Man Hugs

Difficult one, this. I come from a generation where most fathers didn’t even kiss their boys – though not in the case of mine whom I always kissed. I remember little boys at my prep-school shaking hands with their fathers as they were abandoned to bullying and abuse at the age of seven. The war was only twenty years in the past then – which does offer some explanation and excuse.

And now? Thankfully we are safely in a post ‘stiff upper lip, old boy’ era when it comes to our children who now go to schools where the pendulum has swung so far the other way that it has become a minefield for teachers attempting normal human sympathy. Better that way round though. My boys, men now, are kissed and hugged at every opportunity – much to their annoyance.

The problem now is between blokes. What to do when someone (male) who you don’t know very well advances at you with a body shape of a gorilla, arms wide and clearly not paying any attention to the right hand that you are limply holding out as alternative. You then have to mimic the same arm positions as quick as possible with a pathetic pretence that that was always your intention. And when he’s got you, then what? A curious hug that involves no body contact other than two pats on the back in quick succession followed by a handshake that would have been so much better in the first place. Sorry; boring and sad but let’s go back to handshakes unless they are relatives or very close friends. Or hug everyone. It’s the indecision that’s the killer.

On the other hand the use of first names is a pretty well unalloyed good thing. I well remember my first years as an adult in the workplace never knowing what to call bosses or clients – older one’s anyway. A rough rule of thumb was double your age and it was Mr/Mrs - or Sir. Three times your age, always Sir. Now it’s easy – though I will admit that nothing annoys me more than being cold-called with a cheery ‘Hello Charlie, it’s Nick here.’ And my teeth are on edge when I hear an old person, who clearly comes from a more deferential era, being called by their first name on first acquaintance. Those in the caring professions are particularly bad at this. Though it’s meant well, it smacks of infantalisation.

Am I sad to worry about these things? Yes. Are they important? No. But I still do.

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