Hugging… Just the idea of it makes you feel a little more comfortable and safe and appreciated. Or does it…?
Having attended a funeral service this past weekend, it would seem that the most obvious thing to write about in this time would be death. But instead, today, I would like to talk about the living, and more particularly, how we are there for each other with a simple, yet endearing hug.
Therefore, here is a small piece about the importance of a genuine and needed hug.
À la mode
Hugging is definitely a fashionable thing to do nowadays. Whether you are the do-gooder holding up a sign for ‘FREE HUGS’ in the plaza of a major commercial center or you casually hug co-workers for your day-to-day greeting. It’s become the upgrade of the old-fashioned handshake.
The idea of giving anyone and everyone a warm and compassionate embrace is very ‘chummy.’ And we all want to be nice to one another, right? So why am I writing about this?
When I first moved to France and had to ‘kiss’ everybody I met, it really left me spinning (and exhausted from all the small, strange sucking sounds one makes when touching cheeks). My first thought was, ‘how can something as intimate as ‘kissing’ possibly be shared with everyone?’
(I agree with every word of this. Except luckily, I didn’t have to wear glasses. PS. In Marseille it’s 2, starting left… boy on boy action included.)
That’s a lot of intimate contact with strangers. Then my French friends reminded me that hugging was a ‘bizarre’ concept. Luckily, I enjoy having my ideas and perceptions questioned and scrambled, even if it means feeding the collective French ego that they may be right about something.
This is not to say the French don’t hug at all, they just don’t use it as casually as we (anglophones) do. Which brings up my issue with this endearing token of everyday hugs with people you barely know for no other reason than to say ‘hello’: it seems to, quite honestly, make hugging mean more or less nothing.
Or what is worse, it becomes insincere.
Give Me a Hug, Not Reasoning
It’s a shame that hugs have become ‘watered-down.’ After being there with my partner and her family at the passing of a very important family member, I was reminded how deep and moving a hug can truly be.
We had been hugged from the time we came into this world. It could quite likely be the very first sign of affection one ever receives, and quite possibly the last expression of care we receive when leaving this world.
As a child, we may be carried, cradled, or just simply held for as long as we are light enough to do so. (That’s probably four years… or a fat two.)
That’s a lot of love.
And rightly so. We don’t expect these little people that have just entered the world to take on the difficulty of existence all by their lonesome. We know how hard life is and we want to make sure they never feel scared or alone in it.
A child can’t be helped or expected to be comforted by logic or reason. They need the warm embrace and touch of love.
I’m a Man-Child
Ah, but as adults, we are expected to accept only reason. To be comforted by the indifferent and cold, yet albeit ‘correct’ logic. We are strong and independent, n’est-ce pas?
Our soothing and encouraging hugs from childhood recede quicker than our hairlines as we get older. The fake-friendly hug is all we are left with it seems. The hug may even be considered ‘yucky’ or odd.
‘I’m a grown-up, I don’t need someone wiser and stronger than me looking after me and protecting from the trials and tribulations of the world.’
I definitely don’t need a parent to hold me like the child that I am. Que honte!
But I do. We do. Sometimes we need that old-fashioned and proper kind of hug. Because sometimes we are just children that just need a little help coping. To need a hug may be considered shameful in our times, and so we’ve found an acceptable version to squeeze one another informally at the office with no real reason to do so.
But really there should be no shame in saying, ‘I feel kind of weak right now. I am scared and small. And in this moment, I need, at least for a little while, a parent.’
To admit you need a hug, with words or just with a look, can be a difficult to do when one is already feeling fragile and with the image of ourselves without dignity or honor or maturity as an adult.
But genuine maturity is accepting and accommodating this child within us and within others. It is not trying to hide him or her due to social pressures or cultural roadblocks.
What’s Wrong, My Love?
Fear and failure are always standing guard to enter our lives whenever possible. They do not care how pretty and successful and interesting and sunny you may seem on the outside.
Before, we would pray, we believed in angels or ‘guides’ to be there for us in our times of need. They would hold us up or carry us as the famous Footprints in the Sand poem had us believe.
That poem is no doubt a beautiful allegory of how God is always there for us, but unfortunately falls short for most of us now that we have moved past the religious movement in favor of a more intellectual or a ‘spiritual’ one or a [bipolar] philosophical one.
We should instead find the angel in each other with every wonderful and loving relationship we create. As I mentioned before in an article about making our partners our scapegoat as a gift of love, so too is regressing to a former childhood state that needs someone to make them feel safe in a heartbreakingly vulnerable state.
We’ve grown up in a world and social structure that requires strength. And resilience to the difficulties we face in this life is no doubt a value to be admired and strived for. True love, however romantic or not, is also and equally about sympathy for weaknesses. It should mean to look after someone when they are broken just as much as cheering them on when they’re winning.
A genuine hug, simply a touch from someone that cares and understands your pain and fright, can do that.
On Faire un Câlin
Today, we have plenty of studies that show the detriment to the human psyche by not having enough sex: more easily stressed, feelings of disconnection, and difficulties concentrating. But perhaps we should be more aware and appreciative of a more non-sexual way to relieve stress and connect with someone.
A hug is the affection we need but maybe don’t deserve. It is something that has been cut out of our extremely independent, competitive, and goal-oriented lives. In a world where sex and kissing have already been liberated and passed around without true sentiment, let’s try to keep the hug a sincere form of flattery and friendship.
Let’s keep it for the moments when we need to admit that we are completely dependent on another person and that it’s okay to be so. Let’s keep it for the moments of happiness to be shared.
Let’s ‘keep it real.’