No hug­ging, no learn­ing. Bet­ter go for a hand­shake

The Guardian - G2 - - News -

“The pol­icy of hug­ging” that has caused all sorts of com­plaints from Ted Baker staff is odd, to say the least. Ray Kelvin, the founder of the fash­ion chain, has been crit­i­cised by a group of for­mer and cur­rent staff for a regime of “forced hugs” and al­leged ha­rass­ment at the re­tailer’s head of­fice.

I must say I have in­ad­ver­tently hugged the wrong peo­ple at the wrong time. Partly, I think this is to do with a gen­eral so­cial anx­i­ety about greet­ing peo­ple. I have zero de­sire to touch most peo­ple, but I hugged my mate’s teenage son the other day as I had hugged his mum, a very old friend. That was, as my daugh­ter in­formed me, “so­cially awks”.

But then, so is all the kiss­ing. Is it two, or three or four? Is it ac­tual kiss­ing? Are we French? What if you miss and get them on the lips? Lately, I have had a few at­tempts that were more of a head­butt than a hello, and I re­ally want this to stop. None of it feels at all nat­u­ral. It is as false to me as hear­ing young peo­ple ex­claim: “I love you babes” to each other, or un­hap­pily mar­ried peo­ple who row in front of you and then in­sist: “We love each to bits re­ally.”

Re­cently, I have taken to shak­ing hands to avoid any grop­ing, hug­ging or head­but­ting sce­nar­ios. This is also weird, as I feel as if I am in­ter­view­ing peo­ple for non-ex­is­tent jobs as I thrust out my hand to my be­mused teenager’s friends.

Gen­er­ally, I would pre­fer min­i­mal phys­i­cal con­tact be­cause there is no con­sen­sus about what should be hap­pen­ing any more. It is in its small way an is­sue of con­sent, a pre­sump­tion of in­ti­macy that makes many of us un­com­fort­able. Oh yes, and those peo­ple who try to help with your coat and can never find the arms. For hours, it seems. I had bet­ter not go out over Christ­mas.

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