I am, as you know, continuously striving to be a decent human being and treat fellow members of my species with warmth and respect.
I grew up in Germany, which means hugging hello, with Mediterranean parents, meaning cheek kissing several times per day, on several cheeks, with different starting cheek directions. Today, I live in Australia, where I understand a one-kiss/half-hug combo is the appropriate greeting, and I have mastered over the years.
I don’t know about you, but I find our touchy-feely culture difficult to enjoy on most days.
If you are unlucky enough know me personally, you know that I appreciate a healthy distance; the kissing, sweaty handshaking and pressure to make otherwise physical contact with relative strangers is a difficult thing to adhere to.
When it comes to greetings, I really wish I lived in Japan, where one can bow, or wave, or just smile and it is sufficient to say hello. However, due to my love for bread, cheese and beer, I don’t think I’d be happy living there permanently. (Of course there is beer in Japan, but I am German. Enough said.)
Yet, I understand the need to make an effort in society, so I have a once-a-day hug mission. Once a day, I will give someone a hug. Most people are of course not aware of this and hug me without even appreciating that they are getting the only hug I’ll be giving that day.
I try to reserve my hugs not for greetings, but for when someone truly needs one; for example, because they just had news that emotionally stirred them up – this could be happy or sad. Now of course, I have to make a judgement here. Is the realisation of forgetting your lunch a saddening enough experience to get a hug, when perhaps in 10mins I meet someone who’s lost their job, and I’ll have already wasted my hug on some frivolous sadness.
In addition, I am quite short, so hugging someone very tall can be awkward in the practical sense, and I end up being squished into someone’s chest with limited access to air; this necessarily means that a hug must be short to prevent some sort of undignified suffocation.
But truth be told, some hugs are quite delightful. I appreciate one that has just the right number of seconds, just the right amount of back tapping (though I am not sure how I feel about back rubbing) and one that surrounds me with a whiff of something nice-smelling. I also enjoy happy hugs, perhaps my aversion is predominantly towards the sad kind, or the kinds forced by social etiquette.
Perhaps my favourite people to hug are babies of a good hug size. I don’t mean the really small ones which still have this kind of breakable chicken-neck, I mean the ones that are perhaps just about to start walking and have some control over their own saliva.
They are soft and squeezable, they smell of baby and they giggle. When you feel the hug has come to an end, you don’t even need to make conversation – you simply give them back to whoever made them, without the need to take this relationship any further, and with no hard feelings about the abrupt end to this social interaction.