Hug is such a small word. Hug can have many meanings and forms. Hugs can be awkward, misunderstood, and inappropriate. On the other hand, hugs can be graceful, obvious, and the perfect expression of emotion.
Today is hugging day, so this is a good time to think about the various types of hugs and situations they’re used. I’m certainly not an expert on the subject of hugging, I only know what I’ve observed and what I like.
Besides a handshake, a hug is a common form of greeting in many countries. Tourist guidebooks may not have accurate information because local customs may vary. If you’re visiting another nation, ask your new friend what is appropriate before attempting any sort of hug. Violations of protocol and comfort levels are not appreciated.
First time hugs or hugs given as greetings in a social setting are polite hugs. Strictly observe customs with this one. This is the common “A” shaped hug. The huggers lean towards one another briefly, touch shoulders together, then lean away while exchanging obligatory smiles and a friendly verbal greeting. Visualize how an adolescent boy greets a distant aunt at a family reunion.
A more rewarding type of hug is the buddy hug. Buddy hugs come in different gradients of length and closeness. They vary according to gender and degree of friendliness. The most common buddy hug happens between two females upon greeting each other. The most amusing buddy hug is the often brief, awkward hug involving two young heterosexual males.
We’ve all received and given quickie hugs. These happen “on the fly”. They are very spontaneous and are found when two acquaintences spot one another on the street or at a large party. The quickie hug happens when one or both participants are headed in different directions but pause for a few moments to acknowledge each others’ presence. One or both are walking somewhere else in a hurry, but they don’t want each other to feel left out.
A variant of the quickie hug is the obligatory “goodbye hug”. These are exchanged at the end of a social event as a way of saying, “I’ve had a nice time, let’s do this again, sometime.”
The worst kind of hug is the unreciprocated hug. We’ve all experienced this one. You hug someone who just stands like a department store dummy. There is no effort to return the gesture. This is a sign that you have either violated protocol or that person is unhappy to see you. Afterwards, you feel about two-inches tall.
One of the most potentially injurious hugs to give or share is the bear hug. Think of a real bear and how it might greet another real bear. This type of hug is often, but not always, shared between two men or two boys. The two huggers wrap arms around each other and hold on tight. It is a friendly display of strength and machismo. Because bear hugs are expressions of sincere comaraderie and friendship. The squeeze can be held much longer than polite hugs. The bear hug is most effective when the squeeze is near the threshold between pleasure and pain. Men who resemble bears are the most likely bear huggers.
There are hugs between adults and minor children with protocols that must be strictly observed. Parental hugs are obviously appropriate and are biologically beneficial to child development. Hugs between children and other grownups are a different matter all together. The child’s wishes and comfort level should be the determining factors. Child-adult hugging is a potential minefield, so proceed with caution and with the approval of the child’s parent.
There is the mutual waistline hug. This comes in a couple of forms. Often, two close female friends will position arms at each others’ waists while they exchange pleasant conversation. This is a sign of close friendship. This hug is reflexive and almost automatic. The other type of waistline hug happens between two lovers while they stand or slowly walk together. This waistline hug is an overt cue that the two are a couple.
One hug that is fun to give and receive is the hug from behind. This happens between two people who know and like each other very well. The hug from behind is especially sweet when a lover surprises you this way.
The restful hug happens when the couple is in a mellow mood. They wrap their arms around one another in a gentle manner. The two people rest against each other in a display of security and safety. This instinctive hug shows that there is a great deal of trust and love between the two.
The snuggle hug is closely related to the restful hug. The difference being that the snuggle happens on a sofa or curled up on a rug on the floor. This happens when the two feel especially close and want to spend a lot of time together.
The snuggle hug often evolves into the embrace. The embrace is the subject for another type of blogpost.
Meantime, I hope you accept my appropriate, imaginary hug in honor of National Hugging Day.