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We need to talk about hugging

huggingA close friend has informed me I’m not much of a hugger. I had no idea there was anything untoward going on with my hugs, until she pointed out that whenever she tries to hug me, I squirm away from her.

I wasn’t offended or hurt. I was genuinely curious: am I bad at something without realising it? Am I a failure at hugging? I don’t think so.

This friend loves a hug. She’s one of those people who savours the hug, feels into it, is fully present and in the moment with the hug. I reckon she’d be happy if the average hug time exceeded two minutes.

My average hug time is about two seconds (one second short of the standard three seconds). It’s not that I dislike hugging, or that I’m grossed out by germs, bad breath, chai breath, the scent of sandalwood or plain old BO. I’m just impatient. I like to move on to more interesting things as quickly as possible.

What could be more interesting than a hug, I hear you ask?

When I first came to Maleny I thought I had to hug and kiss everyone, every time I passed them in the street. I came from Sydney, where it was normal to have a quick peck on the cheek, but extended hugs seemed like the done thing in Maleny and I didn’t want hippies to judge me for not hugging enough. I hugged and kissed everyone from close friends to acquaintances to people I barely knew.

There was even a Hug Patrol in Maleny for a while. Led by a local lady called Arcadia Love, they’d patrol the streets at the Christmas carnivale and other events, wearing official Hug Patrol T-shirts, and hug random people. It was highly popular and never failed to get people smiling and laughing. I think I hugged the Hug Patrol troops once or twice, but I never joined them. I wouldn’t have been cut out for the job. Customer dissatisfaction would have soared.

At some point, in the past 14 years, I stopped over-hugging and now I’ve swung the other way, and I’m comfortable with that. I reserve my best hugs for my husband and two sons. My sons are huge over-huggers, but they’ve been raised in Maleny, so yeah.

Hugging your own child is different to hugging random ferals and hippies. It calls to mind the wise saying: children are like farts – you don’t mind your own, but you can’t stand anyone else’s. I’m almost always up for a hug with my boys. They’ve grown up smothered in hugs and kisses and now they smother each other in hugs and kisses. That is so beautiful to see between two boys.

As for my husband Herrin, he’s an ex-hippie and sometimes tells me my hugs are pathetic. Often when he tries to hug me, my mind is elsewhere and I stand there with limp arms and vacant eyes, not even realising I’m in the midst of a hug.

The word ‘hug’ is believed to come from the word ‘hugga’, meaning ‘to comfort’ in the Old Norse language, first appearing 450 years ago in Scandinavia. I don’t know how popular hugging is in Scandinavia these days, but it’s still pretty popular in Maleny. The history books say hugging only became a mainstream practice 50 years ago and I would say Maleny has made full use of those 50 years.

And thank GODDESS (that’s what people say in Maleny instead of thank God). Hugging is so good for us – it reduces blood pressure and increases oxytocin, the ‘trust’ hormone. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy when you hug someone you love, or even just like.

The danger with hugging hippies is that 27-minute hugs tend to cut into your day. Sometimes they get you in their grip and won’t let go and you have no choice but to hug back while trying to avoid the whiff of BO from a hairy underarm.

There’s another danger, too. Sometimes the hugger will also go in for a sloppy kiss. There’s one guy who likes to prepare his lips by running his tongue over them a few times until they’re nice and moist with saliva, before planting a smacker right on your lips. If you try to turn your head slightly, his lips will follow until he plants them right on yours. There’s no escaping it.

When I lived in South America, they gave you one, two or three kisses on the cheek as a greeting, depending what country you were in. I didn’t mind that because it was over with quickly and there was no eye contact. Perfecto.

Personally, I prefer the air kiss. It’s more hygienic. I don’t know who invented the air kiss, but they deserve a medal. You don’t get germs, there’s no confusion about how long it should last, your lipstick stays put and everyone’s happy.

