Overthinking Hugs

By Sau Tsoi, Yale-NUS College ’17

Fun fact: Hugs lasting more than 2 seconds have been banned in some schools in the United States.

Hugs are complicated. Refuse to hug and you could be seen as unfriendly and weird. Appear too eager to hug and you could be branded a pervert. Mess up a hug and you could jeopardize your social life indefinitely.

Regardless, I enjoy hugging. And no wonder – studies have shown that hugs decrease stress and blood pressure levels. At the same time, they make you feel better when you’re down by giving you a temporary “high”. (@science enthusiasts: cortisol levels decrease while oxytocin and dopamine levels increase)

Last Christmas, I wanted to thank a friend for a particularly sweet and thoughtful gift by giving him a hug. This was when I realized that I have no idea how to give my guy friends hugs. Do I just randomly go up to him and surprise him with a hug? Will he think I’m going to attack him? In that case, should I notify him beforehand?

If I ask him whether I can give him a hug first, what if he says no? My ego would take a grave hit, and it’d be pretty awkward after that. Is the risk worth it? Or should I just give him a thank-you card instead? The probability of rejection would be significantly lower, but it wouldn’t be as meaningful.

And how on earth do you hug someone who’s sitting down? Should I take off that chunky necklace I’m wearing in case it smacks him in the face? Would it be easier to ask him to stand up? But if he stands up he might be too tall for me to hug properly!

A quick search on Google revealed that there are many different types of hugs for different occasions and people. There’s even an iPhone app for 2 users to give each other a virtual hug. Just bump 2 iPhones against each other and the icons on the screens embrace. Sadly, I don’t own an iPhone. Neither does my friend.

At this point, I realized that the hug itself had to be just right. Too light – he might think that I’m only hugging him because I feel obliged to, and not because I sincerely want to thank him. Too tight – he might suffocate. Or I might strangle him.

Who knew hugs could be so complicated?

P.S. Yes, I hugged him in the end 🙂


  1. Wow! This could be one particular of the most helpful blogs We’ve ever arrive across

    on this subject. Basically Excellent. I’m also an expert in this topic so I can understand
    your hard work.

  2. Julia

    Indeed, giving people hugs is a complicated topic. XD Yet, it’s something that can really brighten my day :3

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