Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Enough With the Hugs

The ghost of Leo Buscaglia is still walking among us. You might not recall, the late self-help guru who made a fetish out of hugs. But, we are all suffering the fallout of his fondness for hugs.

His website explains it all: “Leo Buscaglia was a cheerleader for life. …He was most closely associated with the topic of love and human relationships, emphasizing the value of positive human touch, especially hugs.

“This association with hugging became his trademark at lectures, where thousands of people would stand patiently waiting to hug him after a presentation. It was not uncommon for him to give a talk of about an hour, then stay afterwards signing books and hugging for at least twice that long. This came about when someone spontaneously offered him a congratulatory hug following an early speech. A line formed, and it became an anticipated part of future events. Time restraints on occasion would dictate that those towards the end of the line would have to choose between a hug and an autograph. Nearly all chose the physical connection with this inspiring speaker. And he almost never left until he met everyone in line. Should someone be left out because they hadn't pushed to the front? Those would have been people he would have missed experiencing, he said, and that would have left him a lesser person.”

Buscaglia believed that people were isolated and disconnected because they did not have any way to express their love for each other. His solution: everyone should hug everyone else.

It sounds and feels like California dreaming. And it is.

And yet, in social circles that are happily not mine, it appears that this hugging fetish has metastasized. There everyone feels that he or she must hug everyone else.

To which Juliet Lapidos cries out: Enough. Link here.

Apparently, some of the people Lapidos frequents suffer from compulsive hugging disorder. Let’s hope they can find proper treatment.

The least I can offer is to clarify the issue. Handshakes and bows are formal, ritualized gestures of respect.

They are not gestures of intimacy. They do not express affection, even momentary affection.

Hugging is an informal gesture of intimacy, but only when it is performed with people who really are your intimates.

If someone is not your intimate friend or a member of your family, hugging him or her will feel like an invasion of privacy. It certainly should.

Assuming that we are suffering from some radical disconnection, the solution is not to spread your intimacy thin-- that would make us all promiscuous huggers-- but to show greater respect for each other by adopting the more civilized and more civil gesture of shaking hands.

In other words, let’s get real.


LordSomber said...

Let's ditch the high five while we're at it.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Yes, indeed. I second the motion.

Therapy Culture said...

Have you heard of the hugging guru from India?