I read today that Darren Hayes was at Somerset House in London at 3PM this afternoon. A week ago, he had said that he would appear in a public place in London at a designated time and hug anyone that showed up. He tweeted the time and place and, as it turns out, a lot of people showed up. A bunch of strangers appeared, brought together by the chance to hug a pop star. Now, I’m sure that one of the big reasons that people showed up was because it was Darren Hayes who was doing the hugging, but by his account, he wasn’t the sole hugger. The attendees were hugging each other as well. He filmed a lot of the hugs for a YouTube video that he hopes to publish sometime in the near future.
The whole thing made me feel really good because, no matter what way you slice it, that’s a lot of hugging. It got me to thinking about how hugging fits in to our culture. My general take on hugging is twofold. First and foremost, I think people are very all-or-nothing when it comes to hugging. They either like it and hug most everyone or they hate the contact and they hug almost no one. Secondly, I don’t think there’s anywhere near enough hugging going on at any given moment. You could multiply the amount of hugging by a million and I don’t think you’d be close to what it should be.
I’m sure you can infer from that statement that I’m a pretty huggy person – and I am. There are so many times that I find myself actually jealous of my daughter who is always hugging all her friends upon their arrival and their departure. Granted, she is female and hugging has always been much more acceptable among female friends. I don’t recall ever hugging any of my friends as a kid – certainly none of the boys I played with and probably none of the girls either because, of course, they all had cooties. Sure, when I started dating, hugging (and other things) became pretty standard fare. But where does hugging fall, now that we’re all adults?
In my family, we all hug. I hug my brother and my sister, their spouses, my dad and my mom. That’s family and it’s what our family does. I guess family plays by different rules, or perhaps it’s because I’m so comfortable and know how they are to such a degree that I don’t even hesitate. With my friends, however, I am more reticent. And it’s not because I’m uncomfortable with it – quite the opposite. I can’t think of a single friend that I have now that I would not be comfortable hugging. What holds me back is my general desire not to impose on their personal space. How would they respond to this? Would they find it weird or creepy? Or would they find it comforting and reaffirming? Even some of the closest friends in my life – non-biological brothers and sisters, so-to-speak – I find myself not hugging, mostly because of unknowns like that. I think it’s even harder when the huggers are two men – but thankfully, the societal rules against straight men hugging each other seem to be relaxing by the minute. I can’t wait for the day that those are gone forever.
I remember reading a study once that said that babies that were deprived of touch were far less healthy than counterparts that were held and snuggled and hugged and kissed. As a father, I’m a very huggy guy and I will miss the day when my daughter is “too big” to come and sit in the chair with me and watch TV – she’s growing up faster than I would like but you can hardly stop that sort of thing. I think that what applies to infants also applies to adults – we need some kind of touch in our life. For me I can honestly say the more the better.
I told my daughter once that I always have time for a hug – I’m never too busy and nothing’s ever so important that a hug has to wait till later. That has really stuck with her and she has reminded me of it more than once. I think that applies to more than just my daughter – it goes for a whole lot of other folks in my life too.
I’m not ashamed to say that I like hugs in all shapes and sizes. I would have totally shown up for that Darren Hayes hugfest, even if Darren Hayes hadn’t been there. To paraphrase Don Henley, there’s just not enough hugs in the world.