ANDY THOMAS: Hugs and Kisses Don't Come Easy
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At the conclusion of the Ryder Cup matches a short time ago, I saw grown men hugging each other passionately.
Now, when I say passionately, I mean the hugs were strong, heartfelt demonstrations of affection. And some of these grown men actually had tears in their eyes while they were embracing each other.
While I watched Tiger Woods hug Darren Clarke, I got choked up myself. It struck me that these two could relate so comfortably as to touch each other physically. And you just knew they were in touch mentally as well.
Most fans know that Darren just lost his wife to cancer, and it isn't long ago that Tiger lost his beloved dad.
Preceding days had these two trying to beat each other's brains out on the golf course. The coming-together of the Americans and Europeans in competition, and then in friendship, was a gesture more earthly activities should foster..
Then I began to think about hugging and how uncomfortable I feel doing it. I guess I'm not totally in touch with myself yet, because I hardly ever initiate a hug to anyone, male or female.
But it seems to me that more and more often you can see hugging in public -- women hugging other females and men hugging each other. People seem to be more open than they were in the past.
Years ago, my wife and I attended a three day sensitivity training session at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Simsbury, Conn. There were about 20 of us, as I recall, and we had a professional leader whose name was Itzach. I forget the details, but he taught us to throw away our defense mechanisms and put our full trust in each other. By the end of the session, we were all close -- maybe even closer to one another than to our own parents and siblings.
There were expressions of love throughout the groups, which led into some really deep and meaningful conversations. We let it "all hang out" without fearing any negative reactions by anybody.
The group dynamics and "confessions" were absorbing, and we all felt extremely satisfied with each other afterwards. It was like a complete scrubbing of our souls. We all hugged each other -- a lot. We learned to listen to each other better without interrupting and injecting our own reply before the speaker was finished. In many ways, the training was a "marriage enrichment" exercise.
When I got back to the office and reality, I still had the urge to hug people but didn't, of course. They would have thought I'd gone loco. Our family, growing up, did not do much hugging. We kept our love for each other inside for the most part. But now, sometimes both my older and younger brothers give me a hug when they see me.
I've got male friends who also share their hugs with me. I guess I'm still too hung up to release any open affection like that. Rightly or wrongly, I associated hugging with liberals and peaceniks and that may be part of my problem.
Also, I'm glad I never played on a football team that held hands in the huddle. I couldn't have handled that.
Kissing is another form of showing affection that makes me feel awkward at times. When you kiss someone, a hug usually accompanies it.
I've never kissed a man, but many cultures accept this between men -- a one-two peck on each cheek, or just one, or three. I remember visiting Provincetown, Mass., which is paradise for gay people, rich and poor alike. I saw two men kiss each other on the lips, and that shocked me.
I hardly ever initiate a kiss. What are the criteria for planting a kiss on someone? I don't know. I guess it's just a spontaneous feeling. Two or three women I know kiss me on the lips, which always surprises me.
At the end of my 50th high school reunion, I said goodbye to an old friend I'd known for years. We went from first grade through high school together. I leaned over to give her a farewell peck, and she withdrew from me. Maybe she had a cold? So much for taking the initiative.
I feel as awkward kissing as I do hugging, especially when two women approach and one kisses me and I don't know the other one that well, and so I end up shaking hands with her. Going on dates with young women in my teens wasn't much different. It took me a lot of nerve to screw up enough gumption to kiss my date goodnight.
Sometimes I will try to avoid a hug or kiss by saluting. I think a military salute is a good way to show your respect and love for someone.
Is there a shrink in the house?
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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