Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Ready to hug

People have very different attitudes to physical contact. Some, like myself, can't get enough of it - we love hugging, cuddling and kissing and all the affection and warmth that goes with it. Others loathe it and try to avoid even touching another person.

The contact-averse have a hard time here in Northern Ireland, where hugs and kisses are routine when you're meeting someone or parting from them. If you find it repulsive, you have to swallow your feelings and follow the custom, or else risk upsetting someone.

Physical contact is still less effusive among men, who tend to only feel comfortable with a hearty handshake or a slap on the shoulder. Anything more familiar still conjures up an unconscious association with homosexuality and the idea that too much touchy-feely stuff with another bloke is a bit weird. So men are often deprived of the reassuring hugs and cuddles that women get from each other all the time.

I've never had any hang-ups about bodily contact. In fact when I was young I craved it because my parents avoided it. My father just thought it was "inappropriate" while my mother was afraid hugging me too much would turn me queer. And being at an all-male boarding school for five years, not much hugging went on there (and no gayness either).

After I left school, I supported the Gay Liberation movement and never had any inhibitions about cuddling and kissing hundreds of gay men. I couldn't see why so many people objected to it. What could be more natural than showing friendliness and fondness by embracing someone?

For some though, casual physical contact is still deeply repugnant. It demands a degree of openness and spontaneity they find awkward. They feel embarrassed and conspicuous. They see it as theatrical and unnecessary. Well, each to their own, I guess, but if I was permanently deprived of physical affection I think my soul would shrivel up and die. Bodies can express something that any number of words cannot.

34 comments:

Kate said...

I love hugs!!! Think I've always been a 'touch' person!!!

Nick said...

Kate - What a shame I can only send you cyber hugs!

Liz said...

I'm not sure about hugs. I love them and wish I could give them more naturally. And just touching someone - not a hug or even a caress - I wish came more naturally to me as it's very personal. In fact I shall make an effort to do just that! (Maybe ...)

Nick said...

Liz - Sure, touching someone is personal but then so is talking to them or putting something in their hand. And it can mean so much to the person touched.

Hullaballoo said...

I adore cuddling and am also a very tactile person. The boys love the physical closeness and I am sure it helps them feel more secure.

Nick said...

Hulla - I'm sure it does them a lot of good. In fact research shows that plenty of physical affection makes you healthier.

grannymar said...

I am very tactile and miss hugs and human touch. When I return from a visit to Dublin my arms ache from all the hugging. There are times when a hug or a touch on the arm can say so much more than words.loctri

Nick said...

Grannymar - Exactly, a friendly touch can really lift your spirits, it's such a direct gesture when words don't always make contact.

e said...

I love hugs. Where I grew up, people kissed cheeks when they met or parted, although with strangers one was more likely to kiss air.

Sorry the Brits and Americans tend to be uptight...

meno said...

I have a friend who told me years ago that she was not a "hugging person." So i never hugged her because i respect that boundary.

This year she told me that her New Year's resolution was to try and hug people. So i hugged her!

I love to hug people i like, but i have a hard time with people i don't like (certain relatives.)

Leah said...

I think touch is as important as anything to the human psyche and to one's well-being! I think they've even done studies that have shown it to be true.

And we're a very cuddly family.

Wisewebwoman said...

I am a highly tactile person, have to stop myself at times touching people as it can be too excessive.

But I do respect the boundaries of others who have often been touched inappropriately as children and have a subsequent distrust and abhorrence for it.

We never do know what kind of inner battles some fight.

And I've often seen people in tears becuase I've hugged them. And one told me he hadn't been touched in well over a year.

How sad, eh?

We don't touch each other enough.

I counted all my hugs in one week and it was 20 and I felt incredibly wealthy. :^)

XO
WWW

Baino said...

