I’m an awkward hugger.
There, I’ve said it. The truth is out there. That cheerful, wide-arm approach when I see you is really brimming with fear at the thought of how we’re about to say hello. There’s a hug on the horizon and I’m going to try not to headbutt you in the process.
I didn’t realize how hug-challenged I was until college. All of a sudden the universal greeting among new-found friends was some sort of exuberant embrace. The hug would actually begin several feet away — the person walking my way would throw their arms wide, warning me that they expected contact. I’d try to respond with equal enthusiasm, only to fumble with arm position and head placement once inside the “hug zone.” One arm up, one arm down? Both arms up? Both arms down? Full wrap around? One arm only? Pat on the back? Head to the right? Head to the left? Let them break first? Or make a quick exit?
If positioning and timing aren’t cause enough for concern, there’s a handful of other things I’m self-conscious about when heading into a hug. There’s often a purse or a bag that has to be repositioned and then there’s always the fear that, if I’ve been walking around a lot, that my anti-persperiant has failed me. I have a lot of hair, it’s thick and some what curly, I rarely try to reign it in — anyone who gets near enough to hug me is guaranteed to get a face full of it.
And then what about the added cheek kiss? I’ve never fully understood how to engage with this. I’ve accidentally landed “mwahs” on the ears of guy friends who were taken aback by the out of character greeting. “no that wasn’t a nibble. That was bad distance management.”
Surely, “Hellos” shouldn’t cause this much anxiety.
I thought maybe the French-style kiss on each cheek would be great replacement for the hello hug, but then I realized there are just as many variables to consider when engaging (and when the opposite sex is concerned, far many more opportunities to send “mixed” messages).
So, after hundreds of hugs that lead to near concussions and jammed fingers, I’ve settled on a universal approach: my head to the right, the left arm up, the right arm down.
I warn you now, so the next time we say hello, you’ll aim left.