The Side Hug


The side hug, man.

It’s humiliating.

The sidehug is the enemy of authenticity.

It is the physical embodiment of the ‘me-first’ philosophy: the final chapter in the Book of ‘I Can Have it All.’


Everything is about choice. Life; capitalism; dating (or so the apps would have you believe).

We’re always choosing things, and people, and priorities, and values — all the time. Every second, in every day, we choose. We are what we choose (and what we choose to eat).

Choice in itself is neutral. It simply exists. Computers don’t complain about having to make choices. They just make them: 1 or 0. Simple. That’s it.

Choice is ambivalent to our human needs and wishes and tendencies. It just is, a feature of life in our universe. It’s immutable, as far as I can tell.

The thing about choice is: all you have to do is choose.


Most choices are easy. Should I brush my teeth in the morning? Yes, I should.

Some choices are less easy. Should I put pants on today? Wait, let me check if it’s the weekend.

And some choices are very hard.  What kind of person should I be?

Today, right now, should I choose stability or adventure? Responsibility or excitement? Awareness or distraction? Should I live for the present or plan for the future?  Right now, right here, should I be working, earning money, or spending money, or ignoring money, for a bit?

What music should be playing?


The thing is: ‘Should I hug this person?’ is not a tough choice. In fact, it is a very simple choice.

It’s either a Yes or No.


Here’s how your mind works, at least according to Paul Bloom.

You notice a person. First, you notice if that person is a he, or a she. Then, you notice if he’s family, or she’s an acquaintance, or he’s a friend, or she’s something more. In microseconds, your brain processes all this information, and figures out your situation with the individual question. Your brain knows.

And then you hug her, with two firm hands, and all your heart, because you’re happy to see him, and she matters to you, and you care.

Or you don’t, because you don’t want to hug him. You’d prefer a handshake, or a high-five, or a smile, or a cordial ‘hello.’

And that’s fine.


But this side hug, man. What the hell is that?

You face him, and stride forward to her, and then, just as you’re about to arrive, you pivot, like you’re line dancing, and then you swivel so that suddenly, your torsos, which were facing each other, are now facing in the same direction, so the only bodily contact you can manage is a feeble clasp and uncomfortable grazing of the hips.

It’s always one-handed, too. Who hugs one-handed? What the fuck is a one-handed hug? It’s a nothing. A non entity. It doesn’t exist. It’s utterly meaningless.


Listen, side-huggers. You either want to hug someone. Or you don’t.

Both are fine. Hugging is a personal choice, not a political one. The world may be going to hell, but at least it hasn’t gotten so bad that you’re forced to hug people who you don’t want to.

Or has it?

I dunno, man.



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