I am a hugger. Not as in ‘tree hugger’, although I have on occasion hugged a tree and I am unequivocally an environmentalist. I am known as a ‘good hugger’ and there are people who come to me saying, “I need a CJ hug!” Now that I think about it, those voices are similar to the “I need some of CJ’s chocolate chip cookies (from way back) or I need some of CJ’s Guatemalan rice and beans…” So I guess that supports the idea that it is nourishment that hugs provide.
Generally speaking, a hug works both ways, that is, if I give a good hug, then I receive a good hug at the same time. Size is a factor, in some cases. I am usually larger than the ‘hug-ee’ or hug recipient. And I do notice and relish the times when I receive a good, solid hug from a person who is taller than me. There is a primal comfort there, so I guess that underscores what others seek and get from my hugs; because if I am going to hug someone, it will be a full embrace.
There are a few souls that I have known for many years who I have been forced to accept do not want a real hug. They are supremely uncomfortable with the physical contact and although I have tried to coax them, I mainly respect their personal space and hold back. Fact is, their rigid posture makes me want to hug them, to soften them, I guess. The hugger in me is drawn to them like cats and dogs appear to be attracted to humans who do not particularly like pets.
I don’t know how much it is related to hugging, but babies are virtually always comfortable being held by me. Okay, I have enjoyed being called a ‘baby whisperer’. Who wouldn’t like that honor? I believe that infants can be relaxed with me, because I am relaxed with them.
I enjoy hugging young people, those under ten years of age and also adolescents. But I have a strict policy of not forcing hugs in those situations. I offer a hug or I ask if I can hug them, sometimes in words, sometimes with an open-armed gesture. And if they agree, I try very hard to match their level of contact and not over-squeeze. There are some young people that I have been hugging since they were little, friends and classmates of my daughter’s and I am thrilled that hugs are a regular part of our relationships. That also feels like an honor, to have that bond.
I am inclined to hug certain people, but not everyone, when I first meet them. Handshakes are fine; I enjoy giving and getting a firm handshake. I’ve come to accept the cultural differences of handshake etiquette, particularly across gender lines, and reach out with a gentle hand in certain social settings. I actually ask for, or is it demand, hugs from certain professionals that I have ‘hired’. Doctors, lawyers, even contractors, after establishing a relationship. Most of them will acquiesce and over the course of time, it becomes a natural part of our interactions.
Hmm… Had to check on the spelling of ‘acquiesce’ and I see that part of the Latin root is from quiescere ‘to rest.’ Reminds me of the expression ‘to rest in someone’s arms’, which is sort of what a prolonged hug can be. While I was ‘in the dictionary’, I took a look at the origin of hug and here’s a surprise. Most of the words we use have a Latin or Greek root. For hug, Webster says: ‘ORIGIN mid 16th century: probably of Scandinavian origin and related to Norwegian hugga ‘comfort, console.’ That’s very interesting.
There was an article in the NYTimes several years ago about teenage hugging that offers a few curious comments. It was written six years ago, so the teen scene may have changed a bit.
I won’t be changing my habits. I am a hugger.