real life

The 7 rules of hugging, according to non-huggers.

Here’s a confession that’s not going to win me any friends: I don’t care for hugging.

It’s not that I’m not into affection, friends or feelings. I’m an extrovert with a fondness for sprawling my legs over whoever has the misfortune of sitting next to me on the couch. I over-emote constantly, hold hands with my partner everywhere I go, and demanded piggybacks from my dad every day until the age of three.

But hugging? Just plain awkward.

What was once the special, sentimental domain of friends-foreverness has become tense and meaningless.

Now we hug random schoolmates we run into overseas. We hug other people’s sticky kids. We hug long-lost uncles — even though we have to name-check  them with our parents first. Some of us even hug strangers on the street, who offer their service for free on large placards (as if that isn’t a bit suss).

I know I’m not alone in my desire for an urgent review of social situations in which hugs are permitted: several friends have confided in me that they, too, struggle with the airkiss-or-hug dilemma at the end of a catch-up, or torment themselves with the how-long-do-I-hold-this-sweaty-hug dilemma at family Christmas ‘dos.

It’s got to stop, people.

So I’ve written some rules that will help contain the over-hugging epidemic. Pass them on — because for non-huggers, the struggle is real.


Hug-appropriate situation #1: You know (and kind of like) the person.

To hug a person, you must know and kind of like the person.


This does not mean you have glimpsed the person peripherally before because they live on your street, or you were in drama club with them in Year Three. It does, however, mean you can comfortably have a ten-minute conversation with them, or would cross the street to say hi if you ran into them on holiday.

Hug-appropriate situation #2: It’s a boozy social situation.

If you’re arriving at a party to see your friends and everyone’s two drinks into their evening, I concede it’s a hugging free-for-all.

If you’re on your way to the supermarket, minding your business in the library, or working on a report in the office? No hugs required, thank you very much.

 Hug-appropriate situation #3: It’s a celebration!

Did the person you’re thinking of hugging just get a great new job? Become a parent? Announce their engagement? Yippee! Hug away.

Did they just initiate a casual greeting? Keep your eager little arms to yourself, creeper.

Hug-appropriate situation #4: You’re in mourning.

Sometimes you’ve got to have a hug. A prime example? Someone’s died, and you genuinely need a cuddle.

Hug-appropriate situation #5: You haven’t seen the person in ages.

A bit of hugging with close friends you haven’t seen in a while? SURE.
Otherwise? Your hug is overzealous and (as one fellow non-hugger once put to me) “just plain inefficient”. Paws off!

Hug-appropriate situation #6: You’ve anticipated the type of hug.

If you’ve decided to proceed with your hug, you’d better be sure you and the other person have the same thing in mind before you go in the for kill.

There are so many rules you could be about to break here. Do you rush in with force, bear-hug style? Do you keep your pelvis a good half-metre apart, and just connect at shoulder-level with a little back-pat? How long do you hold your embrace?



As a blogger for Wait But Why once wrote: There’s “also a question of duration and firmness and who’s in charge of those decisions.”

Which brings me to….

Hug-appropriate situation #7: You’re definitely the hug-initiator.

Just as there’s a giver and a taker in every relationship, there’s a potential hug-initiator and a potential hug-receiver in every social interaction. You’d best be clear which side of the fence you’re on before you make your final decision.

Are you a public figure like Barack Obama? Are you meeting your nervous future son-in-law for the first time? You’re definitely the hug-initiator. Otherwise? Keep your eager little arms to yourself, creeper.

Know others who don’t like to hug? Show them this, and let them know they’re not alone. Know others who err on the side of over-hugging? Post this on your Facebook, and happily anticipate a lifetime free of unwelcome embraces.

(Otherwise, just show ’em this video, which pretty much sums it up)