Sometimes well-meaning people can say and do stupid things.
Other times they can do perfectly fine and decent things, but ones that are just completely not appreciated and which might have the opposite effect of what they intended, especially in this particular moment.
The last two weeks have been really tough with the cancer of my best friend Rob kicking into high gear and eventually taking his life on Sunday. As this has been going on i have been trying to do my best, along with a bunch of friends and family, to help look after his wife Nicky in terms of giving her the space she has needed to spend time with Rob and now to grieve in the way that she wants to.
Last night a small group of family and friends were sitting on top of Signal Hill reflecting on the funeral and celebration service that is happening on Thursday for Rob and the idea of possibly hundreds of people who loved Rob and love Nicky wanting to come up and give her [and family members and other close friends] a hug after the ceremony.
Take a moment to let this sink in – one not-particularly-wanted hug is okay [it’s not great – generally we like to get to choose who we hug or don’t] but 100? 300? Imagine how tiring and frustrating and actually just not cool that ends up being. It stops being an act of love/care/compassion somewhere along the way and becomes something less than.
We might feel good because we got to ‘get our hug in’ and so it provides some kind of closure for us, but possibly at the expense of the person receiving it…
So we started joking around and came up with probably a whole lot more than 10 Ways to Avoid Unwanted Hugs ranging from harmless to completely harmful and while these have some element of tongue in cheek in them [by the way, if there is any actual tongue in cheek happening your hug has WAY overcrossed all lines!] try and take the point that they are making and think of how this might apply to you:
10 WAYS TO AVOID UNWANTED HUGS
 Circle of Protection: Draw a Circle of Chalk around Nicky and the Condolenscer is only allowed as far as the edges of the circle.
 Bee Suit: Dress Nicky up in a swarm of bees and potential huggers can come as close as they want.
 Designated Huggers: Have volunteers standing with signs ranging from ‘Hug – guy’ ‘Hug – girl’ through ‘Side-hug’ ‘Hug and back rub’ ‘Hug and shoulder massage’ ‘Hug >30 seconds’ ‘Hug 30 seconds > 90 seconds’ ‘Hug 90 seconds plus’ all the way to ‘kiss on cheek’ ‘kiss on lips’ and let friends and extended family take one for the team.
 Garlic Breath of Death: Before the service feed Nicky a combination of strong garlic bread, anchovies, Marmite, onions and horseradish [and possibly baked beans to keep the cloak of protection happening at both ends]
 Trapdoor: Simply have Nicky stand in front of a Trap Door space and anyone who crosses the line of intentional touching, Nicky simply pushes the button and… [i suggested piranhas in the water below but was deemed too aggressive]
 A Taser: Nothing like 50 thousand volts pulsing through your body to give you the hint that your hug may not be particularly appreciated at this moment.
 Stunt Double: Find a Nicky lookalike to stand and take the hugs and fake the smiles while the real Nicky (and family members and close friends) is hidden away in a back room partaking of the quality brownies.
 A Sniper armed with tranquilizer darts: Again, the crowd had to talk me towards tranquilizers but i guess it’s just been that kind of week. Lean forward for unwanted hug and swoooosh, add you to the growing pile on the floor next to Nicky.
Which brings us to probably the two most extreme ideas we had:
 Flame Thrower: i’m not going to say who suggested this, except that it was Stacey, and i’m not sure that she was being serious for a moment, but we were thinking out of the box of any and all ideas for protection and a flame thrower would definitely help establish a wide perimeter.
And finally, my favourite [because it was mine] and only extreme because of the time, resources and energy to make it happen, cos i still think otherwise it is quite viable.
 Velcro Backsuit and Bungee Cable action: Picture Nicky with a huge back piece of Velcro at the back of her dress, attached to a bungee cable. The wall behind her is completely velcro. Any moment someone comes in for an unwanted hug, Nicky pushes the button in her hand and the bungee cable snaps into life and propels her backwards twenty meters into the wall. She gets a fun ride AND avoids that unwanted hug.
Ah, how could i forget? The NFL Line Backer Interception: You go in for a hug and this guy is here to stop you…
There you have them – ten plus one ways to avoid an unwanted hug… and we came up with more… Do you have any to add? Leave a comment in the section below.
And while this is all in the name of good, clean, fun, there is also a very serious message i am hoping to get across to those of you who need to hear it. Thursday is going to be a time of great celebration but also deep mourning and it would be great if we could go that extra distance for Nicky and the close Family members and friends and try to figure out what is going to be best for them.
Maybe, defaulting to not hugging, simply reaching out a hand and saying, “I am sorry for your loss” and being alert to the fact that if they are up for a hug from you they will initiate one and you can be ready to accept it.
This works for weddings as well, where suddenly a bunch of strangers or semi-strangers get to kiss the woman i have chosen to spend the rest of my life with? Where did we come up with that nonsense?
A women whose blogging skills i greatly admire and who calls herself Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary, perhaps says is best, in this post where she as a very much non-hugger describes the most awkward of hugs she gave one time in a supermarket. Give it a read.
How about you? Hugger or non-hugger? Everyone is different on this one so i’d love to hear some fun stories or your theory of hugs in the comments section below.