Donnerstag, 12. Juli 2012

Hugs are like sweeties

I'm really proud of this analogy, so I'm going to use it to death, be warned.

Since currently people are discussing the AA code of conduct,  there seems to be some controvery about what certain parts of it mean, especially the ones about asking for hugs:
Yes means yes; no means no; and maybe means no. Please take no for an answer for any request or activity. You are encouraged to ask for unequivocal consent for all activities during the conference. No touching other people without asking. This includes hands on knees, backs, shoulders—and hugs (ask first!). There are folks who do not like to be touched and will respect and like you more if you respect their personal space.
So, my take on it: they're like sweeties

Everybody likes them!
I mean, come on, everybody likes sweeties. And hugs. They're great, they're good, who couldn't possibly like them? Oh, you. And you. And you only like peppermint humbugs. That's obvious, isn't it? Although most people like them, not all do. And of those who like them, not everybody likes all of them, at all times. The fact that I'm a big hugger doesn't mean that I want to hug you now.

There's more than one way to offer a sweetie 
A lot of the discussion is about whether asking explicitely means verbally (hint, AA, clarify that, please).
Ophelia Benson thinks it does:
“Ask first”=ask in words. That’s the normal meaning! Yes, you can pantomime, but that really isn’t what’s usually meant by “ask first.”
And she doesn't like it:
I have to say though, I agree with the critics on this one. No, I don’t want people asking me for permission before hugging. No, I don’t want to ask.
And yes, that would be kind of strange. Last weekend (I had a fantastic weekend, did I tell you?), I went to an internet community meetup (in an old castle that functions as a youth hostel, just cool). Most people there have known each other for years, there are deep friendships, but we mostly only see each other once or twice a year. So a frequent scene was that some new arrival would drop their luggage, scream a name like a teenager at a Justin Bieber concert, and run towards somebody who was already there who did the same. It would be absolutely awkward and perfectly ridiculous if they had to stop 1 m in front of each other and ask "can I hug you?"

But I disagree  that this is necessarily meant: 
Hmm, most people seem to interprete “ask” as verbal and/or non-verbal. Clarification would probably in order.
When I open my arms I’m asking for a hug.
When I purse my lips I’m asking for a kiss.
 Or, to get back to my weekend (did I already mention that it was fantastic?): one of the lads would permanently offer you  sweeties. No idea how many kg he had with him, there seemed to be a neverending supply. Sometimes he asked: Do you want a sweetie?, but most of the time he would only hold a sweetie in front of you and grin. Somehow everybody interpreted this as "do you want a sweetie?"

Sadly, hugs aren't like sweeties

For example, you burn calories by hugging, you consume them with sweeties. There's disagreement about what's better: non-verbal or verbal asking.

Tigger the Wing prefers verbal communication:
P.S. I actually find it easier to turn down a verbal request for a hug, because I feel intense embarrassment on behalf of someone left standing with their arms open. But hugs are actually quite painful to me and I’m sure that even enthusiastic huggers don’t want to cause pain.
 I clearly prefer non-verbal communication. To me it seems easier to widdle out of that without saying "no". And that's the difference between hugs and sweeties: The common rules of politenes are currently skewed in favour of the hugger (hello Mr. Dawkins!). I don't become an asshole for turning down a sweetie. I must have rejected as many sweeties at the weekend (which was great, btw) as I have accepted. Other people told him once that they're not into sweets/ peppermint sweets and everything was fine. It's not impolite to turn down a sweetie. You're not embarrased for the other person who is now standing there with his sweetie. Rejecting a sweetie is not rejecting the person.
With hugs, that's different and IMO this has to change: It's OK to say no. People must feel comfortable in saying no, especially women, who have been trained much more to put the needs of the other person before their own. You don't have to accept a hug or a kiss just not to embarass the other person, you must not be judged by other people for that. And the luckless hugger must learn that this doesn't devalue them, doesn't mean that the other person doesn't like them.
OK, sometimes it is because the other person doesn't like them, but, hey, they don't like you anyway and the will like you even less if you use the rules of politness to get some unwanted body contact.
That's a big goal, I think, a big shift in culture. Implementing rules that may seem uncomfortable at first can be a step towards this. The first time you wore a seatbelt was uncomfortable and awkward, too.

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