On the heels of my “smile more” article, we’re going to work on hugs.

While smiling affects others in a mirror-neuron kindofa way, hugs do the same in a more in-your-face kinda way.

The similarity is that both can make you happy, both can reduce stress and thus illness, and both can be spread just as virally as those illnesses you’re not getting from doing them. So after you’ve mastered your smile (botox, molar holding a pen, extreme intrinsic fortitude), we can move onto another way to prevent you not being a cuddle-cancer. Because, yes, there are right and wrong ways to hug.

Which of these have you been failing at?

1. DON’T Ass out

You know – the one where your upper body’s in on the action while your backside has a separate agenda?

I get it, ladies. You’re afraid you’re gonna experience a mammary handshake or feel your bathing suit parts touch a quasi stranger’s. But guess what? Unless you add in a pornographical grunt or start groping, they won’t get the wrong idea about your embrace’s meaning. Also, I’m led to believe you won’t get pregnant through your clothes. Unless you decide to use them as a condom. And, if it starts feeling too awkz, just abort mission prematurely.

Nobody’s timing this.

2. DO Arm-wrap

Much like everything else on this list – this is one I had to learn from someone awesomer than I am.

And in the case of the “arm wrap”, Russell Brand sets the ultimate example. Having been on the receiving end of this, I thought, “So, this is what actual human contact from someone who doesn’t just want in my pants feels like”. Nothing scandalous and I’m not special – he’ll hug anyone who doesn’t have a bomb strapped to their chest. But he’s better at it than you or I am. While that’s something we just have to accept, we can take a tip – starting with this fantastic technique. I’m terrible at the arm wrap because a combo of number 3 and 5 (see directly below) is the kinda hugging I mostly knew growing up. It’s like my shoulders had a natural proclivity for protracting outta their sockets, just to prevent my heart cavity holder from making full contact with yours and risking us synchronizing blood-beats. Since tweaking this, my hug game’s changed. My new rule: if my elbows haven’t passed your clavicle, I don’t wanna really be here. Or doing this. And you smell funny.

3. DON’T Push-n-pull

My mommy loves me. My daddy loves me. But if they’re in a rush (my mom wanting me to hurry up and not be late for wherever I’m going; my dad rushing home to eat confections), which is often, I get the ol’ push-n-pull. Dunno what that is? It’s a tokenistic gesture to check the affection task off the list, wherein a series of really interesting arm and shoulder moves ensue – not unlike reliving a football play, when broken down. First, you start with a cardboard hug (see #5). Then you count to “One… two.. two-and-a-half-…”. Then you do a stiff squeeze (to indicate the initiation of contact termination). Next (and this part’s tricky), you internally rotate one of your elbows slightly and shove it gently into the other person’s shoulder girdle. Since it’s resting on the other person’s clavicle and not complying with #2, this will be an easy segue. The trick with this one is to make sure your other arm lags a bit before halting the hug altogether. (Note: Voldemort is in the perfect starting position for an effective push-n-pull. As he’s already breaking the arm drape rule, that elbow’s in an ideal position to shove into Mr. Malfoy’s ribs without warning). In essence, your victim loved one is stuck momentarily caught in a kind of isometric limb mummification – part push, part pull, and potentially schizophrenic with sociopathic tendencies later in life if that’s your starting foundation for fondness.

For the record, my parents and I have taken a mutual tutorial on unlearning this terrible habit.

We’re all doing extraordinarily well.

Except if my dad’s just bought a new batch of cupcakes – then I’m lucky to even get the shitty hug…

4. DO Cuddle climax

Much like sex, there must be a climax to your cuddle. Since there isn’t an actual climax to hugging, we need a concrete signifier. Which is your go to? For example: some people do a little grunt (I’d suggest working on yours so it sounds more serene and less like sex actually happened. In your pants.) Others will cap it off with a verbal confirmation: “It’s so good to see you!”. Some will jump up and down in unison like they’re at a Nirvana concert. Then, if you’re going for a more straight-dude brand of masculine, there’s a whole subsection that serves as the equivalent to Frank Underwood’s table-knock: Like the neck squeeze. Or the back slap. If I learned anything from Sons of Anarchy, though, you’d better make sure that squeeze is visibly painful and the back slap is firm and audible. If you’re really good, you can combine a mix of these and make someone feel ultra-loved or at least relevant. Even if they aren’t. (They’re the ones who need it the most, you know.)

5. DON’T carboard hug


Guilty until taught otherwise more recently.

Opposite of the “arm wrap”, this is all about bending every joint you have (thereby ensuring that there’s air between the two of you’s wherever possible), while making the least amount of contact points as possible. In the end, an accurate cardboard hug looks like one of those Gothic temples; you’re all stiff angles. Except, instead of pointing to the heavens, you’re just pointing away from this heathen trying to infect you with its love.

So, what’s your self-induced verdict?

Ultimately, my own fail-score has been so high most of my life that counteracting it has proven viscerally painful. But the rewards are indeed worth it. Not only does your body get tricked into feeling happy (#oxytocin), but people also like you better (#HungryEgo). Plus, I have also found this to be the optimal means for disarming someone arguing angrily with you. You can lash out back, you can throw things, you can shriek like Lemongrab a la Adventuretime. But I guarantee none’a that will work half as well as pressing pause on the argument, pursing your lips into an “I mean business” smile, extending both arms slowly, and coming in for the kill. Slow and dramatic is the way to do it (no sudden movements). Your poor cornered rat will dart its head to and fro but won’t know what to do with himself given this suddenly out of context, inappropriate-yet-non-violent introduction of body language. They just have to sit there experience the final element – the #6 on my list above. One I haven’t added intentionally because I haven’t yet determined whether to put in the “do” or “don’t” category: “Embrace rape”. Or – as some call it – the “cuddle struggle”.

In sum, I can suggest with confidence following the five main Do’s and Don’t’s.

As for number 6… treat like a wildlife trail – take at your own risk knowing you may get mauled.

(And when you do, report the details back here… in the comments.)