My family of origin is a blend of German and Swedish immigrants. Neither line of my ancestors expressed affection physically, even though the love was present. During my late teens, my circle of friends and I became caught up in arcane, San Francisco style new age beliefs and practices. There was a lot of hugging going on then. I became a very tactile person during that flower power era with the tendency remaining to this day.
The spiritual exploration was mind expanding and awakened us to more openness and ways of expressing affection. We greeted one another with hugs; sprinkled our conversations with hugs; and bade farewell with more hugs. This physicality was so ubiquitous that even my straight-laced great uncle Ivan, who lived in Sunnyvale, gave out hugs in greeting and departing. It seemed like nearly everyone had lower boundaries in those days.
By the early 1980s, this tactile nature had rubbed off onto members of my family of origin. We substituted hugs for the customary handshakes. Heartfelt hugs became the family norm. It felt good to be rid of our rigid Teutonic greeting style at home. Physically and mentally, hugs brought our family closer together.
During the quarantine, I’ve been physically isolated from boyfriend, family and friends. This means hugs have been noticeably absent, too. Even “Orange” the cat’s visits for hugs have become fewer. Out of necessity, I’ve sublimated this lack by substituting hugs with projects and meditation. This has worked out reasonably well.
My friend John, who lives in San Jose, and I discussed the subject of hugs in a string of emails a few weeks ago. He suggested that I should invent an oversize teddy bear. It would be great that single people who are stranded by social distancing, could hug them when we feel lonesome. This was a brilliant idea, so I went on line to see if anybody else has thought of such a concept.
Not only has someone come up with the idea, it’s being marketed, too. The product line includes a seven-feet tall teddy bear that “hugs back”. I fired off an email to John with a link to the bear. He hasn’t said whether or not he will order one for himself. Probably not, but it’s fun to imagine him in his small apartment, cuddling with a gigantic stuffed bear.
Meantime, advertisements for the stuffed bears have been showing up on my Facebook feeds and sidebar advertising elsewhere. The bear that hugs back is haunting my Web browsing almost every site. The advertising isn’t bothersome per se; it’s the statement that the bear hugs back that is tantalizing.
I’m guessing that the market for teddy bears, in general, is quite healthy in these days of social isolation. I imagine Fed Ex and UPS delivery trucks packed full of refrigerator size boxes containing life-size teddy bears.
I’d order a giant teddy for myself, but I don’t know where to store one of them. Would my present, conventional size bear get jealous? What does it say that I have contemplated buying a seven-feet tall teddy bear?
It says I miss my BF, my family, my pals, and normal daily human interaction. Will we live in a world that depends upon artifacts and technology to share affection? Our increasing tendency to cocoon provides a ready market for seven-feet tall teddy bears that hug back.
For now, many of us will have to make do with virtual hugs from the Web and our phones. Here’s one from me.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes two-time world heavyweight boxer, gold medalist, and entrepreneur, George Foreman. “I dread handshakes. I’ve got some problems with my hands, and everywhere I go, people want to impress me with their grip. To make it worse, now women are coming up with that firm shake. So I’ll say, ‘Gimme five!’. If a boy wants a handshake, I’ll just give him a hug.”