you is doing it.
Last night I heard from a friend I haven’t spoken to in at least six or seven years. Her departure from Omaha was abrupt and hurt deeply. But when her message landed in my inbox, after the first few seconds of surprise and even a bit of confusion, my honest-to-God next thought was, I wish she was close enough to hug.
The hug says things the heart wants to, but that the head sometimes prevents. Let the hug do the work. Don’t be afraid to hug when you mean it. Let’s agree to continue giving good hugs – or, at the very least, begin doing so today.