I have never been much of a tree-hugger, even though I consider myself a sort of environmentalist. The fact is, I’ve never been much of a hugger at all.
One’s willingness to wrap one’s arms around almost anyone has not been a national issue of pressing importance since Uncle Joe Biden, the former vice president and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, was outted as a serial hugger.
Joe admits to being a “tactile” politician, which is like saying LeBron James plays some hoops in his spare time. Joe hugs, embraces, touches, kisses, smells – yes, he smelled one poor woman’s head and hair – and in general presses the flesh with more ardor than a pickpocket with a quota.
He has promised to do better, which means to do less of what seems to come naturally to him. I hope he succeeds in this, but either way this has shone the light on a deep, dark secret in our touchy-feely society.
Namely this: a lot of us want you to keep your hands off.
My family was never a gaggle of snugglers. The parents engaged in two kinds of kid-touching: feeling your forehead for signs of a fever and delivering a whack to your bottom.
To exacerbate the issue, we kids were nevertheless compelled into false shows of affection. “Kiss your aunt. Do it. I don’t care if you don’t want to, just do it and make it look good.”
That was all pretty manageable until about 15 years ago, when huggle-mania took place. Shortly after air-kissing became the rage, serial embracing became epidemic, too. You’d see high school girls in a clinch at the football game after having not seen their best friends since English class four hours ago.
This soon slopped over into the adult cohort, and I found myself under siege by flapping arms and pressing cheeks by folks I only barely knew and sometimes didn’t necessarily like all that much.
I guess what it comes down to is that – in my opinion –hugging and such are for the people who are truly close to you. To paraphrase the line from “Pulp Fiction,” it’s fair to say that “Mr. T don’t like to be hugged by anybody but Mrs. T.” Well, it’s not that extreme and exclusive, but as a general rule if you a) aren’t a close friend of long standing who just emerged from four years lost in the jungle or b) Allison Janney, let’s just start with a handshake and see where the relationship goes from there.
Us anti-huggers are rallying now with new outrage and terminology. “Body autonomy” is the latest battle cry of people wishing to establish a “no-fly zone” around their selves.
Now, Joe Biden at least has the excuse that glad-handing is a time-honored way of building support and smoothing over disputes in the world of politics. But considering how well the political system is working today, that’s a slender reed to lean upon.
And as for whose fault that is, I will keep my opinions, and my hands, to myself. Now in this contentious world of uncivil discourse, doesn’t that sound like a great policy?
Jim Tortolano’s Retorts was started in February 1969. Do the math.