“Should we do a 5 seconds hug?”
I laugh and embrace M. while counting the exact seconds to the target time.
I never really hugged people before moving to the U.S. My parents were very traditional strict doctors: little physical affection or praise. I won’t blame it all on them though. According to my dear mother, I was the only baby no one could ever touch… probably ‘till the age of 10.
When I moved here in Los Angeles, I had to learn the hugs as the greeting norm. Hugs to say hi, hugs to say “I like you”, hugs for goodbye. Imagine, an apprehensive frenchie, who only knew la bise, trying to be comfortable with this very intimate practice of slamming her body against other peoples’.
Before I go any further I should clarify that when doing la bise, one is not expected to make their lips touch the other’s skin. Except maybe your old auntie Mauricette who makes a point of smacking you on both cheeks loudly at every family reunion.
Hugs are way more intimate.
So I learnt. I learnt the awkward hugs you don’t want to give, the hugs that last too long, the hugs that are given from far away (COVID), the hugs that smell slightly sour due to lack of showering *sorry dear beachbums* and the hugs that feel warm inside.
I learnt to appreciate this new language that I didn’t know.
For some, this small gesture of love has been suppressed since the pandemic. For others, like myself, we’ve grown accustomed to not having the physical presence of our loved ones.
But all of us long hugs.
So I made a data visualization about hugs.
In return, I received more (safe) hugs than ever.
And as the end of the year approaches, as the entire world is feeling compassion fatigued, I hope, selfishly, that 2022 will bring more lovely data about kindness and humanity.
Sending you warm hugs wherever you are in the world and wishing you safe embraces with your closed ones, for 5-10 seconds or however long it makes you feel warm and loved.
A personal story about a broken hand, French way of living and finding creativity in a cast
in Eye of Design Magazine