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Hug - To clasp or hold closely, especially in the arms, as in affection; embrace.
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.
A hug is, first of all, a form of non-verbal communication. It brings people together in a feeling of mutual love, comfort and safety. Research suggests that everyone needs physical contact to survive, especially infants. Hugging is an act of giving and receiving support, moral and physical, and love.
For the sake of brevity, this entry uses a little technical terminology. It is probably unwise, however, to presume that such terms will be understood in general conversation!
Huggers - The giver and receiver of a hug.
Hugger - In specific cases, in which the hug is given one way, this is the giver of the hug.
Huggee - In such aforementioned cases, this is the receiver of the hug.
How to Begin
Hugs can be given and received by two or more people. They can be done lying down, sitting or standing up, or in any combination of the three. They can be given from the back, the sides or the front and can be short, long, or any length of time in between.
The great thing about a good hug is that it requires very little energy, doesn't pollute the environment, costs nothing, is silent, doesn't hurt in any way and still leaves you happy, content, and usually ready for more. You can be addicted to it without hurting yourself or others in any way. They can of course induce jealousy from people not being hugged and can be quite contagious.
Unless otherwise stated, the generally accepted hugging posture is in the standing position and involves the huggers extending their arms straight out from their bodies. The taller hugger goes high while the shorter hugger goes low and thus embrace begins. In the event of both huggers being the same height, the decision as to who goes high is decided by the instigator - he/she will invariably have the upper ground. Visual contact should be made prior to the hug being undertaken and in this glance will be carried the information relating to the duration of the ensuing hug.
It is important to note that a hug is a mutual thing and both parties benefit: the huggee from having a shoulder to cry/lean on, and the hugger in knowing that the huggee turned to them.
Different Types of Hug
There are many different types of hug that can be used in a plethora of situations. Below is a list of the different types, and instructions on how to carry them out.
The 'Hello' Hug
This hug type is gender specific and differs between men and women - to avoid embarrassment, try not to use the incorrect hug. This is the kind of hug you would employ when greeting a friend. Used on a day-to-day basis this would lose its poignancy so this is generally reserved for times when it's been a long time since you last saw the other person.
Male-to-Female - The hug is undertaken in the standard format and can include a peck (small kiss) on the cheek. It is a friendly hug and one that speaks volumes about the relationship between the huggers.
Female-to-Female - Again, this follows the standard format and is no different from the Male-to-Female hug.
Male-to-Male - This is a hug that speaks reams about the relationship between the men in question. Men only really hug their best friends and only when they have not seen them for some time. They differ in a multitude of ways from the standard, one of the most obvious being their brevity (it is rare for them to be a lengthy hug) and also in the fact that they usually involves a great deal of mutual patting on the back. This is intended to denote to bystanders and onlookers that although a hug is being undertaken, the huggers are actually hitting each other in a manly way. Male-to-Male hugs without hitting are frowned upon in certain circles. In order to effect a high-quality, non-dominant Male-to-Male hug, the diagonal formation is usually taken. Extending their upper arms - one arm high, the other low - the hug is carried out with one arm over the receiver's shoulder, the other around their waist. It is generally acknowledged that the right arm goes high and the left, low. Contravening this rule can lead to an embarrassing semaphoric dance which looks like both huggers are pretending to be wind-mills.
This is the hug used to comfort someone close to you. In times of need nothing beats a good 'comforter'.
It follows the standard format but is distinctive due to both its intensity (often through tight squeezing) and duration. Nothing gets feeling blue out of the system better than a long, good hug. In the event of tears, this is possibly the best hug with which to console. The huggee (in this case the one needing comfort) can bury their face in the bosom of the hugger and hide themselves from the world's prying eyes. This is the kind of hug that is much used by parents. It's not called the comforter for nothing, and is at its prime when the huggee is feeling vulnerable.
A variation of this hug can be done from behind - the huggee stands or sits, sad and gloomy, and the hugger stands or sits behind them and gently put their head next to the huggee's, so that their cheeks just touch each other, and joins their hands on the huggee's shoulders or belly.
Heart to Heart
This hug is done in much the same way as the 'hello' hug, but is meant to express much stronger feelings, and is therefore usually reserved for lovers. The huggers hold one another's shoulders, and by that make their hearts as close as possible, usually each leaning their cheek against the other's shoulder, and by that expressing their deep feelings for each other. Warm and soft - some may find this the best of hugs. This hug, amongst others, is frequently followed by kissing.
