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Work/Life: Hey Kids, Just Say No to Hugs

Stories about public schools banning hugs have been in the news recently, and now comes the tale of the teenager who was given detention for being caught hugging two of her classmates.

Stories about public schools banning hugs have been in the news recently, and now comes the tale of the teenager who was given detention for being caught hugging two of her classmates.

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School officials say the ban was put in place to stop the increasingly problematic and time-wasting hallway log jams that occur as kids pause to embrace before entering a classroom, as well as, of course, the unnecessarily long periods of touching between teenage boys and girls that hugs afford. It seems to me we are moving right from “slippery slope” to “out of control toboggan.” I can think of worse ways to create a little delay in the start of class time than kids hugging each other (like, say, something involving guns or knives), and banning embracing because you think it might lead to the harder stuff has about as much logic as letting Don Imus get near a sporting event.

We talk a lot about work/life balance, but really it probably should start with school/life balance before we even enter the workforce. Now, of course, in my day we had to walk sixteen miles to school in our bare feet during a blizzard (do the kids today have it easy, or what?), and to tell you the truth, if I had hugged any of my friends back then I probably would have gotten a look something like you’d give to the stubble-faced guy who barks uncontrollably while waiting on line at the post office. Now thirty or more years have passed, Oprah’s getting everyone to cry on national television, football players hug, heck, even members of my family have tentatively embraced me before realizing they were showing affection and abruptly erecting that familiar and perversely comforting wall of impenetrability. The point is, I like to think we’ve evolved a little emotionally as a nation since I was a kid, and that if junior high schoolers are using hugs to communicate, so be it. Maybe they’ll grow up to be more well adjusted, loving adults, who will understand that a hug is more important than a Power Point presentation.

Certainly, today’s modern workplace must be, by its nature, fairly unaffectionate, what with public displays of said affection so easily misinterpreted. But if things keep going this way, the handshake may soon disappear. And where would be if we couldn’t shake on it? Without the handshake deal, there would be no unspoken trust left at all. Quick, let’s switch the handshake deal to a hug deal. It would make us less uptight, and give us a reason to close a meeting that didn’t involve trying to out-crush your competitor’s metacarpals. If you’re worried about it being too forward, go ahead and hug the way guys do: feet at least ten inches apart, stomachs thrown back, hands immediately slapped onto the shoulder blades and hastily removed so nobody could ever confuse what we’re doing with an actual hug. You know, it just doesn’t get any more honest than that.

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