But back to the business of hugging. If you Google ‘hugging’, you’ll find lists that analyse all the hugs. I’ve compiled a special hippie hug list, curated from personal experience. Feel free to add your own in the comments section at the end of the post:

12 beautiful hippie hugs

  • The tent hug: to accomplish this hug, stand with your bum right out so you don’t have to feel the genitals of the other person. I was once reprimanded for tent-hugging in Maleny, so since then I endeavour to at least stand vertically, without our genitals touching. It’s tricky.
  • The speed-hug: that’s me. You go in to the left, do a quick squeeze and retreat. No germs are exchanged, your tea doesn’t go cold and you’ve still let your friend know they’re very special to you.
  • The over-hug: 50 per cent of Malenyites, 100 per cent of Crystal Waters residents. Anything over two seconds is over-hugging in my books. But we’re not just talking duration, we’re also talking frequency. If you see someone at IGA next to the Maleny Dairies milk section and give them a hug, have a little chat then say goodbye, only to meet them in the organic food aisle and have another hug, that’s over-hugging. Or if you see someone in IGA one day and then again the next and hug both times, that’s over-hugging. If your parents live five minutes away and you hug them every time you see them, that’s over-hugging. If you go to Crystal Waters market and have a group hug with ten hippies for about half an hour, that’s over-hugging. You get my drift.
  • The under-hug: sad people who don’t hug enough, even when it’s appropriate, and when they do hug, it’s a half-hearted display. I probably fall into this category, too. Especially if I’m premenstrual and just want to rip people’s heads off.
  • Sustained eye contact hug: this creepy hug contains sustained eye contact before AND after the hug. It aids the spiritual connection. I get it, but I don’t really like people looking into my soul. I feel better when we both look at the ground.
  • The groaning hug: as the name suggests, some huggers moan and groan or let out a big sigh, take a deep breathe and collapse into the hug as they breathe out. They’re enjoying the hug so much they like to combine it with breathwork. Don’t do that to me. It makes me feel like we’re on the verge of making love.
  • The triple hug: when you haven’t seen someone for ages, they might go in for a double or triple hug. I can handle that, as long as each one only lasts a fraction of a second. And without groans and eye contact.
  • The fart-hug: My 12-year-old son is the master of this. He catches me unawares, says: ‘Mum, can I have a hug?’ I go, ‘Aw, of course sweety’. When he has a good tight hold of me, he lets a massive fart rip then holds me in place and forces me to smell it.
  • The stealth hug: Another favourite of my son’s, it’s when someone sneaks up on you when you’re least expecting it and inflicts a hug on you. Can scare the shit out of you, especially when it’s the RACQ man arriving after dark and you’re bent over your car bonnet.
  • The bro hug: This isn’t confined to hippies, but men everywhere. Must be done as a show of strength, with hard back-patting, a smack on the head and a bit of a wrestle. Don’t want anyone thinking you’re gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Note: hippie bro hugs allow eye contact, extended hug time, pelvis touching and a distinct lack of wrestling. It’s all cool, we’re all spiritual beings dude.
  • The ‘I totally want to get laid so I’m going to pretend I’m really interested in you as a spiritual being’ hug: I think the name says it all and yes, I am speaking from experience.
  • The hug-with-commentary: Sometimes, people like to narrate the hug, while it’s STILL HAPPENING and tell you how much they’re enjoying it. Ew. Just don’t. Get that hug over with and then never speak of it again.

Have I given you the impression I’m a little finicky? I’m really not, not compared to my friend who turns her head 360 degrees like Linda Blair to avoid people kissing her on the cheek when she hugs. We are all grossed out by different things, so I’m not going to feel ashamed of my hugging reputation.

Hugging is beautiful. It is a natural, normal part of life. The world would be a sad place without hugs. They are, however, undeniably awkward at times. So be warned: if you want a hug from me, I will happily oblige, as long as it’s a quickie.

What kind of hugger are you? Scroll down to the comments section and share, share, share. It’s all about sharing, mmmkay?

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