For Teenagers, Hello Means ‘How About a Hug?’

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Girls embracing girls, girls embracing boys, boys embracing each other — the hug has become the favorite social greeting when teenagers meet or part these days. Teachers joke about “one hour” and “six hour” hugs, saying that students hug one another all day as if they were separated for the entire summer.

A measure of how rapidly the ritual is spreading is that some students complain of peer pressure to hug to fit in. And schools from Hillsdale, N.J., to Bend, Ore., wary in a litigious era about sexual harassment or improper touching — or citing hallway clogging and late arrivals to class — have banned hugging or imposed a three-second rule.

Parents, who grew up in a generation more likely to use the handshake, the low-five or the high-five, are often baffled by the close physical contact. “It’s a wordless custom, from what I’ve observed,” wrote Beth J. Harpaz, the mother of two boys, 11 and 16, and a parenting columnist for The Associated Press, in a new book, “13 Is the New 18.”

“And there doesn’t seem to be any other overt way in which they acknowledge knowing each other,” she continued, describing the scene at her older son’s school in Manhattan. “No hi, no smile, no wave, no high-five — just the hug. Witnessing this interaction always makes me feel like I am a tourist in a country where I do not know the customs and cannot speak the language.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchTeens / Youth

9 Comments
Posted May 28, 2009 at 9:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Fr. Greg wrote:

“Witnessing this interaction always makes me feel like I am a tourist in a country where I do not know the customs and cannot speak the language.”

Haven’t elders felt this way about “youth culture” for a very long time? 

This hugging thing is interesting.  Sort of an adaption, consciously or unconsciously, of the practices of certain non-American cultures, such as those of Eastern Europe (apparently without the side-to-side cheek kisses, however).

May 28, 9:38 am | [comment link]
2. Newbie Anglican wrote:

Hmm.  Here in Texas, I’ve noticed teen guys may be more comfortable with friendly affection than previous generations, but I haven’t noticed all this hugging, at least not yet.

May 28, 10:52 am | [comment link]
3. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Yuck!  Stay out of my space.

May 28, 10:53 am | [comment link]
4. Jeffersonian wrote:

In Brazil, it’s a kiss on each cheek for guy/girl or girl/girl.  I kinda liked that, myself.

May 28, 11:27 am | [comment link]
5. Militaris Artifex wrote:

3. Pageantmaster,

Oh dear! You seem to have abandoned your normal proper English reserve as a result of the mere consideration of your normal proper English reserve being ‘invaded,’ as it were. But never mind that, I think I tend to agree with you, probably because of the absence of intermediate gestures for those with whom I don’t feel well enough acquainted to exchange hugs. Would you recommend that I avoid travel to France, and its possessions?

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

May 28, 2:44 pm | [comment link]
6. SouthCoast wrote:

I was thinking about how many of these kids probably come from broken, or one-parent, homes, or have overworking, largely absent, parents. Maybe they are craving some simple, affectionate, physical contact? When you feel emotionally adrift, that craving can become a sort of hunger at times.

May 28, 4:55 pm | [comment link]
7. Terry Tee wrote:

What’s this (above) about English reserve?  I have noticed here in Britain that the hug is becoming more and more common, certainly the cheek to cheek thing has been common among middle aged middle class people for a long time.  And the hug preceded by that distinctive hand clasp is near universal among young black men.  We had some correspondence about this some years ago in the august columns of The [London] Times when people wrote in about the spreading phenomenon of complete strangers kissing and someone wrote in to quote Erasmus from the 16th century who had written about how the English kissed on meeting and kissed again on parting.  Clearly Erasmus found it all a bit over the top.

May 28, 5:10 pm | [comment link]
8. Militaris Artifex wrote:

7. Terry Tee,

Perhaps it was contagious and the English caught it from Erasmus. Although I am pretty confident that Pageantmaaster wasn’t around in those days. {winkie}

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

May 28, 7:09 pm | [comment link]
9. libraryjim wrote:

Pagentmaster expresses my wife’s views, too.  She will go out of her way at church to sneak out the side door to avoid being hugged by every priest in the greeting line.

By the way, someone needs to send the principals and school board members copies of LeoBuscaglia’s books and videos. < grin >

May 30, 9:40 am | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.




Next entry (above): Diocese of Toronto—Anglicans urged to express vision for national church

Previous entry (below): Stephen Baskerville: Divorced from Reality

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)