Hug It Out

Can we please talk about the most awkward moment of a girl date? Because it’s killing me.

You have a nice dinner, easy chatting, and then, when you part, there’s this moment. Nervous hesitation, shifting from side to side. Uncomfortable energy is in the air… And then you go for it. The hug.

Or you don’t. But if you’re me, you do. And it is just so painfully awkward.

I am not kidding. The to-hug-or-not-to-hug parting moment is the worst. I’m one of those people who will do anything to interrupt an awkward silence. Including calling out the silence itself. “Well this is awkward…” Thus increasing the kill-me-now factor by approximately one thousand percent.

It’s a combo of Monica Geller’s “I’m breezy!” and Chandler Bing’s “I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable!”

Take a girl-date I went on a few months back. We had a perfectly nice meal, but when we were leaving there was this strange moment where neither of us knew what to say or do. So just as she started to wave goodbye I actually said aloud “Ok, I’m just going to go for the hug.”

Who says that? The poor girl was like “Um, ok. So we’re doing that.” Those were her actual words.

A similar problem can occur when you run into a sorta friend out of the blue. Do we hug hello? Or just wave?

This happened to me twice—twice!—yesterday. First I ran into an old coworker, and for reasons I cannot explain I hugged him. I should not have been hugging him. We were not close. It was weird. I was just so taken aback by seeing him out of context that I went for it. And then I was totally embarrassed for the duration of the conversation and for a good seven minutes afterwards.

Then, because apparently that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, I ran into a girl who works at my company at a bar last night. And I hugged her hello. I mean seriously. What is wrong with me? Again, embarrassed. Less so, because I bet she’s a hugger, but still. I hardly know her. We work in the same company, not the same department. It was not the time.

All this to say, if you run into me on the street, and you see me start to lift my arms, you have two options: Embrace it, or run.

Does anyone out there even know what I’m talking about? Have you experienced this awkward girl-date moment? Or am I just a total weirdo? Don’t feel bad, you won’t be telling me anything I don’t already know…

61 Comments

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61 responses to “Hug It Out

  1. Karen A.

    I think we just have a very human need to reach out and touch someone with whom we feel a personal connection. I used to know a woman who would rub your ear while speaking to you. Your ear, not hers! So a little hug is pretty mild in my mind. I do understand that some people are uncomfortable being touched, and that needs to be respected, so I try to remember who in my circle they are.

    But in the grand scheme of things, I think it is better to ere on the side of offering a hug, even a quick one, than missing that opportunity with someone who really could use one.

    • Karen, I totally think that’s what it is. It seems bizarre to me to not touch at all–the standing across from each other and waving thing is just silly–but a handshake seems too formal.

      The ear thing is too bizarre though. Ew.

    • Leanne

      I just had to voice this thought real quick–REALLY?? She rubbed other peoples’ EARS when she talked to them? That might be the weirdest thing I have heard in a long time. It is awesomely funny to visualize it.
      That is all. Thx.

  2. JenD

    I automatically go for a handshake for hello and goodbye. I know it seems kinda business-like, but it’s a habit I got into when I had my own business. I find it kills all the awkwardness and still makes contact. I think if, by the end of the girl date, it’s clear a connection has been made, you go for the two-handed handshake; it’s warmer than one hand, but less awkward than a hug.

  3. Michele

    I always have those moments! I am a total hugger but not everyone is so I often hold back. It’s so awkward if you go for the hug and they aren’t into it.

  4. I never make a big deal of the hug thing. If I have been getting to know someone over the phone before meeting I always greet with a casual hug and then end the same. No biggie. I just do it.

    The exception to that rule is if the person is sending obvious signals of “stiffness” and then I forgo the greeting hug. If the body language continues to the end of the meet up then I can choose to pass again.

    My dilemma is knowing how heartily to hug. I grew up with friends who did the superficial hug, similar to the air kiss on the cheek thing. The air kiss feels much more awkward to me.

  5. There is research that says we need a minimum of 4 hugs per day to survive, but ideally 12 for growth, so I am definitely a hugger. How do I get even 4 per day if I just live with one other person and don’t work in a “huggy” environment? I hug clients, new friends and old friends.

    Next time you find yourself randomly hugging someone, feel free to quote the above research, then tell them you’re just trying to make sure you meet your daily quota.

