The Promiscuous Hug

by admin on January 26, 2011

One of my pet peeves is the increasingly common phenomenon of strangers hugging me upon first greeting.   I’ve had to do more counter measures to thwart those full frontal, bear hug attacks in recent years than in any one time in my earlier life.  I was delighted to stumble upon Judith Martin aka Miss Manners commenting on the issue:

Miss Manners has been valiantly fighting the promiscuous hug for years. She recommends snapping out the hand for a handshake, which has the effect of physically warding off approaches. But that is for acquaintances who try to skip the preliminaries to becoming intimate friends and for strangers who entertain the bizarre notion that physical contact leads to love instead of the other way around.

Oh, yes!  Preach it, sister!  My expressions of physical affection move along a scale of increasingly closer contact that correlates to an increasingly closer, intimate relationship.    Strangers and acquaintances get a warm smile and a sincere, eager handshake which progresses eventually to sideways, affectionate huglets for those good friends and not-so-immediate family.   Big bear hugs are reserved for my husband, immediate family and very dear friends on special occasions.  I NEVER hug a business or professional acquaintance.  I think my lawyer is an awesome guy who deserves my respect and big bucks but hug him?  Perish the thought.  Hugging the salesgirl who helped me find something I needed?  <twitch, twitch>  Not. Going. To. Happen.

Why have we culturally skipped the pleasantries of a genuine smile, a twinkle in the eye,  a pro-actively offered handshake and a congenial greeting as the first step in greeting people we barely know and replaced it with an invasion of intimate personal space generally reserved for more intimate relationships?  The beauty of the handshake is that it is civil, respectable and respectful to everyone equally regardless of social standing and proximity to the greeter.   Hugging, on the other hand, is a more intimate greeting that seems diluted when shared with the entire world.

I enjoy watching “The Locator” but host Troy Dunn’s habit of bear hugging everyone he meets sends me in an apoplexy of wondering what I would do if he came looking for me.  Granted, Dunn is one handsome piece of manliness and the temptation to get engulfed by all that masculinity would exist BUT as much as I am tempted, my desire to let my relationships advance in a natural progression of increasing intimacy and affection outweighs the temporal advantages of close proximity to Dunn’s pectoral muscles.   Therefore I’d have to stiff arm him with a handshake greeting on national television when he comes to tell me he’s found my longlost teddy bear.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Hal January 26, 2011 at 6:37 am

“Huglets” what a great word. Anyway, there is this woman on the staff at my church who grabs everyone she sees in a big bear hug at every opportunity. When I first saw her do this I thought the recipient must have been bereaved. I learned differently when she grabbed me soon after. After knowing her for a while I know she is an attention seeker. Her conversation is all about how fine and overwhelmed she is taking care of her “grandbabies” and doing too much work at the church. I recently told her I didn’t like the hugging. Now her feelings are hurt. See? All about her.

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Mechtilde January 26, 2011 at 6:40 am

I feel the same way. I really don’t feel comfortable hugging people unless we are very very close indeed.

I’ve even resorted to putting a hand on a hugger’s shoulder to keep them at arm’s length when they are about to fling their arms around me. It does at least keep the hugger at a bit of a distance. Why can’t they at least ask first?

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Hellbound Alleee January 26, 2011 at 6:51 am

Of course, one must realize that manners are essentially social rituals, and social rituals are made by cultures and communities. In such a mobile world, it’s sometimes hard for people to realize that not everyone follows the norms of their own culture. It’s appropriate to put out the hand for a handshake, but going a bit overboard to call for an end to practices that simply aren’t of one’s own social group.

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8daysaweek January 26, 2011 at 7:51 am

Perhaps I am just foreboding enough on first greeting to ward off any premature huggers, but I haven’t really had this problem – except when I was pregnant.
Oh, when I was pregnant. I am not a very touchy person in the first place so it was particularly unsettling for me. But for some reason, as soon as the baby bump started to show, people everywhere, complete strangers even, assumed that my body, particularly by belly, had become communal property and they were free to touch as they pleased. I also noticed that people tended to try to hug me on first meeting me – maybe I was just giving off a maternal air? Whatever it was, it drove me insane and I’m glad to be back to normal now – and not at all looking forward to that part of pregnancy again in a couple more years!

