How about this bit of human interest news? According to a front page story in the New York Times, teenagers now use a hug to say hello, enveloping even those they may not know well. Everyone’s hugging – boys, girls, BFFs, casual acquaintances, even groups.
What’s up with that? Are the hugs the leading edge of ever more casual interaction between people. Is it a teen reaction to the sterile isolation of virtual communication – e-mail, text, IM and Twitter? Are young people looking for connection in an uncertain world? Are they trying to make the geeks and the squeamish and the Christina Ricci Goth girl types who are uncomfortable with human contact feel even more out of it? Or is this simply another way for teens to defy convention and push defensive school administrators worried about inappropriate contact between students even further to the wall? Maybe all of the above.
No matter; everybody’s doing it in high school. If it’s subversive, it’s cleverly so. I mean, who doesn’t love hugs? So warm, so fuzzy so fraught with meaning.
Somewhere back in the nineties, I read something about human beings needing fourteen hugs a day in order to feel well-adjusted. I was not about to depend on my exhausted, hard-working husband to deliver all fourteen so I settled for three or four and a shot at being moderately well-adjusted. At the time, I was married but working from home, thus somewhat socially isolated. My husband didn’t seem to worry at all, bless his well-adjusted soul.
Now that I’m on my own and have a huggable little dog, I don’t feel as if I need physical contact with everyone and anyone I run into. I’m worried, in fact, that this ritual greeting might become a common cultural convention in social and business settings. I wouldn’t like that. I don’t want to hug my clients. I like my mailman Willy well enough. Hell, we went through the anthrax scare together (Willie still wears a glove, kind of like Michael Jackson). I tip him at Christmastime. But I don’t want a hug from him. Nor do I want the saleslady from Ann Taylor to accompany her enthusiastic “Those pants are so you!” with a hug. My doctor? No. My neighbor? Definitely not. The cute guy who walks his dogs at the same time I walk mine? Okay, you got me there.
I am all in favor of shrinking our carbon footprints and trying to use up fewer resources but for better or for worse, I have managed to create my own space and I, for one, would appreciate it if no one would invade it uninvited.