Archive for July, 2011

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  • July 23rd, 2011

Gimme a Hug!



By Joel M. Vance


Lovers say it to their significant others, grandmas say it to their grandchildren, even gushy types say it to their dogs (often to the consternation of the dogs).

“Gimme a hug!”  It’s the universal expression of affection.  Or is it?  After all when a Mafia don gives you a hug and a kiss the next step is off a dock with concrete block loafers.

And Judas famously kissed and probably hugged Jesus as an act of betrayal.  It’s a wonder kissing and hugging survived in Christianity, although without it as a prelude to more intimate contact, there possibly wouldn’t be any Christians today.

It’s safer to shake hands, a custom designed to indicate no weapon in the shaking hand, than it is to hug where the hands are behind the back of the hugee, possibly armed with a knife.  When Brutus gave Julius Caesar a hug the next step was a knife in the back.

Et tu, Brutus? Actually, Brutus was just part of a mob that iced Julie—probably didn’t hug him.  But he could have….

The hug has become as common as a handshake in today’s society.  It was not always so.  Except among certain ethnic groups where affection is a freestyle event, most white Anglo-Saxon Protestants of today’s oldest living generation grew up in a non-hug environment.  It was okay to hug babies and very small children, but once a child got to the age where it took private baths, hugging was out.  You might get an embarrassed pat on the back, but that was about it.

I know, since I am of that generation.  Perhaps my folks did hug me, but if they did I don’t remember it.  It took me many years to get over that childhood reticence, but now I am an enthusiastic hugger and so is virtually every one I know.  Once in a while I hug an elderly person and feel him or her stiffen slightly and then I recognize a fellow introvert raised in a hugless home.

Close dancing, what has been called “belt buckle polishing,” is nothing more than a ritualized form of hugging.  While frottage, the rubbing of one’s clothed body against that of someone of the opposite sex, has been outlawed in some places, punishable by arrest and imprisonment, dancing is sanctioned frottage unless you happen to be a hardshell Baptist.

But there is no proscription among Baptists against an old auntie with overwhelming lavender cologne hugging a mortified eight-year-old niece or nephew, creating a lifelong fear of the hug. If hugless parents create an inhibited adult, gross, reeking aunties are worse.  With a combination of the two you’re looking at an adult who will have more phobias than Norman Bates.

Fortunately close encounters with young people of the same age, eddying in a swirl of pheromones, can help to erase those awful memories. High school hugging loosens inhibitions.  Hugging in my long-ago, often occurred in the dark in automobiles that never heard of power accessories and whose radios tinnily played “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?” Later on fatherhood forever banished any lingering mulligrubs about hugging—you can’t have babies and not hug them.

Yet even in today’s huggy society there are limits. The New York Times reported that hugging has become the young person’s “favorite social greeting” in the United States apparently replacing the high five.  Predictably, elders have decided that hugging, like rock and roll, is detrimental to the morals of the nation’s youth and some high schools where hugging has become endemic, have decreed either a total hugging ban or a three-second rule.

Presumably all teachers in those latter schools are equipped with stop watches and whistles.  Three seconds is unreasonable—hardly enough time to establish a grip and give the obligatory pat on the back.  It’s akin to air kisses or clapping with one hand.

However, a three-second hug is better than the Draconian policy that once was in place at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.  There a hug was punishable as a sexual assault if the hugger didn’t get “continuing and active” assent to the hug.  If you jumped up to give your wife of 50 years a hug, she’d better be shouting, “Yes, oh yes, my prince!  Hug me now as you have for lo! These many years!” and keep shouting it during the duration of the hug or you risked being dragged kicking and screaming to the stocks, perhaps branded on the forehead with a huge scarlet “H” for “Hugger.”

Fortunately, the authorities at the college came to what little commonsense remained and revised the policy.

There actually is a hugging site on the internet (called, no surprise, The Hug Site:  It lists “positions” for hugging in different situations, a sort of Kama Sutra of the embrace. Yes, there are hugging positions.  I once hugged a side-hugger, a woman who was so shy that she turned sideways and essentially reached backward to hug.  It was an unnerving experience for both of us., which supposedly has the definitive answer to anything you ask, says there are different ways to hug and much depends on the preferred intimacy.  “Greet your husband or your longterm boyfriend with a full body hug,” says a respondent on, not adding that it’s smart not to do that each in the presence of the other.

The side-hugger I ran into (sorry) fell under the category of this: “Greet your grandfather or your Aunt Mabel or your friend from school whom you haven’t seen for a while with what’s called a “side-saddle hug.”  Maybe my side-hugger mistook me for her grandfather or some old school friend.  I’d hate to think she thought of me as Aunt Mabel.

Virtually all huggers except those who have progressed to more explicit intimacy, instinctively arch their pelvises backward at the moment of hug, avoiding full frontal contact.  Why this happens would be fruit for a doctoral study in psychology.  And the research could be more fun than anything since the Kinsey Report.

When the greeting hug gravitates to something more intimate it becomes cuddling, that in-front-of-the-cozy-fire posture favored by lovers since fire was discovered.  Spooning is a variation, often practiced by old married couples in bed and asleep.  It involves one, usually the man, “spooning” himself against the backside of the other, both facing the same direction.  On a bitter winter night it is the only conceivable hug position and beats a hot brick wrapped in a towel all to hell.

Our forefathers routinely slept two to a bed.  John Adams and Benjamin Franklin once shared a bed and argued about whether the window should be open or shut.  There is no mention of spooning, however.

