I'm a 35-year-old male who's trying to get in touch with his feminine side. (Wife's orders.) As part of my effort, I've declared 2008 the Year of the Man Hug. Beginning on Jan. 1, I will take as many opportunities as come my way to hug it out with other men. Basically, where I used to shake hands, I will now hug, except when meeting someone for the first time or in business situations. But even then I will try to keep an open mind. I have never been much of a hugger, and I've been especially reluctant to hug any man other than my father. But that will now change.
The only thing I'm worried about is that the huggee will misinterpret the hugger's intentions, which is why I'm writing to you, Mr. Right. How can I best assure that the men I'm about to start hugging don't automatically assume I'm gay?
Embraceable You: Well, first of all, let me commend you on your conversion. I truly believe that if men hugged often enough, and especially if they held those hugs for years on end, there would be no more wars. And there are signs that man-hugs are on the rise, thanks in large part to hip-hop artists, who've brought the so-called pound hug - a handshake combined with a one-armed hug, followed by two or three slaps on the back - to a high state of perfection. Other male preserves have taken their cues from the rappers. Just turn on ESPN any hour of the day and you'll be exposed to the delirious sight of two men deliriously sharing their delirium by throwing their arms around each other and staring deliriously into each other's eyes. And we all know professional athletes aren't gay, right? Right.
Unfortunately, we aren't so sure about the rest of us, which is why we need to take certain precautions. Here, then, are 10 things to avoid when hugging our fellow man, lest he think we're about to ask him if he wants to join us in the shower:
Try not to get a boner: I know, I know, a boner's the last thing you're likely to get while hugging another guy. But if you do happen to get one, good luck convincing him you're not gay. So, just to be safe, think of something really horrible - torturing babies, for instance - while hugging him.
Avoid genital contact altogether: It can be done quite easily. In fact, man-hug experts (there really are such people) refer to it as the A-frame, where your shoulders touch but nothing else does. Ideally, your shoulders wouldn't touch either, but then you wouldn't have a hug. You'd just be two guys standing there.
Do not grab his ass, pinch his butt or pat his bottom: Yes, this is intuitively obvious, but you'd be surprised the number of times guys do it. That's the danger of the man-hug: You get carried away.
Do not wrap our arms around his neck and star longingly into his eyes: You'd be surprised...
Don't say anything: Especially don't say "I love you, man" in that I-don't-mean-it-but-I-really-do way. He'll know you don't really mean it, even though you really do, but he may start to think you really do mean it, even though you don't really mean it, even though you really do. And you can't afford to take that chance.
If you simply must say something, grunt: No, not an I-dig-our-bodies-this-close-together grunt. A hey-we're-both-cavemen-how-could-we-possibly-be-gay grunt.
Don't smile: On the contrary, adopt a somewhat pained expression, as if the hug itself is killing you but your overall affection for the guy has forced you into it.
Don't even breathe: Can be misinterpreted as heavy breathing.
And, for God's sake, don't close your eyes: What, are you waiting for him to propose?
Come to think of it, skip the damn hug, just shake his hand: And with your free hand, reach around and grab his ass!
To sign up for my "Mastering the Hug-and-Slug" workshop, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, and 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR EMAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.