I’m a bit of a touchy feely kinda guy, and I’m the first to admit, probably a bit of a over-hugger (although I NEVER hug someone after meeting them for the first time unless they go-in first). I know this used to humiliate my ex, who was never shy in her disdain of my “hugginess”. Sure, we’d be at some work function of hers and I’d run into one of her co-workers that I liked and would quickly bat away their outstretched “handshake” hand and go directly into a deep, meaningful hug. I learned the hard way that sometimes even resting my head (which was probably over a foot above the hugees head) onto their shoulder rubs some “uptights” the wrong way – unless they’d had 7 scotches. So the lesson I learned was to wait until they’d had 7 scotches before saying, hello!
Generally speaking, my friends in San Francisco are huggers too, or at the very least it is broken into gender-specific “man-huggers” or cheek-kissees. It’s completely acceptable to kiss on the cheek either after or in-lieu-of a hug. I understand this kiss on the cheek at greeting (kotcag) is a bit WASPY and weird in certain circumstances, but my parents generation always did it when they were greeting someone on the polo match or at the “club” and it feels good – so I’m sticking with it.
In Seattle, when I started going in for the kiss when we first moved here, there was quite a bit of pulling away or misreading of that kiss’ intention. However, the friends I made early that I still hang out with, expect and, dare I say, relish that kiss on the cheek. I’ve trained them like some kind of pavlovian response to my hug to expect a cheek-kiss -and it works well to solidify of our friendship at every greeting.
Now, more recently, I’ve hung out with a different group of people and I really like them. They are fun, up-to-date on new music, like to go out, and as far as I can tell, deathly opposed to any type of human touch. They wave at each other with sideways dinosaur-arm gestures from short distances when they greet and say goodbye. Always one to either “go with the flow” or “be beaten down by society,” I’ve started adopting this sideways dinosaur-arm wave too, and it just feels weird to greet or say goodbye to people you know and like, like that.
I also have worked in tech startups and this no-hugging behavior is quite de rigeuer there as well. Is this nerd culture? Hipsterism? Am I the only weirdo in the world that wants a HUG RIGHT NOW? Perhaps. Although I have railed against free hugs before and will always hate that concept, I do want to occasionally show my appreciation for our friendship by grabbing you violently around the shoulders and squeezing you tight. Please indulge me.
Now, this isn’t to discourage you people from continuing with the Irish Goodbye’s, those make perfect sense and I relish the opportunity to both use them and have them used on me.
* Postscript – I hung out with my new friends last night and every one of them gave me a tender and warm hug without the slightest sense of irony, which felt weird.