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BH January 26, 2011 at 7:53 am

I sold some furniture on craigslist and the girl looked like she was going to give me a hug, it was awkward, but it turned out she wasn’t trying to give me a hug apparently, but hugged me anyway, weirdest thing ever, she was like “Ok a hug is good too I guess” I had no idea why she leaned in so close with her arms open like that, we were standing outside my house and she just put the last chair in her car. luckily she lives in another state and its someone I will not see again, but it was an awkward moment.

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Heather Ricco January 26, 2011 at 8:02 am

Oh, thank you! I thought I was crazy when I felt uncomfortable with hugs from people in professional settings. Everyone else treated it like it was normal…I chalked it up to a different culture and tried to just go with the flow.

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DGS January 26, 2011 at 8:35 am

Agreed…I don’t hug people that I do not know very well, and I’m quite flummoxed by people who feel that they can violate interpersonal boundaries so flagrantly. It’s akin to random strangers touching pregnant women’s bellies – creepy, uncalled for, and completely unacceptable. My husband, parents, other close family members and close friends get hearty hugs. Acquiantances may get side hugs, but more often than not, get a warm smile and a “How are you? Lovely to see you, how have you been?” In a professional setting, a smile and a firm handshake are appropriate. Hugs and touches are very intimate and personal, and they seem cheapened when shared with the entire world.

Funny story about random inappropriate touching – I have shoulder-length very thick, very curly, very red hair (and no, I’m not Irish, not even close. Russian-Jewish, actually). It’s quite noticeable, and while I take pride in my hair (I do not straighten it, and I enjoy wearing it loose), I certainily do not go about my day wondering if someone is thinking about my hair or waiting to be complimented. It is my hair; it’s on my head, and let’s all go on with our day now. One time, I was in the grocery store with my husband, on a busy Saturday afternoon. We were looking for a particular ingredient for some bread we were going to bake (millet), so we were quite focused on perusing the shelves in the baking aisle, when I felt someone tugging on my hair. I thought it was my husband, playing around, but when I looked up, it was a woman I had never seen before who said, “Is your hair real?” WHAH????????? I was so stunned, I was literally dumbfounded. At this point, noticing my discomfort, my husband walked back over to me from the other side of the aisle, and said “Is there a problem?” The woman proceeded to tug on my hair again (she literally had a strand squeezed between her fingers) and said, “I just want to know, is your wife’s hair real? Or, does she get it dyed someplace cause I want to know where?” We were both completely stunned, and regaining my composure, I pried a strand of my hair from her fingers and said, “Please, do not touch me. Yes, this is my real hair, and no, I do not get it dyed. Excuse me”. To this day, we cannot figure out who on Earth would think it was appropriate to randomly touch a complete stranger’s head and ask such intrusive questions…

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Kitten January 26, 2011 at 9:00 am

Ugh, stranger hugs are the absolute WORST. I’m going to put it out there that I HATE when people I’m not close with or don’t know attempt to give me big hugs like we’re BFFs. The weird part is that I’ve let this be known among close friends and my extended family and now I’m known as the woman who hates hugs. This is not true. I absolutely do not mind or like to hug friends and family in the appropriate situations and I’m constantly cuddling my husband and young toddler.

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Chocobo January 26, 2011 at 9:01 am

Meh, I don’t agree with this so much. This seems to be more of a cultural thing. In my large European family, we do hugs in our own home. It is our way of saying that you are family when you walk in the front door and is a sign of welcome. I wouldn’t hug a stranger, a professional, or people I don’t know well outside of my house.

Seriously though, this topic seems to be elevating a personal discomfort, and/or a specific culture’s sensibilities, to the level of an etiquette issue.

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Giles January 26, 2011 at 9:19 am

@DGS I con’t know if this is the same woman, I hope so as that would mean there’s only one of them, but this actually happened to me a week ago. I’m a man, and my hair’s not particularly long, so it was more of a yank than a tug. I have absolutely no idea who she was.

