H David and Zanner were our friends for years. He greeted me at the door with an enveloping bear hug.
I didn't like either one.
G'ma and Daddooooo didn't raise touchy-feely children. G'ma says that the first unsolicited hug she received from me was when I came home from college for Thanksgiving vacation my freshman year. She remembers me pulling away from snuggles and cuddles..... I don't remember them on offer, to tell the truth.
Perhaps my reluctance to get up close and personal for a greeting stems from Daddoooo's habit of ending every hug with a potch en tuchas.... a gentle smack on the buttock. I knew he loved me. I never understood the smack.
My parents did teach me the value of a firm handshake. Five fingers clasping five fingers firmly, a squeeze designed to announce my presence but not intended to damage, eye contact and a smile - this was the way to greet someone. There was physical contact, but there was also distance. This was hello not you're swell.
I didn't notice much hello-hugging in college or graduate school. Big Steve once commented on the awkwardness he felt when dropping me off at my apartment; we were too close to shake hands but not close enough to kiss goodnight. I didn't notice discomfort; I was comfortable with a wave and a smile. Something made him look for more.
I'm sitting in a school as I type to you. Big brothers and sisters are hugging their siblings with reckless abandon; it's a way to get out of line without incurring the wrath of the aides. But I'm also watching 6th grade girls see long-lost-since-2nd-period-friends and fall into an embrace. Eyes wide open, they scan the room, watching their friends' reactions to the hug. It's less about the hug than it is about being seen giving one.... or, even better, getting one.
The 7th and 8th graders cross the threshold arm in arm, backpacks clacking against one another as they try to squeeze through the entrance. They won't let go. Had this scene taken place in my middle school, rumors of a sexual attachment would have spread like wildfire. Today, here in Tucson, big hugs are social currency.
I taught Messers 6 & 8 the value of a firm handshake when they were 3 and 5, the same way that I taught the Cuters - through
Rote behavior is what it is, as all manners ought to be. Unthinking, obvious, reliable, natural, expected.... manners make the world go 'round. If everyone defers to the elderly and then the female passengers, elevators empty quickly. It's the same principle as yielding to the car on your right at a 4-way intersection. There's no value judgment involved; it's just the right thing to do.
The curtsey and the bow involve lowering one's head to another; that feels demeaning to me. The hug involves a lot of physical contact; that feels intrusive to me. The handshake is comfortably in-between. It's another Goldilocks Moment..... not too close, not too far, but just right.
If you need more, add another hand to the first. Cornell's President David Skorton did that
I'm just sayin'......