This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com
CHITCHAT: I will be giving free public lectures titled: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Senior Years” on the following dates, times, and locations (RSVP REQUIRED):
March 15, 2018, 10:30am, The Samarkand Retirement Community, 2550 Treasure Dr., Santa Barbara, CA 93105, (877) 412-6305, www.thesamarkand.org/events
April 13, 2018, 1:00pm, Covenant Village of Turlock Retirement Community, 2125 N. Olive Ave, Turlock, CA 95382, (209)-226-4621, www.covenantvillageofturlock.org/events
Now, on to my blog:
We all need a hug. It is tactile contact with another human being; a warm, intimate gesture; and comforting. It can be a balm when we are feeling low; an expression of closeness; a display of acceptance, or a greeting like a handshake on steroids. However, we must be careful when, where, and to whom we deliver hugs.
The subject of inappropriate touching has been in the news a lot lately. Many have experienced this during their lifetime, both women and men. It may have been as the hug giver, the hug receiver, or both.
I’ve had such experiences including some incidents years ago at my job which would today be considered sexual harassment. These acts are usually carried out by the perpetrator when no one else is around, so it becomes an unprovable “he said-she said” scenario.
From my youth until well into my adulthood, I was not a huggy type of person. Although I’m still not exceptionally huggy, as I’ve matured and been subjected to life, I’m more prone to offering a hug to relatives and good friends upon meeting or departing, or to someone who has been especially nice and giving in a situation.
I can think of three things that changed my hugging persuasion:
1. When I had children, they needed hugs, and I found that I loved embracing them.
2. I have some close friends who are very huggy, and I’ve grown to be comfortable with it.
3. When I became an actress as a senior, I discovered that the acting community as a whole is a pretty huggy/touchy bunch out of camaraderie.
Sometimes my hug has been well received and other times it has seemed to make the recipient uncomfortable. I think the response comes from how the hugee was raised, where they were raised (different parts of the country or world are not as huggy as others), his/her culture, etc.
I’ve had a few strange experiences when I’ve initiated a hug. I made the mistake of hugging a man out of friendship. He then expected us to hug every time we saw each other. He finally made it clear that he wanted our relationship to ramp up to the next level which was not what I wanted, so I broke off the whole thing. It probably would have remained on the friendship footing I had preferred had I not initiated the initial hug out of good feelings.
Once, I invited a group of friends over for lunch. One I knew well, and the other two, a husband and wife, were his friends whom I had only met a few times. We had a lovely time, and when they were ready to depart, I gave each a hug. The husband and wife both seemed very uncomfortable with the gesture, and I was sorry I had done it.
I remember another uneasy situation. A program director had hired me to give a talk to a large group. Although our interaction prior to the event was purely a business relationship, she had been exceptionally nice and helpful to me. After the talk, we were chatting, and I thanked her. Out of exuberance at how well things had gone, I moved forward to hug her whereupon she jerked back with an alarmed look on her face. I immediately backed off, but it felt very awkward.
Hugging or other types of touching can be interpreted incorrectly. If one gets a different idea from your initiation of a hug or other simple touch than you had intended, it is very hard to convey to that person that you were simply expressing your exuberance in an embracing manner. Conversely, when people make themselves vulnerable by expressing affection for another whether physically or verbally, it is hurtful to them to learn that their overtures are unwanted. You take the chance of alienating that person and the discomfort whenever you encounter him/her again.
Don’t stop hugging or enjoying hugs. Just learn to be prudent when engaging in them.
To get you into a hugging mood, here are links to a video offering free hugs and a poem about hugging which are both very moving.
“The Hug,” by Tess Gallagher
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Photo credit: cheetah100 via VisualHunt / CC BY