Pet peeve: promiscuous hugging

Last week’s commentary in the Strib, Hugs all around: A trend I can’t quite embrace (originally from the Washington Post, Bubba Watson and the hug epidemic) resonated with me.

Master's huggingWhen did hugs become compulsory? You meet someone for the first time, you shake her hand. You meet her a second time, and she expects a hug. Sometimes she expects the hug before the first meeting is over…

In standoffs, the person who wants a hug always wins. If you really want to avoid hugs, the only way is to carry around something large and unwieldy at all times… When did the good old-fashioned handshake become a sign of standoffishness, rather than a sign of "hello, I have just met you, and I am unarmed"?

I enthusiastically hug my wife and grown kids. I hug my relatives. I hug friends at those life events that are special: weddings, funerals, graduations, etc.  For me, hugging has an intimacy to it that I want to retain.  So when others treat it like a handshake, I cringe.

obama-fist-bump V54-665989
Thanks to the Obamas and Michelangelo, I’ve learned a defensive maneuver that often works when I sense that a promiscuous hug is imminent: the fist bump


  1. Phil Poyner said:

    Griff, I grew up in Latin America; a place where “hugging as part of the greeting ritual” is considered the norm. I must admit, I occasionally miss the custom. I can certainly understand how someone raised in Northern European traditions would find sure that violation of personal space “uncomfortable”, but as the demographics in this country change we might find cultural norms start to move away from Northern European traditions. I think that a handshake will always have it’s place (there is no way in hell I’m ever gonna hug my agency’s director!), but it may not come to exist alone. I’m sure some sort of etiquette will be developed…

    Oh, and I find fist bumps “fad-ish”. This too shall pass!! LOL

    April 20, 2012
  2. I guess I don’t see what’s so objectionable. It’s odd that Phil mentions Northern European traditions — because while that may be the origin of our hugging phobia, it seems to be frozen in time. Living in both Norway and Denmark, non-familial hugging is quite common today. I particularly noticed it in Denmark: there the standard seemed to be to hug basically anybody in a social context that you’d met at least once before. Even the first time you met a person, you would shake hands upon being introduced, but you might well hug them at the end of the encounter if you’d talked extensively.

    I rather liked it, actually. So while I’ve not personally noticed the growth of the hug here, I think we could do with some promiscuity in that department.

    April 20, 2012
  3. Patrick Enders said:

    Griff, just be glad you don’t live in an area of the country where the air-kiss next to the cheek is commonplace.

    April 21, 2012
  4. I think there is a lot more going on with a hug than the ‘hello, good to meet you’ handshake. There is greater sharing of personal space, there is the sympathy note, and recognizing each other as fellow human beings who share the same planet, and on and on I could go. I have never been a big one for hugging myself. I’d rather say it with my eyes.

    April 21, 2012
  5. Barb Kuhlman said:

    We just returned from seeing Nathan in Greece. We got lots of hugs and “air kisses next to the cheek”–both sides–there prior to saying good-bye to folks we had just met a day or a few days before. Actually, the folks we met in Greece were all very warm and genuine; perhaps that’s why the hugs and kisses seemed very natural and pleasant. Better be careful the next time you see Ed, Griff.

    April 22, 2012
  6. Rich Larson said:

    I’m both a serial hugger and fist bumper. It depends on my mood. Careful Griff. I may bearhug you one of these days.

    April 24, 2012

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