Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Issue 16 - Confessions of a Hugaholic

Hello, my name is Muse, and I'm a hugaholic.

I'm not sure if there's a twelve-step programme for this, or whether I'd even want to go through it, if one existed. I absolutely, unashamedly LOVE hugs.

I'll never understand people who don't like them. A hug is a powerful thing. A good hug releases endorphins and gives you energy. It can communicate so many things without words: joy, sorrow, empathy, security, respect, pain, comfort...the list goes on. It can say, “I'm so happy to see you”, “I'm sorry for your loss”, “I understand”, “Congratulations”, or, “You're a legend and I'm really glad you're my friend.” Amazing, really.

Of course, there are different types of hugs, and not all of them satisfactory. Churches, schools and music/dance/theatre groups are brilliant research environments for hugging. Over the years I have become a keen student of the subject.

Technique is extremely important and can even change the meaning of a hug, conveying a completely different message to the hugee than was intended.

Here are some examples I've compiled:

The Wimpy
They're not sure if they really want to hug you so they'll just give you the hug-equivalent of a limp handshake. Arms are held up at half-mast and bent at the elbows and wrists, to resemble a t-rex or a kangaroo. Lots of arm patting is involved.

Mind The Gap
They'll willingly hug you, but they'll keep an all-important 3-inch gap between your bodies. Don't breach it, whatever you do.

The Drama Queen
This is not so much a hug as a staged lean, accompanied by air kisses in the direction of both cheeks. Usually performed by teenage girls who can't stand each other.

The Youth Pastor
If you're a youth pastor, you apparently can't come at someone full-frontal, especially someone of the opposite sex, so you perform a manoeuvre that is otherwise known as the “side hug”. It's one-armed, awkward and, quite frankly, a bit silly.

The Tub-Thumper
This is performed by guys who feel they must footnote an all-male hug with three thumps on the back that quite clearly state “I'm. Not. Gay.”

The Bake 'n' Shake
This occurs when one hugger is taller or bigger than the other. It involves exuberantly pinning the smaller party's arms to their sides, picking them up and rocking backwards and forwards several times while their feet are still off the floor. May be used in lieu of The Tub-Thumper.

The Choker
Sometimes accompanied by squealing; given by bubbly girls who have haven't seen you for– oh, at least three hours.

The Footballer
Found only on a sports field, where all the usual rules of male bonding go out the window. Incorporates elements of The Bake 'n' Shake. Usually followed by hair-ruffling. May involve butt-slapping. Variation: The Chest Bump.

The 4-bit

The Teddy Bear
My personal favourite. It's the kind of hug that occurs between true friends and is suitable for almost any occasion (although, truthfully, it's best given by guys who consider themselves your mates and aren't afraid to show it). It's both gentle and strong. It's the kind of hug that makes you feel safe and loved and happy. In a nutshell, it says, “You're my friend, and you're all right.”

PRO-TIP: Whatever type of hug you give, make sure it's sincere. The Wimpy must be eradicated.

Special thanks to O.R. and L.C. for their valuable contributions to this issue.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Issue 15 - I Do, Do I?

I've never really understood weddings. I always say to friends, “Screw the wedding crap; I'm going to Vegas.” They think I'm joking. I'm not.

It could be hereditary – my parents didn't have a “normal” wedding – or it could be my disposition to buck tradition at every opportunity. More likely it's that I've become jaded. To be clear, I don't mean jaded by the idea of marriage – that, I love; I mean jaded by the idea of the white wedding: the bouquets, the tuxedos, the bridal showers, the matching dresses, the rehearsal dinners, the music, the invitation lists, the seating plans, the unwanted guests, the tension, the competitiveness...

I can hear you now: “Oh, she's just bitter – three times the bridesmaid, never the bride. Wait 'til her turn comes around; she'll think differently.”


But probably not.

I grew up in a large church. Most of my friends are married. I have seen hundreds of weddings, and the more I see, the less it all appeals.

There are certain elements, of course: the dress; the fulfilment of every girl's fantasy to be stunningly beautiful, the princess, the centre of attention, if only for one day; publicly marking and celebrating the transition to a new phase of life; that particular sort of magic as the bride walks down the aisle to meet her beloved – I get these. I do. But what, in the name of common sense, do sugar-coated almonds in lilac drawstring bags, ridiculously overpriced stationery, rice enough to feed a third-world country and oodles of glazed marzipan have to do with anything? I mean, at least ice the cake with something that people can appreciably palate. And don't go for that disgusting fruit cake that looks as though it's been sitting at the bottom of a rum barrel for twenty years. If you're going to make us sit through four hours of speeches consisting of meaningless reminisces and inside jokes, have the decency to give us a large slice of chocolate mud cake with proper frosting.

Another thing: why do all the bridesmaids have to wear exactly the same gowns? Isn't that the first crime of fashion – wearing the same thing as someone else? I was a ballerina. As far as I'm concerned, matching costumes are for the corps de ballet. Whenever I see a line of bridesmaids all dressed exactly the same (despite the fact that one has the figure of a wooden spoon, and another, the figure of a teapot), I expect them to launch into the Dance of the Cygnets from Swan Lake. And why are there so many bridesmaids and groomsmen? I've attended weddings where there are more people in the bridal party than there are in the seats. At most, you need two bridesmaids – one to witness the register, maybe another to help with the dress when the bride needs to pee – and a best man to look after the rings and hold the groom upright when nerves or booze kick in. The rest are superfluous, are they not?

Did you know that the average wedding in 2010 cost £21,000? That's enough for a deposit on a house!

Two tickets to Vegas and a dress – that's £2,000, tops. Throw in Celine Dion tickets and an overnight trip to the Grand Canyon, and there's your honeymoon sorted, too.

Twenty-one thousand pounds. Seriously. None of that expense even guarantees a good meal. Really, the best way is to make the reception pot luck and be sure to invite some Italians.

Even more bewildering to me, though, are those couples who have lived together for three (or ten) years, have a dog, two cats and a dwarf hamster, but claim they're “not ready to get married yet”. What is there to be “ready” for? Are you waiting for a lightning bolt from the gods to show you that this is The One? Sorry to break it to you, honey, but you're already married. A signed piece of paper and a joint bank account won't change much.

This line of thought could open a whole can of worms: what is marriage? what did it mean throughout history? lawfully? traditionally? Biblically? I won't bore you with any of that right now – let's leave that for a more philosophical Rant.

Sugared almond, anyone?

P.S.: After an eight-month Rant hiatus, it's nice to be back.