  6. megan

    Rachel, I love you! (Was that awkward? I know we’ve never even met…). You’re hilarious. You had snorting on the bus (I’m reading this on my phone) the entire way to work (a good 15 minutes). I’m not laughing AT you- I’m laughing because I identify. And because it’s s+ awesomely cute!

  7. I am right there with you. I am like this with girls and guy friends. Its not that I don’t like hugging, I just hate awkward moments. I can tell sometimes when I am hugging someone that they don’t like hugging and I don’t want to hug them if they don’t want to, but what are you supposed to do? Ask? Then I get shy and it is interpreted as snobby or standoffish. I like how you just GO FOR IT!

  8. San

    Ok, maybe this is a cultural thing… I only hug people that I feel somewhat close to. I’ll hug you – even after our first “date”- if I feel we had a good time and there was a connection. But I have been rejected in this situation before as well. Not everybody is comfortable with hugs.
    On the other hand, I don’t like the “fake-hugs” some girls exchange either. If you hug, but tilt your head back as far as you can and just pet someone on the back – DON’T hug at all.

    I don’t hug old co-workers, class mates or sports buddies just because I haven’t seen them in a long time. We shake hands (I know that is much more common in Europe and not at all business-like, but just friendly, than in the US).

  9. Dude, I’m a hugger too. In fact, maybe I’ll walk over to your cube and just hug you right now.

    Unrelated: Let’s get drinks after work again.

  10. This is not solely a girl-date thing. Ever have a new couple over for dinner or drinks? You have this great connection and a wonderful evening. Then the good-bye comes and you’ve got FOUR people involved–all with different hugging tolerances. Throw in a modicum of sexual tension and it’s enough to make someone want to sneak out through an open window.

    A similar scenario. I am a wedding officiant and I have varying degrees of time spent with the couples I marry. Some work with me for months developing a personalized ceremony (and an accompanying deep relationship with me). Others call me up the week before and request a quick meet-me-at-the-beach elopement. It’s all good. Cut to the good-bye. When I’ve known the couple for months, it’s a no-brainer. But what if we’ve just met? EVERYONE is supposed to hug at weddings, are they not?

    I tend to be a hugger, so 98% of the time I go for it (the other 2% being people that I intuitively sense don’t want me to go there).

    I’ve found in both of the above scenarios, when I approach the hug with joy and an attitude of “Who wouldn’t wan to hug ME?” then it drastically reduces the awkwardness.

    But then again, when you hug a sort-of coworker in a bar, nothing will reduce the awkwardness! Oh well!

    • Ah yes, the group goodbye is the worst!

      I think in your case a hug is a no-brainer because weddings are such happy occasions. And as the officiant, you’re sort of running the show. So if you hug, they’ll follow suit.

    • Virginia

      I always worry about leaving someone out with a group goodbye. Tuesday I was out with two close friends and one acquaintance. My friends and I were hugging goodbye and the acquaintance was just standing there. If it had just been the two of us, it would have been way too soon for a hug, but I figured it’s better to be overly friendly than give her the cold shoulder. At least she hugged me back- it went much better than the time my group hug panic caused me to hug a male acquaintance and my touch turned him into a statue- awkward! It was really embarrassing.

      I’m usually not the hug instigator (barring group hug panic) and generally won’t hug anyone I don’t know well, even if we had fun. On double dates I’ll hug back, but follow this rule: it’s OK to hug the girl only, neither, or both, but if you hug the guy, you have to hug the girl.

    • nelli

      omg, yes……the group hug….awkward! Rachel, I love your blog and this post had me laughing out loud! Personally, I love to hug but it is tricky to work out when to hold back.

  11. Lorrie Paige

    I have never had that awkward moment.

    Although I love hugging, it’s something I don’t do naturally; my family were never huggers (we definitely were not a touchy-feely family, unfortunately), and I really only get hugged by my BF these days, so I have always naturally let the other person do the hug or shake hands afterward, and 100% of the time, they have always known what to do immediately (usually a hug)–no pause or awkwardness whatsoever.

  12. Edie

    I’m not a hugger. That’s not to say that I don’t hug people, but my personal space is my own, and I don’t tend to share it unless we have a connection already. I can fake it, but I’m sure everyone knows it’s fake.
    An example of this was in college. First of all, I grew up in a very non-huggy environment, then went to college and found everyone hugging! So I did, reluctantly, awkwardly. And one day, I ran into a teacher from high school, and gave him a hug. This was so unusual that my friends all had something to say about it, and wanted to know what made this man so special (and he wasn’t- not that way, anyway).
    Just wanted to give another perspective.