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irish January 26, 2011 at 9:31 am

8daysaweek, I’ve never been pregnant but that’s definitely also an aspect I’m not looking forward to! Why do people think publicly groping strangers is ok??!!

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LBC January 26, 2011 at 9:34 am

People always want to touch “unusual” hair. When I was in high school, mine was very long–below my waist–and people would pull on it and play with it. I stopped going to pep rallies, mostly because they were obnoxious, but also because the girls sitting behind me, who were usually total strangers, would braid it!

I’m not a huggy person. I’ll hug the old ladies at church because that seems to be their thing, but, mostly, even my best friends and I don’t hug greetings. It’s not that I don’t adore them, it’s just that that’s not who we are.

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Phoebe161 January 26, 2011 at 9:51 am

Ew!! I hate having my boundaries invaded! I’ve had to learn to accept & give appropriate hugs to family, friends, & the bereaved, so stranger hugs make me very uncomfortable.

I agree with most of the comments, especially about hugging between professionals & strangers. I feel it’s inappropriate in a business setting to go around hugging people, unless my relationship with them is more than just professional. And while we’re at it, let’s add the fake “kissing” to the list of inappropriate behavior. Double EW!! Let’s just stick with the handshake & leave the hugging & smooching to those people we have a relationship with (& want to hug & kiss)!

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Flora January 26, 2011 at 10:03 am

Seconded and thirded! My manager likes to hug her underlings and it drives me mad! I also hate it when people touch my hair! I have very long hair which I used to wear in a braid at work but don’t anymore. Partly because when I do, everyone and their brother wants to touch it! “Wow, your hair is so long!” Tug Tug tug! Please people, keep your hands to yourself!

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DGS January 26, 2011 at 10:22 am

@Giles – wow, I wonder if this was indeed the same woman, or if she has a similarly uncouth cousin somewhere. When has it become okay to inappropriately touch/yank on/pull/rub the bellies of complete strangers?

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chelee74 January 26, 2011 at 10:25 am

I’m a hugger. I confess. I’d like to think, tho, that I have common sense. I’m a warm and fuzzy person. If I get the impression that you’re not, then, damn right, I’m staying the hell away from ya! Handshake and a smile. I just hope you don’t feel left out. 🙂 I don’t hug people at work unless I think they’re up for it (upset about something, sharing good news, moving on to bigger and better things, just gave me an awesome holiday gift). I don’t go around hugging people at random – I’m not a serial hugger. I have been known to hug new friends of friends with whom I’ve recently become acquainted – at the end of a party, for example. I don’t think I do this for attention. I am what I am and I am a big-hearted person who appreciates a good hug. No worries, you non-warmies. I can sense that you don’t ‘get’ me. I apologize for those less-sensitive huggers out there.

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Elizabeth January 26, 2011 at 10:38 am

Hugging is quite common in my social group, even for acquaintances. Sometimes we forget not everyone is the same. I like the advice of throwing the hand out for a shake first.

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kmc January 26, 2011 at 10:48 am

I definitely agree that it’s become all too common among strangers, and I have made the point to my husband before that it diminshes the meaning of a hug when you give them to everyone. There is a man who goes to my church who has taken the position of greeter. I was not comfortable with him before, but now he attempts to hug everyone who comes in the door. After a few weeks of me offering him a handshake instead he opened his arms wide one Sunday and told me “I have to hug everyone!” I replied, “Well, I don’t.” and again offered him a handshake. He has not attempted to hug me since that day.

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NINA January 26, 2011 at 10:57 am

I’m with Chelee 74. Appropriate time, place and circumstance. But I’ve noticed something even creepier. Maybe it’s just where I live, but it seems to be a creeping phenomenon. Guys wanting to kiss me on the lips the first time they meet me. Especially when they have a beard. EEEEWWWW. I mean, come on!!! Keep your hands and other pertinent body parts off of me. I, quite frankly, don’t like being touched by strangers. Once, I was in the supermarket. I had the collar of my shirt turned up because I had a bad sunburn on my neck, and the guy in back of me turned my collar back down. I turned it back up and glared at him. He turned it back down! I turned it back up, and said, please don’t touch me. He said, what’s wrong with you? I said, do you normally re-arrange strangers’ clothing? Keep your hands off of me! Hugging, kissing, and touching are off limits unless there is a good reason.
Nina

