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     Volume 5 Issue 119 | November 10, 2006 |

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Straight Talk

Say it with a Hug

I just happened to chance upon a poem written by a twelve year old girl this morning. The theme of her poem was the importance of hugs and it was terribly sweet and completely spot on. She writes how amazing a simple hug can be and how important it is for all of us. You don't need “special batteries” or “equipment” to hug someone else, she says, all you have to do is just open your arms. As I am a huge advocate of hugs and cuddles, this little poem struck a chord with me. I think one of the best things about having three kids is that I have an endless supply of hugs. Not only do I get to cuddle them whenever I want to (and that is very frequently), I am also very lucky to be the recipient of an abundance of physical affection from my brood.

Having been part of a family that is very tactile and emotionally demonstrative, I have grown up with the view that being physically affectionate is the most natural thing in the world. In fact when I do not get my daily quota of hugs and cuddles I have what I would describe as withdrawal symptoms! When I was a child it was very strange for me to understand that not all families or people were as affectionate or demonstrative about their feelings as were my own family. It seems that as an adult I have not changed much and still feel that hugging and cuddling my children is as important as making sure they feel secure and loved. In fact I hope that it will contribute in part to their sense of security and stability. My husband who had a slightly more formal upbringing, where shows of affection were rarer has since been converted and is himself a huge believer of the importance of 'hugs and cuddles'!

A few days ago I was chatting to a few of my cousins and for some reason we were commenting on how some of us were more inclined to being outwardly affectionate than others. This reminded one of them of a video they had seen on the internet and I was promptly taken to the nearest computer and made to watch it. It was a rather unusual story of a young man named Juan Mann, hailing from down under in Australia. He decided one fine day to take to the streets armed with a placard with 'Free Hugs' written on it. As he stood on the road trying to get people to take notice, the initial response was that of embarrassment from the pedestrians. But once the first person actually stopped and gave him a hug, it seemed like someone had opened the flood gates. There were people of all ages, colours, genders etc. ready to hug Juan and be hugged. I think that most of us crave that kind of physical affection and in some cases it may be harder to express than others. Not everyone finds it easy to be physically affectionate or demonstrative. This does not mean that they do not want to be given a great big bear hug every now and then or be able to cuddle their children --- it may just be a question of being shy or inhibited or just the way they were brought up. This rather extraordinary story of Juan gained huge publicity especially as his video was used by a pop group for their musical video. In fact it landed him on the Oprah Winfrey Show as she was so impressed with Juan that she flew him from Australia to the US. One of her questions to him was whether people thought he was mad when they saw him standing with his poster and his response was, “All the time”! According to Juan the only reason he did it was because he thought it would be fun and might put a smile on someone's face. I think even he was taken aback at the response and reaction he had had by the people. But it probably goes to show how starved of straight forward physical contact we are and how much we need it, however this kind of physical affection should in no way be confused with that of a sexual nature.

To my mind a simple hug can say much more than words can convey. It can be one of affection, you can hug someone to show sympathy or support --- it really can express a whole array of emotions without you having to utter one single word. I think that anyone on the receiving end of a hug is guaranteed to feel a little better. There is actually a Hindi film called Munna Bhai MBBS where one of the things the protagonist in the film does is go around hugging the patients and staff in the hospital where is working to make them feel better and spread a little love! As you can imagine this concept appealed to me immensely. I am not sure whether we have a national 'Hug Day' but if not, we should definitely think of adding it to our calendar!

I know this must seem like a very strange topic to be taking about but it just seems that we run around chasing our tails the whole time and that we miss out on the very basic and simple things in life like enjoying those wonderful hugs our parent used to give us or cuddling our children whenever we feel like or when they want to be cuddled. It has nothing to do with age so it does not matter if you are 8 months, 8 years or 80 years --- we are all capable of showing affection. And all I can say is when you hug someone and they don't appreciate it --- well that is just their problem isn't it?



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