Everybody Wants a Hug

By Alex Dixon | May 29, 2009 | 0 comments

Teenagers are saying "what's up" with hugs.

Hugging–boy-girl, girl-girl, boy-boy, you name it–has become such a common sight in middle schools and high schools from coast to coast that The New York Times just published an article about it. It's incredibly heartwarming, and totally weird. At least, that's what most people seem to think. Decide for yourself.

In fact, well beyond the Times article, hugs have been very much in the news lately.

We recently witnessed what one blog has called "the hug of the century" Michelle Obama's hug of Queen Elizabeth, slapping royal tradition–and tradition in general–smack in the face.

On yesterday's airing of NBC's Today show–which collaborated with the Times on the teenage hugging article–would-be-Gerald-Ford-assassin Sara Jane Moore spoke for the first time on national television about her life after prison.

"I think it was wrong," Moore, now 80 years old and on parole, said of her crime. "One gets tired of being thought of as a kook, a monster, an alien–something like that. I'm a human being."

Matt Lauer tried to speak the minds of all Americans when he said we'd be more likely to expect a brainwashed 19 or 20 year old attempt to assassinate the president. "Yet you were a 45 year old mother, and it doesn't seem to fit," he said.

Roughly 32 years in prison–six and a half of them in what Moore calls "varying degrees of solitary confinement"–allowed her to stop and think about who she really was.

But it wasn't until Moore was hugged that she truly felt human. "I shut down my heart," she said of her past life. "I shut down part of my thinking. I remember the first day that somebody actually hugged me, and I thought: 'Welcome to the human race.'"

So why don't more of us embrace the embrace?

Hard to say. Perhaps sometimes, in some situations, hugs and affection are just weird. The more uncalled for the affection is, the more that hypothesis may ring true.

Take the Australian Juan Mann (a pseudonyn) , who founded the Free Hugs campaign in 2004. And by founded, I mean he walked around the busiest part of town holding a sign that read, "Free Hugs."

"For 15 minutes, people just stared right through me," he writes on his website, freehugscampaign.org.

But it wasn't long before a woman tapped him on the shoulder. She told him her dog had died that morning. A year ago, her only daughter had been killed in a car accident.

"I got down on one knee," Mann writes. "We put our arms around each other, and when we parted, she was smiling."

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About The Author

Alex Dixon is a Greater Good editorial assistant.


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