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  • Writer's pictureHaulwen Nicholas

Men and hugging? I have questions?

This blog is more of a question than an answer. It's something to think about and to ponder. You see, I've been watching a lot of sport over the last few weeks, or seeing highlights of various sports and I've noticed that in all of these sporting arenas where teams are playing, that there is a lot of hugging. Loads when they win and condolence hugs when they lose (though not so many).

Now all the sport I've watched has been male sport - football, rugby, highlights of the cricket and all have the same theme. 

Men hugging. 

And I mean proper bear hugs, proper proper hugs and not just from the players but also the fans in the stadiums hugging each other too. (the latter only when their team wins).

We are constantly talking about mental health and emotional issues particularly for men. And I know from men in my own life that it's difficult for many men to express their emotions as they are expected to "man up" etc. Yet when it comes to sport it is perfectly acceptable for men to hug, to cry, to shout, to express their emotions freely and it got me wondering why?

You see, I'm a person who loves to hug, but also hate hugging or actual physical contact. Take for example the Kiss on cheek, or air kiss greeting that is done across Europe and quite prevalent in the South of the UK. I find this really awkward, firstly is it one kiss, two or even three? How do you know and not end up in that awkward moment where you bang heads or almost kiss on lips (Eww!) Is it an actual kiss i.e. lips to skin or is it an air kiss? Do you hug when you kiss like this? What are you supposed to do with your hands? How close should you be? Is it appropriate? How do you know who to kiss? (I know I'm overthinking this, but honestly that's what goes through my head every time this happens, though less so with friends).

I find it particularly difficult in my professional career - not the coaching side, but the packaging consultancy I do. It feels weird to be "kissing" new clients, colleagues and I'm conscious I end up looking like an idiot and find it best to say "sorry British have no idea how many times I'm supposed to kiss". Equally in London I'm just called a Northern for having to switch into kissing and hugging over shaking hands. (The amount of times someones gone in for a cheek kiss and I'm putting out my hand to shake hands with them! Honestly its awkward!).

When it comes to hugging in general I was always weird about it. If I like you I will hug you until I break your ribs and never let you go. I hug my friends, I air kiss my friends and even women I've met at recent events more related to coaching, its felt fine and not weird.

I naturally am a bit of a "hug dealer" for people I think need it, some elderly ladies and gents in my village. Friends in need, family where I feel comfortable. And some people I have to really, really resist the urge to hug them and hold onto them for dear life. But other times to give a hug is something I struggle to do and I struggle to receive. And I actively avoid it.

So watching all of these men hugging each other on TV in front of thousands of fans got me wondering and I don't know the answer. Why is it that men hug at such sporting events? Why is this acceptable when I bet a lot of these men don't hug like this at home with family or friends? (Especially the men in the crowd). I asked my husband and he couldn't answer but remembered going to matches as a kid and everyone hugging each other when their team scored, but then actively tried to avoid physical contact afterwards. 

If the world finds it so acceptable for men (and women) to share their emotions in sporting arenas why isn't it accepted in the rest of society? How do we make it acceptable to show our emotions?

And now of course hugging is a bit more of a Russian roulette game. When is a hug sexual harassment? I think we have to know our own judgements and I know as a child I hated the "hugs" and used to push everyone away. So we shouldn't enforce a hug on anyone, (I love the videos of the kids touching an image of which greeting they prefer hug, high five, dance, shake hands, etc, when entering the classroom) and we should teach our children to know they can say no to unwanted hugs, but the way footballers, cricketers, rugby players hug each other is so natural and so genuine its really made me wonder what stops us all from being able to embrace hugging as a natural authentic response (where we know instinctively when its right or wrong?) And why is it that men can express this so openly in these arenas?

I was talking to a lady the other day about hugging. She'd lost her husband a few years ago and now she longs for hugs, but also realises she never gave any to her children until they were adults. Upbringing and social expectations have meant hugging wasn't something people did, but now? Now is it more acceptable in the right circumstances? 

Now is it finally becoming OK to show our emotions? Or is it when our emotions overtake us that we feel drawn to hug in such public displays as these team events. The joy at scoring a goal does it elevate and override the social constricts we have in place.

I don't know the answer, I don't really know the question. But this has intrigued me. 

I'd love to hear what you think or what do the people in your life think?


The Magical Mojo Coach

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