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MOB January 26, 2011 at 11:36 am

I am glad to see so many people share my feelings on personal space. I love hugs. I really do. Do I love them from a car salesman? Um, no. My friend’s sister who I have never met? Not really. My kid’s teacher? Well, that depends on the situation and which on it is. How about the father of one of my students who used a “hug” as a way to feel what sort of goods I have under my top? Yeah, that’s right, he invaded my space bubble to cop a feel. I’d say I have good reason to keep most folks at arm’s length. I just wish everyone else had respect for my personal boundaries.

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Joy January 26, 2011 at 11:45 am

I am pretty easy-going with touching and don’t have huge space issues, but I definitely agree with this post. I haven’t had a huge problem with people being over-huggy, but a few weeks ago I went out with some friends after work to a pub and we were joined by my coworker’s ex-boyfriend. This was the first time he and I had met, and we barely spoke during the outing. Yet, when I said a polite goodbye, he grabbed me into a hug… awkwarrrrrd! Space invasions are just not okay, and I think people have an awful tendency these days to disconnect between what’s okay for them and what’s okay for other people.

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Awkward Turtle January 26, 2011 at 11:58 am

The worst is when they grab you for a hug and your stick-out-hand-for-handshake reactions kicks in halfway through so you are accidentally groping them. NOT FUN.

Also, I second/third the touching people’s hair thing. I used to have quite long hair and people always tried to braid it. Why?

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Shayna January 26, 2011 at 11:58 am

I’m a hugger, I admit. Not with strangers, not even with those I consider acquaintances, but with friends, definitely. There are a few exceptions though. One of my music students just lost both her great grandmother and her mother over Christmas. I was talking with her mom, and when we were, her mother broke down and began to cry. I hugged her. It felt like the right thing to do, and she seemed to appreciate it. There are different kinds of hugs, though. There are friendly “hey, nice to see you again!” hugs, there are “I love you bunches and bunches and you’re my extra-special treasure” hugs you give to your children, there are the “I know you’re hurting and I can’t take it away, but I am here for you” hugs. There are also two kinds of hugs I have for my husband: the “let’s get it on!” hug and the “I know you’re in pain, and I feel it, too” hugs. Oh, and there’s another hug I share with my husband. It’s the “I can feel your thoughts because we’re one” hug. So I disagree that hugging can diminish “…the meaning of a hug when you give them to everyone.”

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Rosie January 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I come from a touchy feely culture and I am racking my brain thinking if we hug strangers. I’m relieved to note that NO, at least not in my family.

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hex haight January 26, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Thank you so much for this post! I don’t like anyone out side of my loved ones touching me, my dislike is almost a mental thing with me! I really do not like being touched and it has taken some therapy to be able to enjoy those I love expressing I rarely have wondered if my extended hand and big smile is the wrong way to handle my tax clients who want to hug me when I tell them what their refund is going to be. I have noticed that women of my generation and younger often do not know how to properly shake hands (ie. which hand to extend, etc.). This can be extremely akward at social events, and I’ve unintentionally offended or caused discomfort as many of these young women have you in a hug before you know it. I find strangers touching me more than odd; even unexpected touch from close people can sometimes cause me to yelp and begin feeling extremely panic-y. Unfortunately this panic often shows on my face before I know it, and sometimes I am unable to fight the urge to flail/break away quickly. I don’t mean to offend, and if I see an unwanted hug coming my way, I do offer a nice but firm “Oh, I don’t do hugs!”. I’d rather briefly bruise an ego than accidently give a black eye! If I don’t have the chance to warn/side step the hug, if I do get flail-y, I try to immediately make a joke about how I’m a big moody house cat that only wants petting on her terms.

