|(Thanks to Hall of the Black Dragon)|
Sure, scientists have probably explained it in scientific terms that take all of the beauty and romance out of it. So I'm not going to go look for that.
Instead, I just want to talk about it from a feeling point of view.
When you're feeling a bit low, it's a wonder how just somebody coming over and giving you a hug will all of a sudden totally lift your spirits out of that funk that you're in. Or, if it doesn't do that, it may at least make you feel more able to deal with the emotional stress that you're feeling right at that moment. It's that physical aspect of touch, there's just something about it. It adds a layer of intimacy, I think, that shows that somebody really cares about you and your well-being.
Of course, nothing is better than a hug (and other things, obviously) between two people who truly love one another and want to spend the rest of their lives together. Romantic love can produce some wonderful hugs where the entire body is pressed together full-length, with both bodies almost melting into each other. Yes, those are definitely special.
But what about outside of a romantic relationship? Those hugs can be pretty damned special too, in their own way. While there is no full-body melding, there is definitely contact. Whether it's one of those "safe" hugs where you touch each other as little as possible, or even a closer hug where your bodies are pressed together (just not as intimately as a romantic hug), both can satisfy a need that we as humans have. That need for some kind of physical representation that somebody cares. I think it's something the world needs more of.
There are always gender issues that crop up, of course. Men generally don't hug other men unless extreme circumstances seem to warrant it. A tremendously sad occasion like attending a funeral, or a very happy one like scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal. Just a general pick-me-up, though? A conversation between two guys about something that's bothering one of them? There will most likely be no hug there. But women do it all the time.
And for mixed-gender friendships, there's always that fine dance of finding the comfort zone for both parties. Is he going to see this as more than just a friendly hug? Is she going to think I want to move this further than just friendship? Or maybe you're just not a believer in hugging somebody of the opposite gender who isn't married to you or in a relationship with you.
All of those considerations have to be dealt with. But after they are, the resulting hugs can be glorious. Not only because of the resulting feeling they can give you, but because it shows an utter trust in you that they are sharing. Giving somebody a hug, or allowing them to hug you, opens up a vulnerability in you because you're letting that person even more into your emotional presence. Sure, you may have talked a lot, and maybe even about some very personal things. But now you're allowing them into your private space. The space you keep for people you really care about. Yes, you're pretty sure the other person feels the same way or you wouldn't be doing it.
But it's still a vulnerability.
Of course, some people don't even bother with those considerations and totally surprise you, hugging you out of the blue. Like meeting somebody's mother for the first time and she proceeds to give you a hug when you take your leave. Wonderful surprises indeed.
Or perhaps you've become friends with somebody online, and so you've already moved past all of that. I know a few women online where, if and when we ever meet, I'm in for the hug of my life, I'm sure.
It's not just hugs, either, though they are the culmination of all of this, that Holy Grail that you finally reach where the person's comfort level is to the point of being able to hug you.
Sometimes it's just a touch. Some people are naturally touchy people, and you can usually tell that. They'll touch your arm or shoulder when they're talking to you. While I'm not saying it doesn't mean anything, it isn't quite in the same league. I'm sure even these people will not touch some people if they get a bad vibe off of them or something.
But not that many people are, in this age where we take a stranglehold on our personal space and try not to let anybody into it except a select few. Many of us don't like being touched, and that also translates into not liking to touch other people. Or maybe that's a bit too extreme and you just don't habitually do it. You don't fear it or anything, but it's just not something you do.
There are friends of mine who I remember the first time they actually touched me. It may have just been a light slap on the arm or a touch on the shoulder or whatever. And it may have just been in the flow of a conversation, perhaps even in a group conversation.
But it still struck me in a marvelous way. What it said to me is that this person is actually comfortable enough with me to touch me. That this person does care about me. It's an intimacy (not a romantic intimacy, but an intimacy nonetheless) that they have finally decided to share with you. And if it comes in the middle of a conversation or in some other off-hand manner, it demonstrates that this comfortableness is honestly being felt and not just calculated (like some people will touch you on the arm or shoulder if they are trying to convince you to do something, to name one example). They touched you without even thinking about it.
And it feels good.
It's even better when you are good enough friends that they just realize when you might need a hug. No questions asked, no request needed.
Those are the friendships to cherish.