A hug’s not just for Christmas…
Unfortunately. I’m happy to hug a tree – I recognise a kindred spirit in a rooted-to-the-spot arboreal bristling with prickly bits (not to mention the odd life-form roosting in its canopy). Lots of people hug trees and don’t expect a reciprocal squeeze. So all this stuff about a hug being good for your health is relative. Not during flu season, it isn’t.
Hugging is one consonant away from mugging. No offence, but I can no more hug a casual acquaintance than a hoodie – I’m the anti clutch bag. Worse still is the group hug beloved of sporting huddles and team-building exercises. As I run for cover, I can see everyone thinking, if she’s this lacking in esprit de corps, she’ll be flamin’ useless when it comes to making a life raft out of tooth picks. My preferred MO here is to fake a jellyfish sting, stare intently at an incoming text or recall my recent brush with shingles.
However, lack of physical demonstrativeness is not indicative of depth of feeling. If it was, there’d be no such thing as romantic poetry.
So when I’m hailed by a hugger, evasive manoeuvres are instinctive rather than a calculated snub: she swoops, she dives, she collides with an earlobe and U-turns into an air kiss! Then apologises and mumbles, ‘sorry, I’m no good at hugging,’ as if it’s quantum physics or open-cast mining.
I don’t think it’s a stiff upper lip thing. It’s just a kind of natural diffidence that, if anything, masks the true intensity of my feelings. When I met one of my heroes, Seamus Heaney, at a poetry reading, I doubt he expected a show of hands upon his revered person, but neither could he have anticipated a total stranger to flap around like a landed fish, wheeze a few incoherent syllables and then, as he politely enquired as to their interest in his work, deftly impersonate a petrified forest.
Still, I like to think he appreciated my restraint in not throwing an arm round his neck, planting a wet smacker on his cheek and getting him in a half-nelson for a selfie. Huggers of infamy, take note – and a step back.