Love and Hugging, Revisited

I am a hugger. And I don’t hug people nearly as much as I used to. I don’t feel as comfortable. Not because it bothers me to hug somebody-if I had my way, I’d hug people indiscriminately, like in the line at the grocery store- but because I think it bothers them.

People aren’t that into being hugged anymore. I used hug my friends when I first saw them as part of “hello” and nobody would think twice. Even guys I knew didn’t mind. To them I was just a “hugger” and they seemed to let my behavior pass. Then one of my dear friends began to stick his arm out to shake hands with me as I was coming up his driveway. I saw him standing there with his arm out, practically pointing it at me. I got the message.

Physical contact used to be far more acceptable. The late Leo Buscaglia, the author and lecturer on Love, had a “hug line” after each of his lectures so he could put his arms around everybody in attendance. All they had to do was show up. He advocated hugging as the single most important expression of love and affection. I agree with that. I’ve read, too, that hugging can boost your immune system and improve your mood, being an antidote for depression and anxiety.

Think about something: When was the last time you were touched by somebody else? Can you recall when somebody pressed their hand on your back? More importantly, can you remember the last time you reached out to touch somebody else? To hold their hand, to put your arms around them?

I don’t know why adults have retreated from this practice of friendship and intimacy. And I cannot think of a better time when this gesture of love needs to be regenerated. So I am posing this small challenge.

For this week, I ask you to hold somebody on the arm, touch their hand or, if you are up to the task, hug somebody. Just once. I don’t expect anybody to go from zero to sixty hugs in a week; just one will do. But throughout this process, I would ask this as well: pause a moment after you actually touch somebody else. Just let the feeling of that contact sink in, and experience the sensation. To me, there is nothing like the feeling of ease I receive when I have been held.

Hugging is beginning to be a lost art. I ask that we all begin to put this simple expression of love back into practice.


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