By Pierre Fontenot
If you’re in the vicinity of my age you might have a similar memory of first-time realizing that a lot of people in America don’t hug each other.
I know. Kind of like my grandfather, getting his head around the idea that man really had landed on the moon. Just didn’t seem possible.
It starts with Momma. Southern mommas, they got the hugging gene, bad. Crying, get hugged, sad, get hugged, going to school, get hugged, just got home from school, get hugged, happy, get hugged, cute-as-a-bug, get hugged, just being alive and somehow related, you’re gonna get hugged.
Next to baby aspirin and kiss-‘n-make-it-all-better southern mommas think hugging cures just about anything. Stung by wasp, stepped on glass, failed by friend, Momma’s got just the right hug for that…
Sibling discord, y’all hug and make up. Third cousin ain’t seen in ten years and-what’s-your-name-again, gotta hug. That’s Southern. Them two arms open up and it’s just automatic with us. God bless the South and the stork that put me here. I’d have been a misfit Yankee.
An anthropologist should write this section. Ain’t none around; I’ll try to channel one.
We’re humans, but at core we’re still wired like the rest of nature, to always be on guard. The act of opening up the arms reveals the unprotected torso, where all those vital organs dwell. To hug is to offer vulnerability. It’s an offer of trust, and trust is a victory over the natural-us.
Hurt me if you will. I’m taking a chance on you. I think my hug is of greater value than what you can gain by taking advantage of my hug.
Sure, there are phony hugs. Like limp handshakes, a un-meant hug makes you just wanna shake your shoulders and pretend it never happened.
Ahhhh, but there’s the good ones… Southerners can’t imagine not being able to say the good things with hugs: I’ve known you since way back; I like you; I love you; I’m sorry we got crossways; how can I ever thank you enough; I’m so sad for you; here we are again after all these years…
Not everybody is good with words. Hugs give us a language of squeeze and cling and hold and pat that say things we don’t know how to say.
There are Great Hugs. I’ve had a few. I had a cousin hug me, she latched on for a good solid minute, just wrapping me in her happy-to-see-me, her sadness-for-what-I’d-been-through. There’s not a chance that a 1,000 hours of conversation would accomplish what that hug said.
Nobody hugs like a woman. I’ve had women that loved me, and we’ve gone our ways, but I remember certain hugs, when they squeezed me until love was running through me like Christmas morning and I still believe in Santa.
I say, let’s hug, just because. They are around us, poor things, these people who grew up elsewhere, grew up in cold families formed from cold cultures, and they don’t know it, but they got short-strawed in the affection department. It’s one of our gospels, the good southern hug. It’s our duty. To whom many hugs were given, many hugs are required.
I vote for honest hugging. Let’s hug-like honest, let’s hug-love honest, let’s O-God-I-missed-you honest. There’s a bunch o’ billions of us on Earth, and only we few millions are Southern Americans; let’s take advantage of our cultural right to hug like there’s an angel present at every hug, reporting on sincerity.
This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where we are in full favor of any tool that allows us to say You Matter. Some of the best hugs are up ahead. Heaven, hugs with O! Now I see! (Uncle P can be reached at email@example.com).