I’m An Awkward Hugger
I love meeting new people. I’d like to think of myself as a pretty good conversationalist, and I have diverse enough interests that I can usually make some sort of connection to a person I’ve just met.
So yeah, meeting someone for the first time?
What’s not so awesome?
Hugging someone for the first time.
I confess, I’m an awkward hugger. To me, there’s nothing more anxiety-inducing than going in for that very first hug with someone I’ve recently become friends with.
The problem isn’t the first hug itself. The problem is when to attempt that first hug — when to level up the friendship from handshake / fist-bump / touch-on-the-arm / pat-on-the-back / casual-side-hug to …
The Full Frontal Hug.
Because you certainly don’t want to initiate a Full Frontal Hug with someone you barely know. That’s just creepy. But at the same time, if you wait too long to get that first hug in, they might think you’re stuck up or secretly despise them. Basically, you have to wrestle with wanting to be friendly and wanting to respect whatever personal boundaries someone might have.
Oh, and just to clarify, I’m referring to members of the opposite sex here. Initiating a Full Frontal Hug with another guy is an entirely different can of massive, pulsating worms. Because then you’re also tossing in considerations about social stigma and all that stupid guy BS.
So yes, that dreaded first hug. It kills me. Here, for instance, is the commentary of self-doubt that runs through my mind when I’m getting ready to part ways with a group of friends:
Okay, I should get going. Time to make my rounds. Let’s see …
First person … Okay, it’s Alex. He gets a handshake. Easy.
“Hey, good to see ya!”
Next person … Awww, it’s Mary! We go way back. And… oh look at that, she’s already coming in for a hug. Sweet. Just hug her back. And hug her like you mean it! There we go. Perfect.
“Byyyyyyyeeeeee. See you soon, okay?”
Next person … Ah, crap. It’s Jenna. Okay, okay. Okay. We’ve had quite a few conversations now, and I’ve gotten to know her pretty well. Before tonight, I avoided any awkwardness by simply waving goodbye from a distance whenever I was leaving. But … damn it, she’s standing right next to Mary now. And I just hugged Mary like I was never gonna see her again.
“Well, it was nice chatting with you …”
Craaaaap, I can’t very well wave goodbye to her now, right? I mean, that would be even more awkward. What if she takes that as a personal diss? What if she thinks I can’t stand her because I just hugged Mary and don’t hug her, too.
“… good luck with that … thing … you had just been telling me all about …”
Oh, man. And now, she’s looking kind of uncomfortable. Hehe, maybe she’s wondering the same thing and trying to decide whether or not to hug me. Maybe I should just …
But wait! What if she’s looking uncomfortable because she doesn’t want to hug me?
“… alright, guess I’ll see ya around!”
Ah, fuck it. Let’s just play the jock card….
Aaaaaaaand … crisis averted.
No, I’m not exaggerating here. This is what really goes through my mind when I’m up against that dreaded first hug.
And the harder I try sometimes, the worse I get. I think the pinnacle of awkwardness in my awkward hug career was when I once went in for a first hug, and I tried to imitate what I’d seen my cool hugger buddies do, and I extended only one arm out (because extending both arms would be way too needy-looking, right?), and …
She responded by stepping aside and asking if I needed to get around her.
See? That’s awkward.
I admire people who are warm and inviting and have no problem hugging everyone from best friends to loose acquaintances to perfect strangers. I truly do (though I might question their awareness of other people’s personal space). For me, if I run into a woman I’ve met a few times, and I end up getting into a conversation with her, the meat part of the interaction sandwich is great, but the hello bun and the goodbye bun fill me with nothing but shameful dread.
So, the moral of the story?
If you’re one of those non-awkward huggers, please just do us both a favor and hug me already.
And if you, too, are an awkward hugger?