I know what you mean about men but I see it more often these days. Perhaps the influence of Meditteranean and Middle Eastern men who have no issue with cheek kissing and a robust hug. Personally. It comes naturally. Just what I do. Not the 'air kiss' though. If you're going to kiss someone you're not romantically involved with, just plant it . .firmly on the cheek! You keep hugging Nick. ((((hugs))))

Nick said...

e - Kissing the air is a funny idea, isn't it, though it does show affection.

Meno - Agreed, hugging people you don't like is a tricky one. How perfunctory a hug can one get away with?

Leah - It's true, research backs up the health-giving properties of hugs and kisses.

Nick said...

www - Yes, too much physical contact can quite disconcert some people, a bit of sensitivity is required. Very sad that some people are yearning to be touched but never are.

Baino - True, men in some countries are less inhibited about embracing each other. I mean, what's the big deal? Hugging is so much fun, isn't it? {{{big hugs}}}

Oh, and extra big hugs to all my blogmates!

Kate said...

Thank you - big hugs and cyber hugs all gratefully received here!!!! And returned - of course!!

Nick said...

Kate - Did you see that a 51-year-old Ohio man Jeff Ondash gave 7,777 hugs in 24 hours on Valentine's Day and set a new world record? Hi Jeff, {{{big hugs}}}....

Liz said...

I tried last night and managed to just touch a few people on the arm!

Megan said...

I love hugs. Sometimes I shock people though, I think, because I just can't do the half-hearted type and only grab someone's shoulders. I have to get right in there!

Hi Nick!

tattytiara said...

I tend to think of human contact avoidance as a condition something like anorexia. Scientific studies have very conclusively proven that it's something human beings need to thrive. Whether through neurosis or cultural conditioning, the aversion to it is definitely an unhealthy state, because it's a self induced deprivation from something the self needs - whether it likes it or not!

Nick said...

Liz - Well, that's a good start! Were they pleasantly surprised?

Megan - And why not? Do it properly or not at all, I say.

Tattytiara - Hmmm, a bit like anorexia, I guess. Particularly the extreme self-containment and boundary-protection. And the self-control.

Kate said...

Thats a helluva lot of hugs!!! And he's got a wonderful name - fitting somehow!!!

Nick said...

Kate - Yes, I noticed the name too! I wonder if he'll try for an even better record next year?

Fate's Granddaughter said...

I was shocked to read this - which Northern Ireland do you live in?! I have felt affection starved since moving here. Once a person who hugged and kissed hello and goodbye with most friends and even some acquaintances, I felt like I had to sit on my hands when I arrived here. I must be running in the wrong circles!

Nick said...

Fate - I'm sorry to hear you're so affection starved. Yes, you must have very different workmates and friends. Now I'm not sure which is typical, your experience or mine!

Quickroute said...

I came from a affection repressed household and am now married to herself - latina outward affection crazed - opposite ends of the universe collide

Nick said...

Quicky - So was that all that outward affection hard to adjust to or did it seem quite natural?

Rummuser said...

I am very sensitive to human physical contact and use hugs, pats and caresses quite often in my communications. I find that such additions to verbal communications, add to the effect.

Nick said...

Ramana - That's what I think, physical affection adds something that you can't express in words.

niamh said...

So true that we need physical affection. Though I'm with Fate's GD in finding Irish people not great with the hugging - having moved to Dublin from more expressive locales. I miss hugging and kissing everyone you meet but here I feel you have to break down a few walls first. All depends on the person though but that's the general feeling I get here. Maybe I need to try harder!

Nick said...

Niamh - I must have been fortunate in running into a lot of huggers! You do often have to break down walls, I agree, especially if you come from outside Ireland. There's still a lot of parochiality.

Aritul said...

I never pictured the Irish as being particularly affectionate. I suppose that if I had to rank them, I would have place them closer to Scandinavians than Latin Americans. I see that perhaps I was mistaken.

Nick said...

Aritul: I find the Irish en masse rather unfriendly and offhand. But individually they can be very friendly and huggy. Perhaps like old-fashioned Brits, they like to be properly introduced first!

Aritul said...

Gotcha!