I really need to learn how to hug properly. I think it's an essential skill one must have, and I just don't have it. I'm okay with the handshake. I zip my hand out; a firm grip, pump the other hand up-and-down a couple of times and then withdraw, discreetly wiping my hand on my jeans. Even kissing is cool; no nose collisions for me. But hugging, that's what escapes me.
The first problem is height. It's rare that the person you'll be hugging will be of the same height as you. I'm not exactly short, and so I usually have to bend over a bit. Unfortunately, I either bend too much or too little. Too little is still tolerable, at most I wrap my arms around the person's head and give them a moment of suffocation. But it's worse when I go down too low and head-butt my co-hugger in the solar plexus. I thought that perhaps if I go a bit slower, taking into account relative speed, distance and angular acceleration, I might be able to pull it off. But no, there's a problem there too! If you go too slowly, the person thinks you don't want to hug them, and you have a touchy, cranky person on your hands for the rest of the evening. On the other hand, if you try to be faster and get into the clinch before the other person has time to confuse you, you both end up darting at each other's torso in quick jerky movements, looking like a couple of lizards in a mating dance.
A bigger stumper is the 'magnetic lips problem'. I can't figure it out�when you hug someone, don't you usually turn towards them slightly, rather than stare out over their shoulder like a baby who is being burped? I always do, and I invariably find my lips on some unintended part of the person's anatomy. I've been everywhere! I've magically found my lips on nostrils, eyelids, bald heads, I even once found them attached to a girl's earring! When asked what exactly I was doing, I couldn't answer. I was as surprised as she was! I had intended my lips to stay free of all interactions with this girl, but of their own accord they'd taken a liking to her left earring. I managed, however, to convince her that I had mistaken the design on it for some holy symbol. The rest of the evening, I had to prove my religious fervor by making the sign of the cross every five minutes, getting on my knees facing west and chanting loudly in phony Arabic, and touching every cow we passed the whole evening. Still, she never spoke to me again. As usual, it's the fault of the world. Humanity as a whole is responsible for my shortcoming.
Why do people have such individual styles of hugging? There should be some standard action, sort of a Universal Hug. It would make life easier. But, rather than sitting back and whining, I tried to classify people into groups, according to the way they hug. Surprisingly, I began to see a pattern forming. I'm only in the elementary stages of research now, but I've already been snapped up by government agencies to carry out top-secret research on the issue. I'm not at liberty to tell you too much, but I can, however, give you some basic data. Keep it to yourself, though. I think the army plans to use my findings to improve hand-to-hand fighting techniques or something, and you never know who might be listening�.
There are 4 major hugging groups, based on the repeated style of hugging that a person displays. Here they are:
THE CLING-ON HUG
(No relation to the alien beings from Star Trek, though I'd prefer those Klingons any day!) This method is practiced mainly by people who (a) are very affectionate (b) have evolved from Koala bears or � are trying to pick your pocket.
You're walking down the street, whistling and swinging your arms, or whatever it is you usually do, when you'll suddenly hear a loud squeal. Before you can react, a being will pop out from behind a lamppost and jump onto you. While trying to fight off a heart attack, you manage to discern that the person attached to you is in fact a friend, usually one of whom you aren't too fond. It's no use hugging them back, they won't let go even then. Even your cries of "But we just met this morning!" will be in vain. Most likely you'll have to go home, get a crowbar, and pry the hugger loose. The worst part is that the bus conductor never believes that you had no say in your choice of accessories, and insists that you pay for 2 tickets instead of just your own!
THE TOUCH-N-GO HUG
These hugs are usually courtesy of the cleanliness freaks and the 'I'm too cool for you!' types. They believe that by hugging you they may get a variety of deadly diseases, or may lose their social standing, and behave accordingly. They'll walk up to you, suddenly grab your shoulders, and pin your arms to your sides (in case you are tempted to touch them back with those germ-laden paws of yours). They will then proceed to bring one square inch of one shoulder in your general vicinity, and consider the hug given. Personally, I prefer these types. They don't expect me to do anything, and that's what I'm best at!
THE GOLFER HUG
This kind is definitely the most irritating! Usually given to you by very 'girly' girls and intolerable 'aunties'. You first know you're in trouble when they see you and proclaim "Sweeetooo!" loud enough for all your friends to hear. They'll trot up to you, and then suddenly get into a weird stance. They bend over from the waist, leave their butt sticking out in mid air and grab your hands where the golf club should have been. Then they hook their chin onto your shoulder and nuzzle your reddening cheek with theirs. This, as you can imagine, is highly embarrassing, especially when they leave half their make-up on your face. Still, I've found a foolproof repellent for these decked-up pests. My stubble draws blood, and now I keep a permanent 7-o-clock shadow to ward off these types. Once shredded by the lethal Mascarenhas beard, the ladies stick to saying a distant "Hi!" from the safety of their sofas.
THE PARTY HUG
Though one doesn't encounter this kind of hug on a day to day basis, it is still worth a mention. Walk into any 'cool' party, and you'll get a good taste of this hug from the minute you enter. You saunter in, and at once you'll be spotted by someone you know, usually only very slightly. It's probable that each doesn't remember the other's name, but it would never do to give that away. So you fly at each other like long lost friends, and squeeze so hard that you are too out of breath to talk. That provides a legitimate reason to walk away without a conversation, and so you get away without embarrassment. The danger to this type of hug is that by the time you make it from one end of the room to the other, you've spent so much time hugging acquaintances that there's no time left to dance or eat. And you still have to hug everyone goodbye�
(Note: Sometimes this hug is accompanied by a peck on the cheek. To avoid this, the 'Mascarenhas Beard Technique' (mentioned above) proves very useful. If you are a woman, then even the slightest hint of a beard is just as effective.)
I haven't really managed to find the hug that best suits my personality, but I do know that none of the above are for me. So, until I do find that 'perfect hug', I'm going to keep experimenting and practicing. I've already found out what sort of hugs are unacceptable. It's a simple equation: if you get slapped, then you better drop that kind. Somehow, these rejected ones are usually my favourites. I wonder why!