The Unconditional Hug

The unconditional hug is something I have always pondered on. I am an English twenty something living in New York City and live life without proper hugs. I am not talking about an adequate hug, I am talking about the kind of embrace that holds and rejuvenates you, making all your problems melt away like a good soggy chocolate biscuit dipped in tea for the perfect amount of time.

My conclusion is that I can only receive an unconditional plutonic hug from my Mother and maybe my kids if I do indeed decide to reproduce.

I arrive home for Christmas or travel to the UK for work and my lovely 5’7 Mum clings to my lanky 6’1 beanpole of a figure like a koala to a tree. I stand there enveloped completely indulging in the lack of agenda and fearless loving nature of an unconditional hug, it is simply unbeatable and well, just lovely.

In the search for an unconditional hug I will first turn to other family member hugs. My Dad: If I really go for it he hugs me, but I am under no illusion that it will not last longer than a moment and it is overflowing with resentment that the evidently more appropriate handshake wasn’t the greeting of choice.

My Brother is definitely worse than my Father, yet a little clearer with hugging boundaries. My brother and I have not hugged since I was about 9 when he picked me up in some odd attempt to show some false sibling love to his then high school girlfriend. He recently returned from conflict in Afghanistan and I was assured in myself a hug was most definitely on the cards, maybe he would really need a brotherly hug, you know just this once. After seeing the peculiar cling he gave my sister, the crying weep my mum forced upon him and my dads handshake and pat on the shoulder my hopes drained out of me quicker than quicker. His hand was thrust out to me, and that was that, my hand was literally crushed and any glimmering remainder of a brotherly hug, abolished.

Lastly my sister, now I know you would all think and myself included that this must surely be a viable option for huggable person no.2, but eh, not really. We always hug when we see each other, and it’s definitely an extended hug compared to the standard friend lean in and pat, definitely closer in body alignment than that, but there is a moment when it’s just, well, weird to continue. We are more of the lean on each other, put your feet on my lap and watch a movie kind of siblings.

So having ruled out my emotionally constipated yet perfect family, I still have some other humans to consider. Delving deeper into the type of hugs I get from these people has proved a little worrying yet notably has brought light to a variety of possibly previously unspoken hugs.

The universally feared bro hug: Extremely complicated, always awkward and often has one more component than you anticipate. Usually encountered with the exacerbating guy at the gym you never learnt the name of who always says hello, the guy you work with whom you thought you had left behind in high school who can only be described as a tool, and many other unspeakable idiots.

That brings me to the ex girlfriend/ex dated hug. You’ve had sex, so let’s be honest it’s not weird to hug, but inside that hug there is that weird moment where one of you hates the other. Either you don’t want it to go on any longer, dreadfully frightened of giving them a sprinkle of hope you might want a repeat or YOU were the dumpee and you cling on that second too long and they pull away brashly and you are left with an open wound on your forehead that screams love me, hold me, love me.

Next batch up for consideration are the girl FRIEND hugs. This is definitely a step closer and there are rather a few varieties, some great and some well, pointless.

There is the limp hello hug, this is usually with the friend you don’t text regularly and to be honest, why bother, it’s not quite as bad as a limp handshake (my dad’s pet hate with girls) but still, its like trying to bench press with a bouquet of flowers, you are a girl not a weak baby goat that can’t find its feet, just use some effort or don’t bother at all.

Next you have the borrowed hug, someone you feel you could genuinely have a deep bear entwine with, but their boyfriend is a few feet away and whether he is watching or not or cares for that matter you know it really can’t last longer than 2.38 seconds or some seed could be sewn. Unfortunately to my dismay these are seasoned great hugging women, it’s just the burning eyes of the boyfriend that prevent me from completely relaxing into the warm squeeze of unconditional love.

Obviously next is the general girl friend hug, someone you know well and speak to often, yet as the hug prolongs I can’t help but become curious; what is she thinking? Is she thinking about sex? Should I be thinking about sex, is it weird if we continue, wait, NO, now I am not enjoying the hug and its weird, crap, over.

The girls at work are adequate at hugs yet they seem to enjoy it a little too much like their boyfriends don’t hug them enough and you become this weird emotional canvas as they transform into this emotionally loose paintbrush. They usually leave a make up stain too which tarnishes the embrace like a cat spraying its territory, I feel used and empty, they stole the hug, it wasn’t mutual, they made it about them, sigh.

So many friends of mine wreck our hugs with the waist hug. Now maybe it is because with shoes on I am, to a lot, a towering oaf, but I am only 6’2. They wrap their hands straight round my waist and it doesn’t feel right, it’s not mutually controllable, that alone makes me shudder in disapproval, not to mention my hands really have nowhere to go.

A few other hugs need a mention just because we are discussing the general topic but they don’t come close to THE hug.

- The 2nd Date Hug. You want it to mean more but you both only end up thinking one thing.

- The Old Lady Hug. No pressure is possible incase a stroke is induced.

- The Goodbye Hug. Maybe just for the English but I can’t handle another second without producing emotion so please just let go.

- The Cry Hug. I am not a leaning post. Go home and cry into your pillow, and await the dry cleaning bill for this shirt.

- The Kid Hug. Its unconditional from them, but it gets a little weird if you really relax into it.

- The Grandma Hug. Are they dead, I can’t hear breathing and she is cold, no wait she fell asleep, is that even a hug?

To conclude there is one person I almost had a great hug from other than my dear Mother. It was an old teacher, somewhat of a mentor for me during my time in New York. She is a Russian esteemed professor who I have been through a lot with and now that I only sporadically see her she squeezes the life out of me when we lock eyes on the street. I remember my most recent hug with her and I really needed one on this particular day, I had had a week, sod it, I’d been having a rough month and she could see it in my eyes. She grabbed me and locked me in some grip I wasn’t prepared for, it had the correct amount of pressure mixed with a sprinkling of finely measured agenda, just like a delicately baked Victoria sponge cake. Just at the exact moment when I was ready to let everything go, possible even release some bottled up English emotion, surely not a tear, but maybe, she released me, put her hand on my face and said “Enough, you’ll be fine”. NO, I wasn’t done! Is this a new type of a hug, the kind when it’s good for them and not good for you?

Unfortunately I know it’s the European and especially Russian side of her that will not indulge sentimentality, it just doesn’t compute. Growing up our hope is battered out of us and over emoting is taught to be more of an emotional masturbation than a real expression of feeling, “If you want to cry, go do it where no one can see” an old English father once said to his offspring.

I am sure this has enraged a few readers but you are welcome to prove me wrong, I live on 9TH street so if you see me in the street go for it, just try not to repeat any of the hugging mistakes listed above. Who knows, we might even fall in love, but then it wouldn’t be an unconditional plutonic hug would it, or would it?