A few years ago this sort of subject got a lot of attention in my city of Memphis. Some one in a city government office got sick with swine flu. Suddenly it wasn’t even ok to shake hands anymore, much less hug someone! Why this was only thought of around here after swine flu is beyond me-there are all sorts of nasty things such as Staph or lice that could possibly be shared from contact. Anyway, the Dalai Lama visited Memphis shortly after the swine flu story broke. Our acting mayor at the time (sept 09) greeted this important spiritual leader with a “Fist Bump”. Yes, you read that correctly, my city greeted an international figure known for peace work not with an open hand, but a closed fist. Some of us found this irony too funny and others were upset. I find the logic behind the gesture sensible, it does seem that one would be less likely to share germs via contact such as a fist bump than handshake or hug. However, when the city leaders tried to convince us professional folks to start greeting clients/co workers/etc with a fist bump instead of handshake, I did not join in. It is difficult enough to be taken seriously as a young woman in a profession dominated by a good ol’ boys club. Fist bumping potential clients before sitting down to discuss their business’s finances not only seems too informal, many clients would find this getsure not only confusing, but childish and possibly “too street”.

However, I highly recommend searching you tube for “memphis mayor fist bump” or some such search query. The Daliai Lama seems quite adept to adjusting to different culture standards in the interest of being a gracious guest. =)

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bmyster January 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Personally, I love to hug people I care about—close friends, my cats (usually much to their annoyance—I’m sure they’d write a letter about me to Etiquette Hell if they could) and so forth. However, hugging a total stranger or a casual acquaintance seems awkward to me. To me, a hug is a form of communication that says “I care about you.” So, if I don’t feel close to someone, or think they would be at all awkward with it, I don’t hug them.

So, to me, hugging a co-worker is out of bounds—I like my co-workers and think they’re good people, but that’s different from people I feel close to.

But, any form of touch is really a type of communication, so, to me, it falls under the same etiquette as verbal communication—so, touching a stranger’s hair/baby belly/whatnot is totally out of bounds. The most I feel is appropriate for a stranger is a friendly handshake and smile.

For close friends and such, touch is an important part of showing you care, at least to me.

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samihami January 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm

@lbc-I know those girls! They went to my high school too! See, I have very long blond hair that people seem compelled to comment upon. Sure, it’s nice if someone pays me a little compliment-who doesn’t like compliments, right? But I clearly remember math class in 10th grade…the girl behind me decided without asking that she was going to give me a French braid. Didn’t ask first, of course…she just went to it!

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Owl January 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Hugging is definitely a cultural thing. Where I live (on the border of Mexico), it is very common to hug people, even when you first meet them. The etiquette, though, is usually that you shake a person’s hand or wave to them when you meet them, and then when parting, you give a sideways hug (or at least I do–a frontal hug sometimes leads to someone kissing me on both cheeks, which I don’t like). After you first meet a person, it’s not too uncommon to hug them as a greeting. However, in a professional setting, it’s not as common–my bosses don’t hug me every time they see me, except for obvious times like when I got engaged and when I came back from vacation, etc.

About the hair thing…I don’t understand why strangers think it’s okay to touch/play with hair! It hasn’t happened to me in a long time, but it used to when I was a teenager and had much longer hair.

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Miss Raven January 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I am also a hugger, but never in a professional setting. That makes no sense to me. I’m not going to up and hug new employees, interviewers, my mechanic, a professor, or anyone else. That’s completely bizarre and I’m actually shocked to hear that people do it.

The hugging for new acquaintances pretty much stops at friends of friends/family, especially if I’ve heard a lot about them and the meeting has been a long time coming. I don’t think that hugging a lot of people diminishes “the meaning of the hug;” for Pete’s sake it’s not like I’m telling all of them how much I love them. The great thing about hugs is that there are always enough to go round and, unless you’re standing there just flat-out uncomfortable, they are always warm. If it’s obvious the acquaintance is not a hugger, I don’t force myself on them, because the last thing you want is to make someone uncomfortable. I don’t take offense to it. Some people reserve touching for only their most intimate, and that’s what makes the world go round.

