Hugging. Some of us like to be hugged, and some of us don’t.
I don’t mind being hugged. Don’t mind giving hugs either. Crushing bear hugs. Soft two-second hugs. Group hugs. One arm hugs. Whether we hug someone or not depends on how we feel about them. And how they feel about us.
We hug someone we barely know when we like them and feel like we can be friends or more. If we have a nice conversation going and maybe share a laugh hanging out with someone we don’t know well, we might hug them when saying hello or goodbye.
About a year ago I met a blogger friend from the States for the first time. He didn’t mind that I was late to our lunch because I got lost, and we talked non-stop while eating. We parted with a hug. No dramas. Hugging, a show of friendship.
It usually feels okay to hug someone we aren’t best friends with if we have something in common like school or work, and if we don’t hate each other’s guts. Each time I left a job, my colleagues thanked me for my work and hugged me on my last day. Hugging, a show of appreciation.
We might hug someone we know or don’t know when we share moments and emotions together – we probably don’t know what else to do. We hug to celebrate, hug our teammates when we win and strangers when our county scores goals at the World Cup. We hug to make someone feel better when they’re feeling down.
There’s not forgetting hugging those close to us when we see or leave them. Hugging, a show of love. But then again, not all the ones we love are big on hugs. And you can never be sure if that person we just met is okay with hugging.
For some of us, hugging is a special moment. We don’t hug every day and reserve our hugs for special someones. So when someone who we’re not best buds with hugs us, we might resist.
Some of us don’t hug too often because of cultural and religious reasons. In Asian cultures, getting touchy-feely with each other is frowned upon. In countries like Malaysia where thieves are around every corner, we’re wary of people touching us the slightest bit. Arms around us – too close for comfort.
Catching germs and getting dirty is another reason why some Asians aren’t keen on hugging. Being clean is something many of us pride ourselves upon, explaining why we like taking our shoes off at home. More than once I’ve heard my mum say, “Those gweilos hugging. So sweaty.”
Maybe some Asians shy away from hugging because of our nature to be shy. Because we’re respectful of personal space and physical distance.
Growing up, hugging was alien to me. Never saw my Chinese-Malaysian parents hugging each other when I was little. Out of spite my Caucasian classmates pushed me to the ground in the playground. My Asian classmates hid away studying. No one whom I could hug, and no one hugged me.
This changed when I moved back to Melbourne for university. On campus, many of my Asian and non-Asian friends were fond of greeting me with their arms around me. It felt odd. After a while, I decided to go along with this and realised hugging is…nice. Warmth between two bodies. Two people. Two hearts, so close.
My friends say I squeeze tight when I hug them. I suppose I’m generous with my hugs. Earlier this year, I was sitting in a shopping centre and a blonde girl about fourteen came up to me asking for directions. I pointed her the right way. Saying “Thank you”, she bent down and hugged me. Without thinking, I hugged her back. Hard.
When we hug, we love. We learn to give. And above all, we learn to trust.
Do you hug a lot? When do you hug?