    • I’m totally on the same page with you, although I did grow up in a huggy environment. It made me uncomfortable even then and I never really warmed up to hugs in general.

      I did hug back then, and I do hug back now, but I’m never the initiator, even with the closest of friends and family. The only person I thoroughly enjoy hugging is my husband.

      I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve hugged a coworker. Even having them stand or sit too close to me makes me feel hugely uncomfortable.

      Come to think of it, maybe I have issues…

  13. Suzannah

    Oh my word!!!! Just a day in the life, I tell ya! I always go the hug, just can’t help myself…most of the time I will say” Girl you better give me a hug!”…..let them know from the get go, there is no choice….
    but men I normally just two hand hand shake and pat the shoulder…unless they are close to me…
    and all kids get big ole hugs!!!!! Coming and going!!!

  14. This. Is. Hilarious. My hug awkwardness comes from being so much taller than most other women — do I go for the whole side-hug-around-the-shoulders (which makes me feel like I’m hugging a kid), or awkwardly bend over and hug cheek-to-cheek? Argh!

    Just thinking about the awkwardness is making me itchy.

  15. I hug everyone. If you’re lucky you get a kiss on the cheek too! I used to hate it but I got used to it – it’s the nicest thing. But I’m a mama bear kinda person so I think people expect it from me. If you’re sincere and nice about it most people loosen up.

  16. I’m definitely a hugger – but don’t always know when to go for it with new friends. On a recent friend-date, the new friend opened her arms when we met up – which was great! – but then we were on the subway when we parted ways, so I sort of awkwardly patted her shoulder and said goodbye.

    This is truly hilarious, but I so feel your pain. And by the way, Rachel, if/when you come to Boston and we go on a friend-date (was that awkward? :) ), you can totally hug me.

  17. Caz

    hahah that’s cute. And I totally have experienced that more than once while I still lived in North America. NA is a huggy or handshake culture and it seems awkward to shake hands with a girl/friend/non-professional aquaintance.

    Here in Australia we mostly do the european cheek-kissy thing. It still sometimes brings awkward situations but not as much. Any guy/girl ang girl/girl greeting whether hello or goodbye is a quick cheek kiss (even if you don’t actually kiss but just stick your cheeks together for 1/2 a second and make a kissy face.)

    Ok that sounds infinetly more awkward than it is really. It works….

  18. Ana

    Not sure why, but this was HILARIOUS to me. I used to be so totally anti-hugging that my friends made fun of me, but life (and drinking!) made me more comfortable with a little more personal contact. That being said, I don’t usually initiate a hug unless its someone I am close with; if a new friend hugs me, though, I go with it, I realize some people are just huggers. But double-date hugs get weird—do I hug the boyfriend of a girl I barely know? Is it OK to hug one person out of a group, and just wave goodbye to the others?

    We need rules for these situations people!!! Seriously, why is modern life so complicated. Didn’t it seem like, in the “good old days” there were clear rules for proper etiquette in society, and now its all up for debate, and someone is going to be offended no matter what?

    Maybe I’m just a little stressed right now…….

  19. Monica

    Completely know what you mean about the awkward moment. Want to know what makes it even more awkward? Being in a car! The other night I was passenger and my new friend was driving. It felt awkward to just get out of the car and say, “Bye” for some reason, so I went in for a quick hug which she obviously wasn’t prepared for…why am I so awkward?!? Anyway, great post, I really identify with this problem!

  20. Julia

    On a first girl-date I give my “date” a big smile, tell them I had a great time and we should keep in touch. Then I give kind of a closed-hand wave (because I’m clutching my keys) and I go on my way. This is a post-coffee date kind of thing.

    Maybe that’s just my thing, though.

    I feel that if you genuinely had a good time, they’ll probably call and you’ll do things in future. But I’ve also noticed adults are sometimes more flaky about continuing friendship activities than kids are. Flaky by a lot more.

  21. Jean

    I love this topic! So hysterical–especially the “Friends” reference. “I’m breezy.” I’m not sure why hugging versus not hugging can get so awkward and why we have to worry about it, but there it is. And I really loved everyone’s comments too.

