Human touch, something we all need. Touch has been shown to ease pain, lift depression and just make anyone feel better about themselves. On the flip side, studies have shown that babies who are not held, nuzzled and hugged enough will actually stop growing. Plus, even when they are given proper nutrition babies can die without touch.
Hugging is probably the most acceptable way in American culture to show concern and affection for each other.
We hug our children and family when we meet after a long absence. We hug when it’s time to say good bye to a loved one that’s leaving on an extended trip.
This of course varies from family to family and even with members of the same family. Of our three children Connie and I have noticed that Jacob is the most comfortable with hugging and touch.
It all has to do with what each of us feels comfortable with.
Last Thursday Connie and I attended an annual dinner with other newspaper owners and spouses. We all have known each other for the past several years, so it was not uncommon for us to hug as we gathered and when it came time to leave for home.
The appropriateness of touching can vary by culture with some cultures having more physical contact than others.
People in the Middle East, Latin American and southern Europe prefer more physical contact during normal conversations. A common greeting can be kissing on the cheek in Italy.
Residents of England tend to stand farther away during conversation with friends than other cultures. In Japan they greet each other with a bow, not a kiss or even a simple handshake. Argentinians are considered the most touchy-feely nation.
In the 90s Connie and I were involved in a Catholic retreat for young adults called TEC (Teens Encounter Christ). On one particular retreat our job was to organize a group of teens to handle the food, cleanup and background organization of the weekend for the participants.
Our theme for the weekend was hugging, coordinated around The Hug Therapy Book by Kathleen Keating. With a graduate degree in clinical psychology, Keating shows how and why all kinds of hugs can have positive results on IQ, aging, self-esteem, and stress.
One of the hugs she describes in her book is the “back to front” hug where the hugger approaches the huggie from the back.
This type of hug got our former Vice President Joe Biden into a little trouble this past week.
As with any hug, but especially with the back to front hug, you need to be aware of who you are hugging and how they will perceive the contact.
This type of hug should probably be limited to hugs between two individuals who know each other very well, or are deeply in love.
A hug from the back shows your loved one how much they love you and that you are important to them. When a man kisses the hair of his girlfriend or wife in the middle of this hug it shows he is head over heels in love.
When the Vice President of the United States hugs you from the back and sniffs your hair, that is just creepy.
The reason Biden is in trouble is obviously political. As evidence shows, he has performed this type of hug many times over the past several years, even before he was our vice president.
The only reason he is in hot water now is that he is seen as a political threat from others who want to be our next president. His enemies are trying to sink his political ship before he announces his run for the presidency.
In my opinion Biden is more comfortable touching and being touched than most of us. And he likes to show that with a hug. Should this disqualify him from running for president? Absolutely not.
Those ladies who are now coming forward to complain, after time has passed (some years), are a little disingenuous to me.
If this ever happens to my wife or daughter, and they feel uncomfortable, there are several ways to show your discomfort at that instant — an elbow to the ribs, or a heel stomped on the offenders toe are two that come to mind. At least voice your discomfort then.
My advice: When in doubt hug others face to face and make sure the hug is welcome.