I am not a hugger. I don’t like hugging people I barely know. And I really don’t like the awkwardness an impending hug brings with it.
What happened to the good old handshake, or maybe just an acknowledging nod and smile? I am not a cold person, if that is what you’re thinking. I love meeting new people. I love getting to know the new people I have just met. But none of this implies that I need to wrap my arms around them and give them a squeeze.
Because that is what a hug is, for all you people out there who think that “you don’t really need to squeeze when you hug someone”. Um, yes you do. Otherwise it becomes the equivalent of the dead fish handshake. And don’t even think of giving me the pat-on-back hug cause that might just give you a pat on your right eye-lid.
Okay, I’m not really that aggressive but really! Not so long ago a hug was for someone you were very fond of, someone you loved. These days it’s the norm to hug someone you just met (in a social setting of course). But is it considered rude if you don’t hug someone?
When I am in a new crowd of people we usually manage the introductions in such a way that they remain hug-free. But when it comes to saying goodbye you can just see that hug coming on. Like a wave in slow motion, one person is confident and determined to throw her arms out to the side and fling them around the other body. The other person, unsure of how to handle the situation, remains tense until the very last millisecond when she realises that there is no backing out. Awkwardly she leans in and somehow always manages to squash her windpipe so that when words finally come out they are muffled and weirdly high-pitched. Wouldn’t it be easier and kinder to the trachea to extend a hand and nod? But I have realised what the problem is... it’s the bending that gets me.
I am a tall chick. I love being a tall chick and I am confident about my above-average length femurs. But somehow when I am faced with having to bend over to hug nearly every girl in the group I start feeling a bit like a giraffe trying elegantly to get a drink of water without her knickers showing. I am not being offensive to shorter girls, who probably don’t enjoy the stretching. I just feel very uncomfortable hugging someone smaller than me – it makes me feel enormous.
All of this hugging got me thinking about the other social graces that seem to be changing with shifts in society. Do we still know where we stand on issues like opening the door for someone, sending a thank you note (or sms?) eating salad with a fish knife or shaking hands and hugging someone? Is it okay to bring kids when the invite requests you don’t? Is it still okay to call an unmarried woman “Miss”? Times, they are a-changing and sometimes it’s difficult to make a good first impression because we simply don’t know how we’re supposed to behave.
I have asked the queen of social graces herself, Edith Venter, to draw me a road map. Milestones on this map include: When it is appropriate to give someone two kisses instead of three and how do I graciously eat loads of canapés while drinking a cocktail and holding a handbag? In fact, we’ve decided to hold a workshop on modern social etiquette.
The workshop will be held on 9 February near Muldersdrift and will cover all the social decorum points you need to make the correct impression on anyone from the first lady to your business associates. Give me a shout if you feel you need a hand in getting out of this social minefield and would like to attend and I’ll give you all the details.
Maybe Edith Venter will tell me to get over my hugging phobia. But until then, will the small girls please just shake my hand?
Kirsten can be contacted on 079 88 44 724 or firstname.lastname@example.org .