On a night out in Dublin recently my partner and I bumped into a friend. We chatted with him and his friends for a while. When we left they were standing outside the front door while one of them smoked a cigarette. We did the goodnight chat thing and then I hugged our friend good night. His friend, admittedly quite drunk, tried to hug me back. There was an awkward half embrace which I ended by saying “I’m sorry, I don’t really hug until at least the third friend-date”. There was nothing he could really say in response to that.
I haven’t been a hugger all my life. In my family we don’t hug much. There have never been many long embraces. I remember when I started college one of my friends had to teach me how to hug. It felt awkward. It felt horribly over-intimate and forced. She became one of the few people I hugged and I still have warm memories of her telling me that I was a lovely hugger once you actually got me to give one.
Then when I moved to Scotland to do a course I was surrounded by folk who loved to hug. And I became the non-hugger again. It was too much. Too forced. A year later I discovered 5rhythms and I discovered hugs that came from within me. I met people through my body and I met them through theirs. Words were put aside. There was only the dance and the hugs. When I met a friend in the dance, there was a hug to connect and then a smile and we let go and moved back into our own dance.
If I hug you, I mean it. A handshake is still my normal means of greeting. I hug old friends. I hug some new friends very quickly if it feels right. I hug the people I share ritual with. I hug my niece and my sister. My brother and I sometimes sorta hug. I have been to a few Quaker meetings and after the meeting everyone shakes hands. I like that.
Hugs are wonderful. Hugs are special. Hugs aren’t for everyone.