Lost in the holiday hullabaloo was a physical altercation at a local mall between a group in favor of hugging and a group against hugging. Accounts differ as to who started the fight. The pro-huggers say an anti-hugger sucker-punched a pro-hugger who was just minding his business. The anti-huggers contend, with equal passion, that the skirmish broke out when an overly enthusiastic hugger thrust himself on an innocent anti-hugger.
According to Arnie Plotz, the president of the Salt Lake chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Hugging (NAAH), he and his fellow huggers were simply wandering through the mall, bestowing random hugs upon hassled Christmas shoppers.
“Everybody needs a good hug,” said Mr. Plotz, a large man with hangdog eyes and hairy arms. “We must have hugged a couple hundred shoppers, at least, when suddenly, out of the blue, one of our members was cold-cocked in the food court. Next thing we knew, it looked like one of them hockey fights, everybody swinging and screaming and pulling hair and rolling on the ground. I think we got the better of it because we have stronger arms, on account of all the hugging we do.”
Not everyone agrees with Mr. Plotz’s version, especially Georgina Folger, a diminutive redhead who heads up the local chapter of the National Association for the Abolishment of Hugging (N.A.A.H.), not to be confused with their bitter adversaries, the National Association for the Advancement of Hugging (NAAH), whose acronym lacks the necessary periods after their initials.
“I’ve had about all I can take from Arnie Plotz and his band of merry huggers,” said Ms. Folger. “One of those hugger buggers—and I know who he is, and he knows I know who he is—was just a bit too enthusiastic in administering his hug on one of our members, and we had to rescue him before he died of asphyxiation. He was turning blue! I think this is the first time anyone has stood up to the huggers, and I say we must put a stop to hugging of all sorts, except between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes.”
Mr. Plotz, as might be expected, takes quite the opposite view.
“I come from the great tradition of hugging advocates, going all the way back to Homer, and including our own Brigham Young, who didn’t confine his hugging to his multitude of wives. Of course, the all-time great hugger, the Emperor of Embrace, was the late Leo Buscaglia, also known as Doctor Hug, who proved that hugging actually changes your metabolism, releases feel-good endorphins, reduces blood pressure, squeezes out oxytocin and prevents male pattern baldness.” Though hardly a soul is alive today who remembers Dr. Buscaglia, who flourished circa 1980, the enthusiastic hugger and prodigious perspirer roamed the land for years, hugging human beings of all shapes and sizes, ages and sexes. Opponents of hugging blame him for the scourge of hugging that now rears its insistent head in social occasions of all sorts.
“It’s not just at parties you get mauled by huggers,” said Ms. Folger, the high-energy anti-hugger. “You could be buying groceries, or rotating your tires, or getting your teeth cleaned, and everybody wants to give you a hug. The holiday season is the worst. I’m just recovering from all the injuries I’ve gotten from getting hugs from everyone, whether I know them or not. I’ve got a bad bruise, a pinched nerve, a damaged rotator cuff and a couple of nasty hickeys.”
To combat the epidemic of hugging, Ms. Folger and her fellow anti-huggers (who include germophobes Donald Trump, recently deceased, and the late Howard Hughes) are campaigning for alternative forms of greeting, including the old-fashioned handshake, the fist bump, the pinkie hook and the ancient namaste from the Indian subcontinent, which consists of a slight bow with palms together, fingers upward, at chest level.
“My personal favorite is namaste,” says Ms. Folger, “but we’re open to suggestions. There’s a village in North Dakota that still retains the Norwegian snufuda greeting, a kind of mutual sniffing, usually under the left earlobe. The ‘how’ greeting, with upraised right hand, which was very popular in old-time Westerns, still has a few politically incorrect adherents.
“Finally, we have the head pat, which dogs, who detest being hugged, particularly enjoy. Humans may object to this greeting, not being entirely comfortable with getting hair product on their hands.”
Then Ms. Folger had to hurry off, expertly escaping an attempted hug.
D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.