Good evening, I’m Lee Johnson. National Hug Day is January 21. While we applaud the efforts of the holiday organizers to encourage this positive action between two people, we feel the need to warn you about the perils of certain hugs: awkward hugs. Stay with us as we explore different types of awkward hugs. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but merely an introduction to some of the most common and most problematic.
Generally, when two people hug, there is advance warning and a mutual awareness of which side of the first person the second person will land. However, for reasons unknown, this does not always happen. Once in a while, both people in the hug go to the same direction, and do not notice until it is too late. They land cheek-to-cheek, and in most cases remain there, for fear of making it even more awkward. After all, how will it be corrected? If both parties attempt to correct it, they will merely be face-to-face before meeting at the other cheek. And only the most tenacious of people might risk the sanctity of the hug to actually express verbally the obvious awkwardness and a desire to change its course.
HESITANT HUGS INTRO
On the other end of the spectrum from the eager, quick-to-embrace hugs are the hesitant hugs. Hugs are a natural thing our bodies do instinctively; by hesitating we begin to think, and since no two people think about hugs the same, chaos can and will ensue.
THE ARMS DILEMMA
Where your arms are positioned on the other person in a hug is based largely on gender, relational status, and height. In the modern age of questioning convention, however, this can be thrown right out, causing confusion for the hugger. There are four options for each person in regards to where to put the arms, and these must match with the other person’s choice, multiplying the odds for awkwardness by dozens. Generally, if a hug flows smoothly, you can see where it is leading you in regards to arm positioning. A hesitant hug, however, can be caused by or be the cause of an arms confusion.
These four options can be broken down into two sets. The first is whether your arms go around the other’s neck or waist. The second is, if you’re practicing the more platonic or egalitarian hug, you may alternate your arms: one going up and one down. The question is: which arm goes up and which down, and does it match the other hugger?
THE “SHAKE OR HUG?”
Another cause for a hesitant hug is the question of whether a greeting ought to be a hug, or a more subdued handshake. The awkward hug that results from a handshake-turned-hug can be devastating.
Two people approach and hesitate. The first, eager to make a move, holds out their hand. The second, also eager, misinterprets the move of the other into that of an offered hug. Hopefully the first person realizes this quickly and can transform the gesture–however begrudgingly–into a hug.
THE “HEIMLICH”/THE “SLOW DEATH”
Occasionally, an over-enthusiastic hug is combined with one hugger being significantly stronger than the other. How this strength and enthusiasm is expressed can result in the “Heimlich” or the “Slow Death”.
In the “Heimlich”, the stronger hugger squeezes the second in one quick burst, often causing a vocal emission.
In the “Slow Death”, the second hugger is squeezed and held too tightly for the duration of the hug.
Both of these hugs are dangerous, as they can result in a loss of oxygen or otherwise disrupt the natural breathing pattern of the receiver of the hug.
Another complication can occur when a woman hugs another woman, both of whom are well-endowed, too tightly. This can cause pain in the breasts and an uncomfortable awareness of the other woman’s bosom.
Group hugs are always-already awkward and should be avoided at all costs.
OVER-ENTHUSIASTIC HUGS INTRO
Over-enthusiastic hugs that are unwanted are not just awkward; they can easily cross the line into harassment.
THE “TOO FAMILIAR”
While a friendly back-rub may feel nice, an unwelcome one in the context of a hug can send pins and needles down one’s spine. This can accompany the “Too Long” hug. It could be said that while a “Too Long” is not always a “Too Familiar”, a “Too Familiar” is always a “Too Long”.
THE “FACE DODGE”
A more common example of this genus of hug is the “Face Dodge”. In this slick and sleazy hug, the offender lacks to fully complete the embrace from the shoulders up, thereby lingering their face frighteningly close to the other person’s. Worse still, they may tilt their head toward the second person. Either way, that person feels the impending doom of the first’s face and may feel like they have to be ready to fend off the initiation of an unwanted kiss.
THE “GET A ROOM”
Not all hugs are awkward exclusively for the huggers. In the “Get A Room”, two people are together, perhaps chatting, and a third approaches. One of the original two and the third engage in a long, cozy, and mutually-inviting hug which may even involve whispering into each other’s ears. This is awkward for the spectator of the hug, who is left to stand uncomfortably on their own, suddenly excluded. They are left with three uninviting options: interrupt the hug; leave and return at a future, unknown time; or stand there and wait it out.
THE “MINNESOTA” OR THE “CONNECTICUT”
The opposite of the enthusiastic hugs–be they mutually-enthusiastic or one-sided–is the “Minnesota”. This hug is established when one or both partners do not actually want to hug one another, but social custom requires they do. They will embrace with as much distance between them as possible, with stiff arms and hip bent to keep the pelvises away from each other. These hugs are generally very quick, leaving both partners feeling vaguely unsatisfied and maybe even a little unpleasant.
A similar hug is the “Fugitive”, or the one-armed hug. In this hug, the line between a hug and merely putting one’s arm around someone else is blurred. The question is whether or not to turn it into a proper hug is usually thwarted by a lack of mutual action and a desire to not disrupt body positioning. This hug often shares the titular feature of the “Cheek(y)” as the two faces meet side by side.
Occasionally you will find yourself in a hug when carrying something fragile or spillable. In these cases, frequently the other hugger appears oblivious to the dangers inherent in the potential dropping of a bag of groceries or a cup of coffee. In this case, losing focus on the hug while trying not to drop what you are holding can make the hug more awkward, but is in most cases preferable to any alternative.
Sometimes when hugging someone in what may be an otherwise comfortable way, at the last minute one may trip or find oneself on a downward slope, thereby falling into the other person’s embrace more quickly than anticipated. This is generally more awkward for the person falling, but can nonetheless be an uncomfortable memory for both parties.
THE “TABLE” AND THE “CHAIR”
Hugging over a table or other surface can result in an unfortunately-forced “Minnesota”.
Another hug made awkward by furniture occurs when one person is sitting down. A decision to rise in advance and hug properly may be slightly awkward, but is a walk in the park compared to the alternatives.
In one case, the seated person may remain seated, forcing the other to lean over, sometimes causing them physical pain and sometimes causing the seated person to become squished by the inertia of the approaching embrace. In the other case, the seated person may rise into the hug but get stuck halfway up, making it more comfortable for the fully-standing hugger but almost precarious for the now bent one.
This bring us to the next hug, which occurs when one hugger is particularly taller than the other. Disparities in height can cause the shorter of the huggers to find themselves trapped in the envelope of the other person’s upper body, feeling suffocated or otherwise weighed down. This is elevated when the tall person insists on thrusting their arms carelessly over the smaller one’s shoulders.
THE “TOO LONG”
People naturally have their own ideas about what constitutes an appropriate length for a hug. The person who has the shorter-hug sensibility is generally the one to loosen their grip to initiate the end of a hug. Oddly, this does not always work. Sometimes when one person loosens their grip, the other remains holding tight, either not noticing or ignoring the cue.
If you find yourself stuck in one of these hugs, there is something you can do: go limp in their arms. Depending on how tight they are holding you, one of two things will happen. You may fall to the ground or you may hang by your undearms, swinging from the other person’s grip. Neither may look appealing, but it is a viable alternative to the “Too Long”, and it sends the culprit of this awkward hug a clear message.
We thank you for watching our study on awkward hugs. We hope this has been informative, and that it will help you avoid such disastrous hugs–when possible–in the future. Thank you, and good night.