The Same Rowdy Crowd’s masthead says we’re all about “rumination and fulmination about communication,” and so today I’m fulminating about a change in communications over my lifetime that rivals the dawn of faxes, PCs, the Internet, cell phones, smart phones, and social networking.
I speak, of course, of the proliferation of hugging as a casual greeting.
Contrary to popular theory, I actually was hugged as a child. But as an adult, it seems I’m hugged ALL THE TIME. At parties, meetings, school functions, sporting events, church, everywhere. People have become mad about hugging over the last few decades. I’ve got callouses and blisters on my abdomen and back from being hugged so damn much. I can only imagine how it is for people who are actually loveable.
It’s a pandemic. Not long ago, a woman embraced me at a party and immediately upon unwrapping herself said “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name.” I didn’t know her name either.
Now, in my world, you don’t wrap your arms around people when you don’t know their names. In my world, you choose a handful of people you are obligated to hug, and you do so sparingly and awkwardly.
But alas, I can’t seem to escape all the groping as greeting. You would think people who hugged me once would know not to do it again. Let’s just say my technique is a work in progress. Despite hours of practicing with my pillow, I’m still prone to rigor mortis, and nervous Sparky the seal like flappping on my victims’ backs. This is acceptable if executing a man-hug. But with my female friends, it can bruise egos, and the occassional thoracic vertebrae.
As a result, I’m always trying to avoid the salutational squeeze. I dread that moment of truth in the greeting dance. It plays out in slow motion in my mind. I stick out my right hand fixated on the other person’s digits to see if they are going to grasp my hand, or, damnit all, snake around my back. It’s important to pay careful attention, because if the greetee goes hug while I go shake, an accidental gut punch can ensue.
Well okay, sometimes it isn’t accidental.
What’s the harm in a little hugging, you ask? Can’t the world use a little more love and affection? Well yes, but when hugs become so commonplace that they are rote, they become devalued for the times when heartfelt embraces are really needed, for long-lost friends, special family members, once-in-a-lifetime lovers, or people hurting badly.
How did we come to this place in the history of the hug? Have we become such an insecure species that we need to be embraced dozens of times per day to achieve self-actualization? In the age of wars, terrorism, hate crimes and political incivility, are we really that much more loving than previous generations? Does all the public cuddling constitute emotional evolution or devolution?
And is it possible that H1N1 will come to the rescue and put an end to all this nonsense?