It’s 5 pm and I’m in a group chat with a few coworkers. It’s the last day of work for our friend, and she’s carefully trying to figure out how to slip out so she doesn’t have to give people awkward goodbye hugs. And like a perfectly on-point Michael Scott meme, nothing could possibly be more relatable to me. I’m out here willing to maneuver an Ocean’s 11 style exit to save my friend from a few seconds of unnecessary body contact.
You see, we don’t fuck with hugs. Are you my mom? Because if not, I’m actually all good on hugs from you and yours.
I'm not trying to argue that hugs across the board are no good, but casual hugs between people who are essentially glorified acquaintances are bizarre and frankly unnecessary. Coworkers who never hang outside of work, or people meeting for the first time in a social setting—there's really no need to make full-frontal body contact with one another.
A few instances in which hugs are truly the best: when you haven't seen your best friend in a long time, when your loved one comes home from a bad day at work, when you get off the plane and see your mom for the first time in a while, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
A few instances in which hugs are the physical manifestation of y tho: a hug from a boss at a Christmas party, saying goodbye to friends of friends of friends at a bar who you'll likely never see again, running into a person you went on one awkward date with in 2014, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Look, I get it. We all want to be polite. You don't want to be that freak child who can't handle human touch. Same! But it's also okay to have boundaries. It's okay to deem a time and place where you want to touch someone like that. That's not rude, that's just being able to tell the difference between wanting a hug from a good friend versus not wanting a hug from that guy Paul (or was it Pete?) from accounts payable on his last day of work even though you barely ever spoke to him.
Paul (it might have been Pat?), I'd be cool if we just stuck to a good ol' high five. A salute! Or even a solid back and forth finger guns situation. Fuck it, I'll do the cha cha slide with you if I don't have to hear my heart beat next to yours in a physical embrace.
The truth is, hugs are complicated little dances. In Europe, and parts of Latin America, the iffiness of the casual hug has been replaced by a uniformly rote double-kiss-on-the-cheek; in Japan, people bow. But Americans, what with our strict democratic mores, etc., have always insisted on a panoply of options for everything, even when it comes to the kind of social conventions that would benefit from being standardized. Therefore, when it's a casual acquaintance, you can never be too sure about how the other person handles a hug. Do they do a quick side-cheek kiss while hugging? Do they dare go full French and attempt to faire la bise? Do they go hip-to-hip because they're cognizant of accidental genitalia contact? Nothing is more awkward than going for that full-frontal hug when the other person deems the relationship as deserving of a light, side hug. And don't even get me started on how wildly awkward I'll be if and when I accidentally fuck up the double-kiss move I thought would be cool to execute with the hot actor dude my friend brought to the bar.
So let's stick to a wave, a surfer's hang ten, or even just a big, sweet smile. We'll all be less awkward this way, I promise. And if you were wondering...yes, my friend got out of the office without having to hug anyone.