i once read this funny thing somewhere - what was the guy who invented the hug actually trying to do! :) Whatever that was, we definitely have him to thank for giving us one of the most wonderful expressions of love and affection. A mother's hug keeps the child warm. A child's hug is all innocence. A spouse's hug is love and security. Friends hugging each other is a reiteration of their feelings. Hugs are also a great way of celebrating in good times and consoling in times of tragedy. And then there are fake social-butterfly-type hugs which mean nothing. The ones that are intimate are full frontal hugs and the social types can be side to side body contact.
A hug is so special because it includes people into our personal space. It's an intimate way of saying you like/love someone. Hugs also convey equality over formality. It's one step ahead of a handshake. So it's not formal. And when you hug someone, you are somewhere trying to show that you consider the other person your equal. i love the way Kapil hugs his guests on his show - very deferential yet welcoming. He never hugs them as an equal but his body language conveys the respect and warmth of his feelings.
Even though a hug is such a wonderful thing, it is a gesture that can be uncomfortable if forced onto people who don't share that kind of a rapport with each other. The physical contact may feel unwelcome and inappropriate since a hug is meant to convey feelings of a personal nature. i, once, went to meet up this guy to talk about an assignment. i had met him a couple of times before but long time back. When i accidentally mentioned that my birthday had gone by 2 days back, he wanted to hug me to wish me and he did! It was the social type of hug but uncomfortable nonetheless!! Rest assured, i haven't and am never going to be meeting him again for any project!
Hugging someone is an acceptable form of social greeting in foreign countries. Yes, even if you are someone else's wife. No, not a stranger, but a social acquaintance. It's telling you that this means more than a handshake. I had my first experience of this when i started traveling abroad with my husband and met up his colleagues. Most of them were culturally sensitive and would only shake hands in the first meeting because they knew Indian women are not used to hugs by other men. But by the end of the first meeting or the subsequent meetings, it was common to convey their affection through a light hug. Assuming that by then it was going to be taken in the right spirit of friendship. And i must point out that since hugging is a common practice in those countries, the people really know how to hug. And by that i mean that their hug never feels intrusive or uncomfortable. It is full of warmth and conveys the pure feelings appropriate to the context. One mention is my husband's former boss in India who has this amazing brotherly hug which gives so much reassurance and affection!
Hugs are becoming socially common even in India. But they are still not a part of our natural social behaviour. In most situations, we shake people's hands, warmly in more than social situations. And the kind of hugs people give depend on how comfortable they with their own selves doing that. i have come across awkward hugs where i was comfortable with it but the other person wasn't. And in the spur of the moment you are just trying to avoid both faces from colliding!! Hugs, of course, are still at a nascent stage socially in our country and i prefer it to be that way. Unless people come from a particular strata of society, hugs can just become an outlet for people to touch other women in our society. And we need to mature a lot in our thinking as a country that can hug to convey just friendship and affection.
In conclusion, hugs speak the universal language of love. Even if you do not know someone's language, you can use a hug to convey a whole gamut of emotions - from compassion to support to love. To me, hugs are a way of not just expressing love but getting them from the right people gives me strength and reassurance. The all-is-well feeling.
Look around you and find someone you want to hug or be hugged by. It can just brighten up a dull day. And if no one's around you, here’s one from me!