  22. Betty

    My family was not much into physical contact, so I never grew up with hugs. Later on as an adult, I would remember feeling totally startled whenever someone would come up to me and hug me. Over time, I became more acclimated to the idea of giving and receiving hugs and found it to be pleasant with people I felt comfortable with. But, I generally tend not to be the one who initiates hugs. So, it surprised me recently, when I automatically gave a good-bye hug to a friend at a party — and, OMG, you should have seen her reaction. She physically cringed and cowered away from me as if I were a poisonous snake! I had totally forgotten that she wasn’t the huggy-kissy type of person! That was not pleasant, and I’m going to be scared now to give anyone else a hug. :)

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  24. I am SO not a hugger… So I would never go for a girl hug, even with a best friend… But my best friends are all also not big huggers… I think it has to do w/ the fact that many of us are of German dissent and I think we tend to like our personal space?

    I REALLY hate when people want to kiss me on the cheek. Like my sister-in-law’s mom always kisses my cheek when I see her. I love the woman but it creeps me out!!

  25. Crystal

    I read an article somewhere that said if you don’t make physical contact with someone within the first few minutes of meeting them, then the relationship won’t last. You won’t really connect with that person.
    It turns our perceptions upside down, because we usually only hug/touch people we know and feel comfortable with.
    I like hugs, but some people give me a creepy vibe. And huggy people who give off a creepy vibe are the worst kind.

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  28. your blog is too cute! I should have read the about page first though! great idea for a blog! I must saying having children has been the way I’ve made my friends in my area but still don’t have 1 BFF the way I did in high school:)

    love it , adding to my favourites!
    Corrie;)

  29. Em Beeswaks

    Oh my gosh – some of my greatest regrets are hugging people inappropriately! Namely: the run-in with an ex-boyfriend or an ex-lover. I once ran into an ex-lover, in front of my now husband, and greeted him all too kindly with a hug while my honey looked on in disdain. As soon as I felt myself going in for the big H, I thought, “Abort! Abort! Why am I about to hug this dude? I used to hate him!” Of course I later had to defend my actions to my honey. My thoughts are that being raised in an extraordinarily kind family (and one that pretends everything is alright, all of the time) pushes you to do the same with people who you might not be so close to. Ex best friend? no problem! A proper hello is still a proper hug.

    Thankfully these days I find myself being less quick to hug; and I do much prefer it.

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  31. Here’s my two cents: If someone hugs me I’ll hug them back, because I assume everyone but me knows when to hug. If I were the person you were hugging, I’d just go along with it.

    There’s one exception: if a male friend hugs me, and my boyfriend is there, I instigate some hugs with other people too just in case he feels a bit jealous.

  32. Laura

    Great post! I have felt this way too. I love that you bring up thing we all feel that no one talks about.

  33. Ivana

    Hello is a hug! Goodbye is a hug! Am a hugger. I do realize not everyone is into it but, hey now… :-)

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  36. not an ear person

    Why do some people hug by clasping you tightly around the ears? I find this very uncomfrotable.

  37. Hi Rachel,
    I’ve been reading your blog for sometime. I found myself nodding while reading some of your post and realized I have the same experience or have the same opinion at least.
    I’ve experience the same awkward hug and it’s make me giggling while reading your post. So, it was a farewell party for my coworker. One by one the other give hug and shake hand with her. The awkward me suddenly feel like I have to do it in order. I keep thinking which one I should do first, hands shake first and then hug or hug first then shake hands. It’s way too awkward, when I have this shake hand gesture, but, she choose the hug first. It’s awkward, but fortunately all our friends laughing so hard to make it into a funny situation in a supposedly gloomy. Hahaha… I hope I didn’t ruin the situation.

    • So in my culture (Ethiopian) instead of simply hugging, people do 3 cheek-to-cheek kisses. Growing up in the U.S., I always had this mental discord of not knowing whether to kiss or hug, so I played it safe and waved, or kind of went in for a hug and then backed up feeling incredibly mortified. Today, I honestly just do what’s natural. I hate to sound like I abandoned a part of my culture but I’ve kind of parted ways with the cheek-to-cheek stuff. When I’m back home in Ethiopia, or around some older Ethiopians in the U.S., I do it out of respect. But generally, I give a handshake when being introduced along with a big, heartfelt smile. And as far as parting ways with people, Ethiopian or American, I do what DOESN’T feel awkward. I’ve found that if you don’t over think it, nature will take its course. You don’t over think hugging your parents, or kissing your husband– it just happens.

  38. Im a boy and I know what you mean, im terrible with that kind of stuff. I once shook a girls hand because I didnt know whether to hug or just leave it. Yep, shook there hand…

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