An ode to the man-hug
I am English and I do not, therefore, come from a long line of huggers. In fact, I can recall just one notable man-hug during my formative years. It came from my father when he was the Best Man at my wedding.
Maybe the lack of hugs in my youth is why I embrace them (see what I dd there) so warmly today. Maybe having endured almost three years of COVID-19 social distancing, I am just grateful of the human contact. Or maybe, having fathered four children, I am so demonstrably heterosexual that my stupid man brain will finally allow me to hug another man without fear of embarrassment or derision.
Whatever the reason, I have warmed to the man-hug. But, like the more common handshake, I think we all need to agree on some etiquette.
Some men try to exert their superiority with an extra firm handshake. The man-hug equivalent to that would feel like an encounter with a boa constrictor; and nobody needs that in a social situation. Conversely, the man-hug equivalent of the dreaded limp fish handshake would be deeply uncomfortable to both parties.
Where do you put your head? Can we all agree to stay left to avoid a clash of heads or unplanned kissing? Where do you put your hands? A simple wrap-around embrace works for me; a hand on the back of my head or on my buttocks…less so.
It might be just me but I also feel like the man-hug — like your best suit or your finest china — should be held back for special occasions. In fact, I would like to propose a four-point scale, as follows.
- If you are meeting another man for the first time, a regular handshake will suffice. No limp fish, no vice-like grip and certainly no attempts at secret society messaging.
- If you are meeting a man you already know, perhaps reinforce the handshake by patting them on the elbow with your free-hand.
- If you are meeting someone you consider a friend, place your free hand on their shoulder for even greater emphasis.
- If you are meeting an old friend, someone you really like, or someone you haven’t seen for far too long, dispense with the handshake altogether and go in for the hug.
Oh, and one final thing. Please don’t come at me with fist or elbow bumps, high-fives or lame, cool guy handshakes. I am a grown up; I don’t know what to do with those.
I have clearly thought about all this far too much. I think I need a hug.