The Reverse Hug
The reverse hug is the one that contains the most affection - at least, that's to say the most affection you can show without removing any articles of clothing. The huggee is usually oblivious to the fact that they are about to be hugged and there is no doubt that the element of surprise is a major factor in its efficacy.
This hug uses half of the standard hug. The hugger approaches the huggee from behind and passes his/her hands around the huggee's waist. The huggee upon receipt of the hugger can then do as they please. They can clasp the huggers hands or perhaps even exact a behind the back hug on the hugger - a personal favourite of one Researcher, is to turn around and sink into a long lasting standard hug...
Whatever the agreed position, there is little doubt that the two huggers are very close.
The Seated Hug
There are many variations of the seated hug which vary from the friendly to the intimate to the beyond intimate:
Just Good Friends - You know the one. You're sitting on the sofa, a friend rocks up and you put your arm around them... Sure, it's not the height of passion but it shows that you care. Obviously this can be misconstrued and often quite rightly - an innocuous arm on the shoulder often means (and sometimes leads to) greater things.
The Twister - Not the most comfortable of hugs, and therefore often characterised by its brevity. Both parties twist towards one another and embrace. Sadly the spine isn't designed for such activities so they are often unsustained. Very pleasant all the same.
The Seated Reverse Hug - This is essentially the same as the Reverse Hug but is carried out in a seated position and it is more common for the huggee to act as the initiator. Can be used as a seated comforter, or as a sleeping position on trains or buses.
The 'Ohmygoodness' Hug - This is possibly the most intimate of all hugs and for that reason is generally not carried out in public, largely due to the fact that both parties are generally in a state of undress. It is a variant of the standard hug but is carried out in the seated position and often after dark in the confines of the bedroom. This is a family site so we won't go into any more detail but put it this way: you wouldn't want your mum to see you hugging anyone like this ...
The Tantric Sitting Hug - It's a new age thing - sitting with your legs crossed around your partner's waist, as close together as you can sit, lean your head on their shoulder, and breath slowly, deep inside... A spiritual experience, though usually very brief...
The Lying Down Hug
Like the Seated Hug, there are a multitude of hugs that can be carried out in the lying down position. Needless to say, the majority are amongst the more intimate hugs mentioned. The two main varieties however are the Standard and the Reverse.
In a lying down position, however, limbs have a tendency to get squashed so it is worthwhile to point out that both parties should be flexible, and should either hugger wish to withdraw a limb then the other party should be lenient. It doesn't mean that they don't love you, it's just they're quite attached to their arm as well.
The Dancefloor Hug
As the name suggests, this is a hug often undertaken while dancing - the woman puts her arms around the man's neck, and the man holds the woman's waist. This is again an intimate hug and should not be used without prior consultation.
The Cyber Hug
As hugs go, the Cyber Hug is something of an anomaly in so much as it is the only hug in which bodily contact is not required. In fact, in the majority of cases bodily contact is nigh on impossible due to the distances between huggers.
Hugger and huggee still assume the same roles and the benefits are often equally great, even if they are only virtual. In spite of the lack of contact, a cyber hug still conveys care and/or concern to all those who bear witness to it and should be taken in as much sanctity as any of its real life brethren.
If you've mastered the basic hugs, you might like to try some of these advanced variations!
The Sandwich Hug
This hug is meant for three huggers of different sizes, and is usually used with two parents, hugging a child between them. The huggee is facing one of the parents, and is receiving a surrounding sense of love from both their sides. Mainly useful for angry and/or jealous children.
The Group Hug
Used with at least three huggers, this hug expresses mutual joy and love. Usually given at parties of some sort - the huggers grab each other's waists and form a circle of happy hugging people.
Usually used by children and football players (is there much of a difference?), this hug reflects a joy of victory and group spirit, but is usually performed with the huggers lying in a messy pile on and under each other.
Variations on a Theme
Cuddle - To fondle in the arms; hug tenderly.
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
As the definition says, a cuddle is effectively a tender hug, but seeing as a hug can be as tender as a cuddle, it would be splitting hairs to try and differentiate between them.
As a rule, a cuddle is often partaken between children and adults, or lovers. In much the same way that skipping is the exclusive past-time of small girls and boxers, there doesn't seem to be much middle ground.
A cuddle is generally of the 'comforter' stock and can be undertaken in any of the accepted positions - standing, seated or lying down.
So there it is, the hug. Officially the most fun you can have with your clothes on, and even more fun still with them off... Spread the good news far and wide, and make someone's day. Hug someone... anyone... you know you want to!
The Little Book of Hugs by Kathleen Keating.