Give me a handshake or give me a hug. I’ll be honest – I used to despise what I like to call the “hugshake.” To give you a visual, the hugshake occurs when two people shake hands while using the other arm to hug each other. Hugshakes are the manifestation of masculine hug hegemony. If you want to give me a hug, just give me the hug! Don’t beat around the bush. Let your inhibition go and forget what the other guys around us are thinking. They’re probably far too jealous to express the fact that they want a nice bear hug just as much as the guys next to them. Hugs are good for the soul, and men shouldn’t deny themselves the opportunity for improved holistic health.
I grew up with friends and family that would only give hugs, so my perplexity is certainly merited. But does this mean that I shouldn’t be sensitive to those that fear dissolving the mask of masculinity? For those that may feel the way I do, I have some terrible news. I am an absolute hypocrite. I did what I thought to be the unthinkable…
A few weekends ago, I celebrated my birthday at a bar in downtown Chicago with a few good friends of mine. One of them taps me on the shoulder and says, “Warren, do you know who that is behind you? That’s Reggie Bush!” I likely wouldn’t have known the Miami Dolphins running back had he not at one time dated Kim Kardashian, so to anyone that doesn’t follow sports, there’s your description. For some reason, I felt it was appropriate to pass by his bodyguard to introduce myself. “Hi Reggie, it’s my birthday. Would you mind taking a picture with me?” I hand my camera to his bodyguard and he snaps the photo. I thank him by shaking his hand…then the unthinkable happened. He reached in and gave me the dreaded hugshake. I was too nervous and star struck to do anything but to revert back to my masculine script and graciously accept his gesture.
You may be thinking I just invalidated all my previous statements. However, by reflecting on this experience, I have developed a more humbled perspective. Men will use societal masculine norms for many reasons, one being a form of protection. Reggie made me realize that we need to meet other men where they are at, because some are simply not ready to dissolve their mask and move away from a world of subconsciously accepted normative behavior. However, this does not mean that I won’t provide the challenge to step away from these invisible boundaries. I will be a loyal partner, waiting patiently until the other is ready to embark on the path toward true self-expression. I will provide support in a manner in which he sees fit, and I encourage others to do the same.
- Warren Grove (Center for the Studies of Masculinities and Men’s Development)