Some people like to hug, some don’t. I have never been a huggy person. But, I may be part of an endangered species, according to a sociologist at George Mason University. Amy L. Best observed that physical boundaries are being increasingly crossed by huggers. I’ve experienced this personally. I stick out my hand and receive a hug.  I’m not complaining about the embrace, I just never see it coming. 

I have a good reason for not being a hugger: my Irish family was not huggy. And I was worse than most of the kids, leading my mother to label me a “touch-me-not.” Hugging may have been too intimate for me but I often crossed physical boundaries. I had the mistaken impression that I was supposed to kiss my female relatives square on the mouth. An aunt could not come through our door, without getting a big smooch from her nephew. They finally made me stop when I was a teenager.  

When I got married, my wife introduced me to the concept of physical affection. I actually liked it — but not outside the house. We tried to get our kids to enjoy affection but somehow managed to raise four “touch-me-nots.” If we want to hug them, it better be a special occasion. 

However, I can understand their aversion to being hugged by semi-strangers and other people they don’t consider close. Some huggers even have creepy ulterior motives. They hug members of the opposite sex, almost exclusively.  I’m not like that. I’m much more comfortable hugging a guy. 

I’m even relaxed kissing guys on the cheek and I got plenty of practice in France. I preferred they were clean-shaven, otherwise it’s rough on the lips. I didn’t mind it because I received an excellent example in guy-kissing from my father. We were at a family gathering and he went around the table and gave each female a peck. Then it occurred to him to kiss all the guys and he took another lap around the table. It was great seeing an “old school” guy overcome his inhibitions. 

Now that I’m teaching French students, I see much cheek-kissing before class.  So, it really surprised me, when I learned of their aversion to hugging. One of my students was horrified when an American from her host family hugged her hello at the airport. Most of them consider hugging way too intimate, unless it’s a very close friend or family member. 

Americans, on the other hand, think the French kiss-kiss is way too friendly.  I cannot imagine two American guys meeting up at the sports bar and kiss-kissing before they go into to watch the game. It’s yet another cultural chasm between America and France. 

For my part, I promise not to try to kiss-kiss Americans.  But, if I am locked in a hug with someone, I might get carried away and add a little kiss on the cheek.  So, be careful before you cross my physical boundaries. 

There’s another reason to stop this out-of-control hugging. In this age of hysteria over deadly viruses, we should use the greeting physicians recommend most? Fist bump anyone? 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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