As for the hair thing, I have had very bouncy curly hair my whole life and it is not uncommon for complete strangers to touch my hair. People like to see it go “boing.” It drives me crazy! In high school at least people would stop me in the hall and ASK if they could touch my hair, and the response was normally yes, because it’s kind of flattering and they were polite about it. If you can imagine, manners have actually worsened in the adult world and people frequently “boing” my hair without first approaching me at all! In the grocery store, at the subway station (EEK!), the book store, in line at McDonald’s. The nerve. You’re not children! You have impulse control! RESIST!

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SJ January 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I dislike being touched in general. I avoid hugs even from people I know.

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SJ January 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm

PS
DGS I used to have very long hair, and random people would want to touch it all the time. What the heck?

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Brenda January 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm

There are a lot of issues involved in the touching of strangers; it is often a power play, the hugger forcing a person into a position they may not want, placing the hugger in control, but it is especially so for women. There is a definite double standard in the generally accepted idea that it is okay for men to touch a woman, to speak to a strange woman without introduction, and to demand behavior from women, such as, “Smile.” These are things that men regularly do to women, but do not do to men.

Women have to recognize that this is behavior they should not submit to, and, as NINA did, tell the person to bugger off.

As to hugging, I met a woman from Hawaii recently who was hugging everybody upon introduction (at least she waited for an introduction). She told me that where she is in Hawaii, hugging is the common greeting, as shaking someone’s hand is considered gross, because you don’t know where that hand has been.

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Zhoen January 26, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I went for a massage once, and after I’d dressed and was paying, the massage therapist told me she was going to hug me. Told me I had no choice. Sad, because it was a great massage, but I never considered going back to her. Especially in that situation, keeping the personal and professional separate is vital to comfort.

I’m a nurse, in surgery and recovery room, and I have to get invasively close to my patients all the time. If they want to give me a hug, after they are dressed and about to go home, to normalize it in their mind, I accept that graciously and return it warmly. But most patients prefer a simple handshake or a wave, and so do I.

Do not embrace me without my permission. It’s intrusive and selfish.

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heather January 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Some people (like me) are touchers. We feel more connected with you if we are touching you in some way. Hugs are fabulous for us, BUT!!! most of us by a certain age learn to keep our hands to ourselves when it comes to strangers! No hair touching, clothes adjusting or pregnant belly rubbing without asking permission! There is a time and place for hugging, and not everyone is receptive, and a few people will take it the wrong way (if you know what I mean!) And there are hugs, there are Hugs, and then there are HUGS! The touch must be appropriate to the circumstances. I don’t shake hands with my good friends, nor do I give them a full body embrace in most situations. Touching can range from a pat on the shoulder, one arm side on hugs, A-frame hugs, to an embrace that lasts several moments, and all have their place. If you are a toucher, learn to judge your potential touchee’s comfort level. As a toucher, I’m not comfortable with some of the huggers I’ve encountered!

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Cat January 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Yes, definitely! It makes me very uncomfortable to hug people that I’ve only recently met or don’t know very well. It simply doesn’t happen. Not only is it an invasion of my personal space but it often feels very insincere, especially if they do it to everyone else as well!

Sometimes, however, I find this rule has to be broken: for example, if someone I don’t know very well is having an awful day or just went through a terrible loss, or for some reason we’re at one of those celebratory events where it seems that everyone becomes friends instantly. In these circumstances I always approach them and ask if they’d like a hug first.

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Skoffin January 26, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I hate being hugged by anyone other then my boyfriend, worse still are the people that try to kiss me. Everyone in my boyfriend’s family does this. Since it’s family involved I’m not sure how to politely get people to stop without hurting their feelings. Ack 🙁

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Jillybean January 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm

LBC – that reminded me of a story about my sister. Some guy sitting behind her at a baseball game one night started braiding her hair. She was like, “Ummm…what are you doing?”

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Jillybean January 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Oh and there’s one girl in my office who is a bit of a hugger, but she’ll do it in such a funny manner, that you can’t help but be charmed by it. She’ll do it if you look stressed or down, and she’ll just hold out her arms and say, “Do you need a hug?” She’s a different nationality from just about everyone in the office so she calls them “Diversity Hugs” – I find it pretty funny. But I’m sure others wouldn’t be amused by it.

