Americans are known around the world to be quick with a hug, but Richard Levitt isn’t embracing the habit.
My mom was a hugger. She hugged us. She hugged her friends. She hugged my friends. She hugged every date I brought by.
At the time, it was a little overwhelming, but sweet. One of my childhood friends sent a note on what would have been Mom’s 81st birthday. He looked back with fondness and affection on how she used to hug him every time he came over. But it left me a little cautious. And today’s huggy culture makes me squirm. I’m afraid hugging has lost its intimacy.
Worse, I think it has created weird awkwardness about shaking hands. And frankly, out in the world, I prefer a handshake. Countless personal and business connections started with a handshake. And just as many of history’s most-important relationships, agreements, and deals have been sealed that way.
We’ve been shaking hands since the 9th century B.C. Some say it began as evidence that two people are unarmed. I’ve read the up-and-down motion was meant to dislodge hidden knives or daggers. And since, it’s been an act of trust, respect and friendship, of alliances, pledges, greetings, and farewells.
In my own experience, it creates an important moment of connection. Take someone’s hand and gain an instant understanding of who you’re with. You can tell if they’re confident or hesitant. Aggressive or passive. Fully present or distracted.
It’s fascinating and revealing.
Hugs? I prefer to save them for family, loved ones and good friends. Recognition of an important moment shared. Comfort to someone who is grieving or suffering.
Today’s bro hug — that handshake which leads to strapping pats on the back — that’s an ok synthesis. But still …
Meet me in business, at a party, or on the street, and please give me that moment of full attention … and your hand. Assuming there are no hidden weapons, we can let things progress from there.
With a Perspective, I’m Richard Levitt.
Richard Levitt is an East Bay writer who practices and teaches martial arts, yoga and creative problem solving.