Ok, so it’s not the kind of thing that requires a trigger warning or anything. I don’t come from some sort of cold military style family. It isn’t that I’d never hugged or been hugged before but that was reserved for family and that’s nuclear family.
Plus, we were teenagers, isn’t that a time for shrouding our under/overdeveloped bodies in baggy band T-shirts and hunching? Puberty is cruel to all people in some manner, some people get teenage acne, some wake up and their nether regions have gone all Teen Wolf on them. Hugging interrupts hunching.
But it wasn’t just a phase, it was a beginning. This was the answer to any air kiss conundrum. As a teenaged Brit in Belgium I unfairly had to navigate both hugging (oh we don’t, we don’t do that here? Or we do? You’re leaning in…) and air kissing. At our British school we favoured the single air kiss, no hug. Meet anyone at the more cosmopolitan European school and you could offend terribly with a single kiss (it’s more a diss) and up to 3 could be required.
Now it seems upon meeting someone a hug is necessary whatever the situation. Someone you have a mutual friend with, a work colleague, your dentist… upon leaving it seems you have to hug.
Let’s be clear, it is not hugging I dislike. I realise cuddling is pleasant and something I will, now I am an adult, partake in. My immediate family and close friends who I don’t see often may receive hugs from me, this is because I am familiar with them.
With anyone else there is a terrible awkwardness making both parties wish they hadn’t bothered offering that gesture of affection or friendship. It just throws up panicked social questions. How long should I hug for? I’m quite short so I am often at breast height. Someone unfamiliar wraps me in their arms and what do I do? Certainly not snuggle into their ample bosom, that would be creepy. Stiffen all over and tilt my head and torso away? It comes across as a little cold but that’s what I usually go for.
Now I am older I have come up with a solution and, as it is Valentine’s Day, I am going to make a gesture (hah) and share it with you. If as you say your goodbyes it looks like you can’t move out of the line of hugging in time here’s what you do in 5 easy steps:
1. Hold up your hand (it can be left or right, whichever you prefer) palm facing outwards.
2. Say the words, in this exact order, “High Five!”
3. If you have executed these actions correctly they will raise a corresponding hand and repeat what you just said.
4. Bring your hand towards their hand. Once they have 'clapped' together you can move it away.
5. Agree with this person you are now ‘High Fivers’.
For special occasions, or if you’re just in a celebratory mood you MAY upgrade this to a High Ten. It’s pretty advanced though, save it for days such as today, birthdays, New Year and Christmas.
If you struggle with any other awkward social situations please don’t hesitate to write in or comment below and Squeamish Bikini can help you…