AT LAST, an upside to the coronavirus panic! A virologist has said the nation should stop hugging and kissing to stop the spread of the illness. Professor John Oxford, of Queen Mary, University of London, explains that ‘British standoffishness’ could protect the nation.
Ok. I will come clean. I hate hugs. It staggers me how hugs get such a good press.
I used to think kissing people on the cheek was bad enough but hugging them is even worse as it requires a full-body immersion. It is bizarre that people you hardly know think it acceptable to behave in this way. Hugging is seen as benign while most of the time it’s just a socially acceptable excuse for a grope.
I have an acquaintance I see several times a year. He is a lovely man, a linchpin of the community. But I flinch whenever he heaves into view as he is a hugger – an equal opportunities hugger who launches himself at men as well. What’s wrong with a cheery wave or a sensible handshake? Male-on-male hugging aficionados even have the friendly option of a manly slap on the back.
I’ve taken to carrying my handbag as a barrier across my stomach and holding out my hand in the hope that shaking it will be sufficient contact but still I am greeted with open arms. Huggers are bug-resistant and determined: even if you insist you have flu they will not abandon their onslaught. I doubt that even the coronavirus would be enough to stop them.
As a small, thin woman I am intimidated when huggers swoop down on me, coats flapping like great birds of prey. I don’t hug my family as we are all so thin: it is an unpleasant crushing of bones and rattling of jewellery on skinny arms.
Admitting you hate hugs is akin to saying you voted Brexit – a guarantee of social suicide. People are aghast and look at you as if you are some kind of sociopath. But it’s hard to hide my hug hatred. Even when I give in, my eyes are frozen with horror, my body is rigid and my hands are stiff. Conversely, I feel a failure knowing that my hugs will never be a source of comfort.
Bizarrely, some people can’t get enough of them and will even pay to be hugged. Professional hugging companies are a big thing in the States where you can take a professional ‘Cuddler Certification Program’. Companies such as The Snuggery aim ‘to provide individuals with private snuggling (sic) sessions. We aim to make the world a gentler place, one snuggle at a time’. The cheapest hug or snuggle will cost you $50 for 45 minutes. It sounds revolting.
If you are looking for a non-sexual form of intimacy, why not buy a dog? I love hugging my dogs – the trouble is, they don’t like hugging me and wriggle to escape.
It makes me wonder: is hatred of hugging together with a love of dogs a particularly English thing? (I specify English as our Celtic compatriots are of a warmer disposition). Have our snuggling impulses been bashed out of us after years of chilly boarding schools and even chillier parents? Quite possibly. I think there may also be a genetic component, as the only person brave enough to share her horror of hugging is girl-about-town and self-proclaimed `hug hater’ Caroline Stanbury, who happens to be my third cousin.
So all you huggers out there, be warned and `hold the hug’, if only for the sake of the nation’s health.