Monday, April 01, 2019

The problem of hugging

A quiet weekend here in the hinterlands of North Texas. Visits with favorite people, including a friend who lives thirty miles away and might as well live 300—always so glad when we get together. And my favorite newlyweds came for wine—Teddy is such a gentleman, always tells me I look younger and prettier every time he sees me. I know it’s not true, but it makes me feel good.  And Teddy gives great hugs.

I’m puzzled these days by the problem of hugging. Psychologists tell us we need something like eight hugs a day for optimum mental health. That might lead you to hug everyone you meet during the day but wait! At the other extreme is the current occupant of the White House who apparently does not hug—he attacks, hands under the skirt and the full-on assault. And in the middle is apparently Joe Biden who is, by nature, an affectionate man and a hugger but not lascivious.

As the whole world now knows, Lucy Flores, a former Nevada legislator, has come forward to say that “Uncle Joe” kissed her inappropriately five years ago. I don’t know anything else about Lucy Flores, but I do know she has just scuttled the presidential ambitions of the Democrat with the highest poll numbers. Because he made her feel weird.

Yes, Biden needs to watch his physical interaction with women, especially now that it’s become a national distraction from the real issues that beset us. But I think Ms. Flores needs to do a bit of self-examination. Maybe she wasn’t hugged enough as a child and consequently doesn’t know how to receive physical affection? Or worse yet, maybe she was abused and see every physical touch as a threat. But the bigger question to me is why now?

If Biden’s actions truly offended her, she should and could have dealt with it tactfully at the time. As a gubernatorial candidate (or was it lt. gov.?) she surely was a politician with enough self-confidence to turn the situation any way she wanted to. But no, she says now it was creepy. Five years later, when she’s had all that time for memory to distort, she comes forward at a critical moment in his career. As I always feared, the ”Me Too” movement has gone too far.

It’s sad that as a country we cannot distinguish affectionate from lascivious, and we castigate the former and make a hero of the latter. I’ve even heard too many stories of elementary school teachers who are afraid to give a student a comforting hug for fear of being misunderstood. Ah, old Aristotle gets it right all the time—moderation in all things.

I’m not promoting Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination. I haven’t chosen a candidate yet and don’t intend to for some time, because I think it’s important to choose the woman or man who can defeat the Republicans. But I do think Biden is a seasoned statesman with much experience, a reasonable and sensible man, and maybe our greatest hope. It isn’t even about the fact that he’s gotten a raw deal. My indignation is about the fact that voters have been robbed of the chance to make a decision on a level playing field.

Hugging is in part a matter of instinct, and maybe that’s where Biden went wrong. I have friends, both male and female, who are huggers and friends who are not. It’s a difference I think I can sense, but I value both kinds. And I’d welcome a hug from Joe Biden any day.

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