There have been a slew of articles in recent years about how the hug has become the standard gesture for greeting and parting amongst young people these days. There’s talk about this new phenomenon and how it seems so odd to the older generations. Many consider me to be young, but the fact that I’m months away from 30 means that I graduated high school over a decade ago. I don’t consider myself to be the young, hip generation anymore. But 10+ years ago, I was also hugging my friends very regularly and still do today.
I feel like the one thing that’s really being left out of the articles I’ve seen is physical affection with one’s friends as a way to assert independence from one’s primary guardian(s). High school is a time, above all others, where we’re trying to push away from our families, assert our independence, and figure out who the heck we are. Coming from the generation raised by the boomers who reassessed the need for affection within families, it only makes sense that as teenagers we would start seeking that affection elsewhere. The hug can be romantic or sexual in nature, but in these instances, we’re just looking in new places for that familiar bond we received at home. It’s a way for us all to feel cared about within our chosen families.
According to a recent Slate article, obligatory hugging “mocks true intimacy.” For me, that’s only true if you don’t have feeling behind your hugs. Maybe that’s why most people tell me I’m such a good hugger. My hugs contain feeling.
But as a very young child I was taught to only touch those I wanted to touch and to always feel free to say no to those I didn’t, no matter who they were. Physical contact of any kind should always be consensual. And that seems to be the biggest issue with the hug, not knowing how to get out of it. How do you avoid a hug when it’s coming straight for you?
Image via Wikimedia Commons.