Wednesday, June 3, 2009

No, I don't need a hug.

A lady in my women's networking group recently forwarded a link about the Global Hug Tour. Here's the jist of it, lifted, not plagiarized, straight off the site:

"What we're doing
Inspire Me Today Founder Gail Lynne Goodwin and her husband Darryl will take off in a small prop plane from Colorado to circumnavigate the globe and literally hug the world. The tour will stop in 45 locations over a period of five months.
On a personal mission to make a difference, they will be:
Delivering an estimated $1,000,000 to important causes throughout the tour raised through grassroots contributions from people like you
Giving at least 2,000 hugs in each location to literally wrap the world in 100,000 hugs
Gathering great wisdom, inspiration and brilliance from leaders and luminaries in the far reaches of the globe to bring back and share on"

If you want to take part in the hugathon, all you have to do is donate $10. Multiple charities are involved and Gail and Darryl will personally deliver your donation, to the city and cause of your choice, with a big squeeze for an individual recipient. You will become an official hug ambassador and find out exactly who got embraced in your name. If the recession has left you with any discretionary income and you feel inspired, here is the link.

Now that I've demonstrated that I am basically well-intended and have given you the opportunity to make a donation, I'd like to speak for hug-averse people everywhere.

Our culture has gone hug-wild. A recent New York Times article described the affectionate behavior of today's High School students. Every day, students are hugging each other hello. Repeatedly. We're excited - let's hug! We're bummed - let's hug! We're dissaffected, jaded and bored - let's hug! No wonder nobody gets to class on time. Meanwhile, in the adult world, more and more of my clients and colleagues feel compelled to greet me with a squeeze and sometimes even a kiss. The first time this happens, I inevitably stiffen. Occasionally, they notice and apologize, and then we're both embarrassed.

I'm all for warmth, affection and human contact but I happen to need a large amount of personal space. It's cultural and probably genetic - we're all like this, on both sides of the family. I am a demonstrative person and truly love my friends, but I save my hugs for my husband, children and dog. I'm not heartless: if a friend is in despair and I get that please hug me vibe, I understand, and I am happy to oblige. My best friend on the planet lives in the Midwest. We stay in constant touch, but I'm lucky if I see her every other year. When we see each other, we hug. Gingerly, like a couple of porcupines. She's not a hugger either, which is probably one of the reasons we get along so well.

Regardless of one's personal space issues, hugging has its draw backs. Some are olfactory: a whiff of mothballs, a hint of body odor, a sniff of stale smoke - triple yuck. Some are self-imposed: Is my breath OK? Did I forget the deodorant? Can she tell I'm uncomfortable? Some are contagious: lice, swine flu, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis. And then there's the occasional pervy hug, usually inflicted on a woman by a man, ostensibly in the name of camaraderie but with the ulterior motive of full body contact.

Which brings me back to that affectionate couple, the Goodwins. Have they considered that other cultures may not be so huggable? Social mores are very different in Islamic Morocco than secular France. In Thailand, it's considered extremely rude to touch someone's head. The charitable aspect of the Global Hug Tour is admirable. The Goodwins are having themselves a damn fine adventure while living up to their positive surname. But let's not forget that it is possible to touch people without using your hands.

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