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Wink-n-Smile January 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Don’t you just love how when you call these people on their inappropriate behavior, they ask, “What’s wrong with YOU?” It couldn’t possibly be them. No. If you’re uncomfortable with being touched, hugged, kissed, or manhandled by a strange, it means there’s something wrong with YOU.

Subway gropers use the same comeback. Oh, and then they add “B****!” to it. Because there’s nothing wrong with them or their behavior. They’re perfect. And we are public property.

Argh.

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Elizabeth January 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I have struggled with this my whole life. I don’t like being touched by people I don’t know. I’ve always wondered why my dislike of total strangers and co-workers who are barely acquaintances putting their hands on me makes me ‘the bad guy.’ In my ten years working in doctor’s offices and at insurance companies, I was shocked at how many times I had to deal with unwanted touching from co-workers. Hugs, shoulder rubs, and one of my co-workers routinely would pull hair clips and ponytail holders from my hair (her reasoning? “You look better with your hair down.”)! Every time I developed some polite way of resisting hugs or other personal contact, there would be something new. And when I tried to tell a group of workplace acquaintances about how I don’t like to be touched, it only got worse as everyone thought it was hilarious. This wasn’t limited to me – apparently, no one else had an issue with it, and I was the only “weird” one who didn’t like it.

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kero January 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I’m in the same boat with chelee74. When I meet someone new, I do handshake and then it graduates into a big old bear hug if I see them enough BUT also if I sense that they are okay with it. If it gets uncomfortable/awkward, we just laugh it off and I don’t hug them anymore. In the professional setting, it’s always a handshake or a wave, but I’ve been hugged by teachers (both genders, not just the motherly types) and I’m okay with that. The hugging culture varies from person to person and of course, each person’s personal space should be respected. I never touch random strangers I’ve just met. Unless I’m screaming “Excuse me ma’am!!!” and she doesn’t turn around, then I lightly tap her arm. All of this hugging reminds me of:

Hi there. My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you.

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Xtina January 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Ahhhh–glad to see that I’m not alone in not liking to be hugged by, or having to hug, inappropriate people. I just don’t GET it. You’re pressing your WHOLE BODY onto someone else’s–shouldn’t that be reserved only for people you know very well and are close with? Especially not appropriate in a professional setting–that’s way too creepy.

Oh ladies–if you have not experienced being pregnant yet, you just wait. I guess people must think that just because you’ve got a baby in there, that you’ve suddenly become all touchy-feely-mushy, and are dying for any and all attention to your condition and the upcoming baby. Um, no. I’m still the same hard-nosed stick-in-the-mud that I was before. Now quit trying to touch my belly and ask me too-personal questions. 😉

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Kat January 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Totally agreed, with everyone! I have a friend whose husband insists on a hug every time we see each other or say goodbye after a visit. The trouble is, he also sees no need to wear a shirt. I try to be cool about it, but one time I insisted that he shirt up before I would hug him. He seemed really offended. I hope I wasn’t rude, but enough was enough!

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Stepmomster January 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I have a issue with a man at church that makes me and my mom nuts. My mom is the Pastor’s Wife, so everyone assumes major familiarity with her, but this guy really takes the cake.

He will hunt you down for a hug, followed with an uncomfortable “you know I love you” while he holds on, and he won’t let go until he gets a response, which is normally a rueful “I know” This man is not challenged in any way, he has a wife and son and is around 60 years old. My mom and I have tried everything from “Oh! no hug today, wouldn’t want to get you sick”to plain old bolting for our seats and greeting him sitting down so he can’t get a hug in.

Quite frankly, the only reason we don’t set him on his ear is because we don’t want to embarrass his wife, who is always right there next to him with a painted on smile.

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Tara January 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm

The word for strange men who touch/hug you is creeper. The word for strange women who touch/hug you is weirdo. I’ll tolerate hugs from family (with the exception of my husband’s stepfather, who made it clear early on that he’s a pervy old man), but no one else.

Although, it’s good to keep in mind that in some other cultures, hugging is the standard greeting, and these people might not know better. But that only goes for foreigners… people who have been in this country long enough/their entire lives ought to know better, and if they don’t, I don’t see the harm in informing them.

