Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Everyone likes hugs

My colleague hates hugs.

At least, that's what he told me and the rest of our team at dinner after we left the office last week. He hates hugs.

He also hates feet and handshakes. "They're gross!" He clarified. And he's right - feet and handshakes can be gross - so I let that one go. But it didn't sit right to allow hugs to be grouped alongside sweaty palms and hairy knuckles. So I started giving him hell. We all did.

I mean, who hates hugs?

I listened while the others chimed in. I laughed along. I cut in where it seemed appropriate. I participated in the overall antics. But even while we chided and played along as though he did, in fact, truly hate hugs, on the inside I was thinking:

"he's lying."

He's either lying, or he's in denial.

Everyone - everyone - likes hugs, somewhere deep in their core. To hug is to indulge in one of life's most beautiful pleasures - a gesture deeply ingrained in our psyche. Recall your mother's embrace after the neighbor kid knocked your ice cream to the ground. Think, too, of the way it felt to wrap your arms around a much-missed lover; the drawn-out good-bye to a friend you're not sure you'll ever see again. All of these moments, caught up in a hug. To say they aren't a part of you is to deny a part of yourself altogether.

I felt very deeply for my colleague as he spoke. Amidst the laughing, I felt skeptical. And concerned. And determined to change his perspective.

He's a pretty typical guy: in his 30's (I have a horrible time at guessing ages so I tend to stick with ranges that span ten years. He's about 32-42. Ish.) He's single. He owns a home in central Massachusetts, where our project happens to be.

When I once told him that I thought the area was lovely, he laughed.
He laughed in the way people do when they sense they're being made fun of.
"Yea, well, it's no Vegas."
"I'd rather be here than Vegas," I countered: "Vegas is fake. And pretentious."
(Since that day, the team has chided me for my love of all things "real." Which is okay by me, because it's true.)

He wears a blue shirt every single day. Not the same blue shirt - he has several; they're just all blue. When I once called him out on this, he growled, "I refuse to wear any other color."

He once returned brow-beaten from a meeting that didn't go well, sat down at his desk and lamented:
"Maybe they just didn't like my shirt."
"Well," I chimed in, "that shirt is pretty risque."
It was Brooks Brothers. And blue.
He spent the next several minutes agonizing over how serious I was before I finally convinced him I was actually trying to make him feel better.

He likes dogs and hates sushi. He drinks coffee in the morning. He cheers for his home football team. His first name is one syllable, short for something that's been around forever.

A typical guy. Almost weirdly typical.

And therefore - I wagered - a person who does, in fact, like hugs.

"At the end of this project," I announced, at dinner, in a lull of laughter, "I'm going to give you a hug."
"No you're not." He countered, "I'll take the week off if that's your plan. I'm serious."

And he looked it.

So instead of making him anxious for three months, I gave him one the next day. I did it right after I'd packed up to leave for my flight home. To be entirely honest, I had to work up some courage, after all the "hate" talk the night before. I put my winter coat on, so it wasn't so scary, and after a moment of hesitation, I leaned to where he was sitting at his desk, working, and hugged him, awkwardly, from the side.

And he did not pull away.

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