When it's time to let go!

Let’s talk about hugging. You know the O of X’s and O’s.

Although I like hugs, I am a respecter of personal space. I won’t crowd you. I will let you breathe your own air.

If I don’t know you well, I will at a safe and respectable distance offer my hand for a handshake. A handshake on its own is a pretty darn safe gesture, rarely against the law (in most states), and can be germ free if you follow up with hand sanitizer. A handshake is less contact than a hug.
This DOES NOT pertain to my grandchildren. We do not shake hands. On a regular basis, I devour them wholly, pulling them in for deep hugs followed by dots of kisses on their faces—often a hundred or so. Because three out of four are older children, I apologize, thereafter. They always reassure me that my hugs and kisses do not embarrass them yet.

Recently, I was face to face with two siblings that I hadn’t seen in years. We sort of grew up together, sort of—in the same area.  Standing before the woman, I offered my hand to her for a handshake. She received my hand in hers, covered it with her hand, then upped the ante and pulled me in for a bear hug. I was a little shocked, since we didn’t really know each other that well and never embraced as children.  The problem with her hug came when I kept letting go before she was finished, then I would hug again, let go and so on.  When it was finally over, she let go and guess what? I was still clinging to her like a hug starved fiend. I had missed her signal to let go.
Awkward but not as awkward as the next hug.

Her brother was next and I greeted him offering my hand. I wasn’t surprised this time when he held my hand captive and pulled me in for a hug.  I figured he got the idea from his sister. Since I’m a head taller than he is the hug became an awkward re-union.
Don’t get me wrong hugs are wonderful if you like them, but since that day I’ve wondered, how does one know when it’s time to finish the hug so that you’re not the one left hanging on. Is there a count or a cadence? Is it a tap on the shoulder or a squeeze and release kind of thing? Or is it that you don’t hug back and only stand there limp as a ragdoll? I wish I had a good answer for you, but I don’t.

Here a couple of things I DO know.

a. If you’re a child, you should never be made to hug anyone. Not one single person.  As parents we should not insist that our children hug others. The decision to hug or not should be the child's.

b. If you release your hug too soon and engage again, but they release you, the “hugging back and forth” could go on for hours. 

c. Never forget the deodorant because stressful hugging can cause a nervous sweat fest.  
Unexpected hugs aren’t so bad especially if you consider the alternative--the out-of-the-blue, unexpected kiss smack dab on your lips, from a near stranger.

Now that’s truly awkward. Trust me, I know.


What's your advice on hug timing? Any awkward encounters for you? Are you a hugger or a handshaking sort?


  1. I've learned to handle it as we hug a lot at church. But it used to be really awkward. My family was definitely not huggers.

  2. haha yeah not a hugger here, too many germs as they breathe on you up so close

  3. Sendak had a horror of being hugged as a child. I read some of his comments about the prickly chin of one of his aunts and laughed, but understood just how terrible those hugs had to be for him.

  4. I hug my friends all the time, and my stepdaughter too. It's funny though when the kids are leaving, I stand up and have to tell their father to get up and give them a hug. He grumbles good naturedly about it but I think showing physical affection to his grown kids is very foreign to him. It was awkward at first as the reconciliation process began, but he seems more comfortable now. He's very physically affectionate with me but he doesn't even like to shake hands when he sees people he knows or meets people for the first time.

  5. You give good advice. I tend to be careful about hugging. My family didn't do a lot of hugging. Not that I don't like it, but I don't want to make others uncomfortable. Actually I don't even like shaking hands that much. I'm fussy about keeping my hands clean.

    I'd probably make a lousy politician.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  6. I'm not a big hugger either - although when I see kids I've taught in previous years I never have a problem returning their hugs! :)

  7. I'm a hugger but I've learned not to be so impulsive about it. I'm thinking of an old friend from school days that I hadn't seen in years. She seemed more than a little startled when I gave her a quick hug. Yes, my hugs are pretty quick. My family are/were huggers, but hubby's...not at all.

  8. I'm not a big hugger, but I do have certain family and friends that I automatically hug without thinking. It can be odd to hug strangers. Now you have me wondering about hugging. :)

  9. wow--i struggle with this too teresa---my family--although not affectionate--insists on hugging and kissing when we meet and leave---always has made me uncomfortable----you know i feel you have a lot more to share on this--i hope you don't mind my saying that--

  10. Hi Teresa .. I sort of go along with what's let loose at me .. my family such as it is aren't very demonstrative - yet others are .. as long as no-one freaks me out - I'm fine .. and if they freak me out: I may disappear from their lives ...

    I have to say I'd love to live in a hugging happy family - but it's not to be ... 'cept when I get that chance to grab that cuddly kid, or large one if there's a chance!

    Cheers Hils

  11. Every kid is different, and they go by instinct. I've had little ones that I've just met wrap their arms around me (to my surprise). I think I'm a big kid magnet for some reason. I'm also a father to a teenager, so I know that it doesn't last.

  12. I like to hug when I am freely giving it as a gift. When it is "taken" I feel that my boundary has been crossed. I am especially uncomfortable when I feel my handshake has been coerced into a taken hug or the person is sucking the energy out of my soul. Let's keep hugs as gifts. (I could not agree more with you about respecting a child's physical boundaries.)

  13. I like to hug my wife, but that's about it. All my friends are more my wife's friends - she hugs them, so I'm obliged to as well. Men don't hug men though. That's more a quick handshake, but there can be something oddly formal about that. Etiquette is always difficult, I think!


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