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TheOtherAmber January 26, 2011 at 3:37 pm

When I saw the title of this I thought it was going to be about really inappropriate hugging, you know the kind where the hugger tries to get way too physically familiar with the huggee.

I admit to being a hugger (just the regular kind, not the creepy kind). No it’s not appropriate it most business situations and in most jobs I’ve had I wouldn’t dream of hugging coworkers or my boss etc. But in other industries it’s not only fine, it’s expected. I used to work in the music industry and hugging was pretty common. I’m not in that industry anymore, but have clients that I work fairly closely with and several of them hug me. I have no problem with this.

It should also be pointed out that something like hugging is subject to various cultural influences. In North America we tend to be fairly conservative (some would say prudish) about touching others and being touched, in Europe it’s a very different story. With the amount of global mobility these days it’s no wonder that the lines blur a bit.

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Genevieve January 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm

“Of course, one must realize that manners are essentially social rituals, and social rituals are made by cultures and communities. In such a mobile world, it’s sometimes hard for people to realize that not everyone follows the norms of their own culture. It’s appropriate to put out the hand for a handshake, but going a bit overboard to call for an end to practices that simply aren’t of one’s own social group.” – Hellbound Allee

I agree with this. While I’m not an overtly touching person, in my current professional world, it’s quite common to shake when you first meet someone (first acquaintance), but once you have been doing business a while and are officially involved in a partnership, you do a small/light hug (like a sideways hug) to say ‘good bye’ and sometimes ‘hello.’ I’ll admit, I’m still learning when it’s appropriate and not but *everyone* in this business does it and if you don’t people act as though you are cold and unfeeling. A good example is the first episode of “Episodes,” where the British writing couple comes to the US in to this business and is surprised to find everyone hugging all over the place. It still hits me as strange but I think it has to do with the fact that it is really important in this business to be in a constant state of maintaining friendship. A hug after a meeting where at least one person most likely had their creative genius stomped all over is a way of saying, “hey, nothing personal, we’re still friends!” As a person who is usually reserved, I’ve had to adapt.

It’s also common in my fiance’s culture that you hug all the time, hello and good bye, anyone who might count as “friend” and “family.” But again, just a light sideways hug. The big strong bear hugs are always off limits, in my opinion, because they are so uncomfortable.

It’s a cultural thing, though, and I do think manners is also about adapting to social customs, not rigidly adhering to One Right Way at All Times.

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Leah January 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm

LADIES – STOP being so darn polite!
Step on their feet ! OOPS – SORRY. Works for this little old lady!
It’s YOUR body, YOU decide who touches it.

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Cath January 26, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I do enjoy hugs… from family and good friends, I often have to teach them how to hug me though -a lot of my family in friends are at least 6 foot tall, and here I am at 5 feet, they tend to lean over me to give me a hug… it’s an awkward sort of position with men and it hurts my back and neck. So I train them to crouch down to hug me 😛 I s’pose I don’t really live in a huggy culture, there’s know on I know that just hugs all the time, it’s usually only on certain occasions.

I do have the hair touching problem though, my hair is waist length and strawberry blonde, I normally keep it up, but when it’s down there’s always some one touching it. It doesn’t bother me too much because most people don’t touch it and if they notice they’ll say something about it instead.

I’m not looking forward to being pregnant, my sister recently had her baby she said people were rubbing her belly before she was even obviously showing, ugh!

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Ellie January 26, 2011 at 6:55 pm

This is my first time commenting, because I too hate this! It wasn’t until reading all the comments that I realized I think I’m a no-touchy person. I bear hug my friends when I haven’t seen them for awhile, but I give my own family the sideways hug, and I HATE strangers touching me. I work customer service / retail, so I have to deal with strangers all the time, and it’s usually older women who feel the need to touch me. They put their hands on my arms, shoulders, they grab items I’m wearing to see if it’s something we sell, and there’s a few regulars who get right up in my personal bubble. I bet I look strange thrusting my hip and knee out toward these people to keep them away. And the worst part is that I’ve complained about this to my boss, and they basically said suck it up and deal with it, you’ll offend a customer if you pull away. What?!

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