Once a Missouri fisheries biologist did a survey of recreation on the Missouri River and included “spooning” as a minor activity, ranking well below trotline fishing.  He endured much kidding from his fellow biologists and possibly did not know the literal description of spooning because the picture of a couple locked in a spoon on the slimy bank of the Big Muddy is less than romantic.

Perhaps the ultimate hug is in the sadly now-discarded practice of bundling.  Frontier/pioneer couples would be “bundled” together in a hug, sometimes within a cocoon of blankets.  It was like a straitjacket, only considerably more fun.  Possibly the idea was that if the couple could endure such close quarters for an extended period of time they probably were compatible.  Sometimes there was a board between the two which would seem to turn the hug into more of a lumberjacking event than a courtship.

The practice apparently came from the Old Country with the Puritans, but the Pennsylvania Dutch perfected it.  The theory was that the couple would remain chaste though bundled together, usually with the girl’s parents sleeping close by, each with one eye open.  Somehow though pregnancies resulted and it makes you wonder if the bundling board was full of knotholes.

Considering that every human activity, no matter how obscure or esoteric, has generated a world record, it’s no surprise that hugs have too.  There is a Guinness World Record for the most hugs in 24 hours and also for the longest continuous hug (24 hours, one second).

The self-proclaimed hug champion, the Michael Jordan of huggers, is Jeff Ondash from Ohio who calls himself Teddy McHuggin.  He set the most hugs record in Las Vegas (where else?) with 7,777 hugs in 24 hours.  He also logged a world record 1,205 hugs in one hour.  That’s 28 hugs per minute, averaging not quite three seconds per hug—obviously Teddy has been training with the high school teachers.

The marathon hug record, though, raises a question: shouldn’t it be jointly held?  There is a hugger and a huggee, but they both spend the same amount of time entangled. It is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma and over all not very interesting.

It seems oxymoronic to celebrate the hug, but there is an official National Hug Day, Jan. 21.  It dates to 1986 when enterprising Michiganders, from the town of Caro, came up with the idea.  That being the pit of winter in a northern state when boredom, cabin fever and Seasonal Affective Disorder are rampant, the idea of a hug celebration sounds like a really good idea.  For all the intimate details see

The folks in Caro are so enamored of their unusual day that they have trademarked it, like Coca Cola and request that all media mentions include the “TM” after the name (see above where I didn’t).

“Always ask first….” is mentioned and a good idea.  For example, grabbing an NFL interior lineman in a hug is a good way to get the snot knocked out of you.  Aside from interior linemen, hugging has been proven to have health benefits. One study has shown that hugs reduce blood pressure.  Or you can take pills like I do but if I were given my choice between pills and frottage with, say, Jennifer Lopez, I suspect I could save a bunch of money at the pharmacy.


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  • Blog
  • July 23rd, 2011

Gimme a Hug!

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  • Blog
  • July 7th, 2011

The Inmates Running the Asylum?

By Joel M. Vance

The news that Michelle Bachmann is running for the Presidency of the United States is every bit as exciting as a doctor shaking his head over your X-ray and saying, “I want to be blunt about this….”

The Minnesota ditz is so full of it that anyone with enough sense to turn the boot upside down and read the instructions on the heel should run for the hills.  She has a track record of spouting nonsense of epic proportions and the unfortunate thing is that there apparently are a lot of folks out there who think her words are similar to what Moses carried downhill.

She is, simply enough, a dangerous human being with Messianic delusions that make her think she’s valuable when she isn’t.  She is prone to outrageous statements that have absolutely no basis in fact.  For example, it took God six days to create the world but only two to convince this weirdo to run for Congress (“…we fasted and we prayed, and we said, ‘Lord, is this what you want? Is this your will?’ And long about the afternoon of day two, he made that calling sure.”)  Apparently God is as prone to error as are the voters who put her in office.

After the mouth that roared accused fellow Minnesota representative Keith Ellison (who is Muslim) of  consorting with terrorists because a group of imams came to Minneapolis to attend a conference, not, as Bachmann asserted, to attend Ellison’s victory party,  Ellison dismissed Bachmann’s hysteria as “psycho talk” and a Bachmann spokesperson said, “the details may be a little rough.”

Most of her details are rough.  She never lets facts get in the way of a rabble-rousing lie.  She compared taxation to the Holocaust: “”we are seeing eclipsed in front of our eyes a similar death and a similar taking away. It is this disenfranchisement that I think we have to answer to.”  If she were a Jew in Nazi Germany she would not be so quick to make outrageous comparisons.

The mistake folks might make with Bachmann is to dismiss her as a mildly crazy evangelical right winger, but apparently she is wholly convinced that Christianity is the only true path and that anyone outside the evangelical Christian fold is wrong.  “My goal there [studying law at Oral Roberts University] was to learn the law both from a professional but also from a biblical worldview,” she said.  Perhaps that is why she firmly believes she has a mandate from God to make the United States a wholly Christian nation.

That this is contrary to the Constitution no doubt is meaningless to her.  One of her mentors, John Eidsmoe, has written (in a book that Bachmann helped research), “”The church and the state have separate spheres of authority, but both derive authority from God.”  Eidsmoe has given speeches to white supremacist groups and claimed that Jefferson Davis understood the Constitution better than Abraham Lincoln.

Eidsmoe wrote about the Emancipation Proclamation: “”It might be very difficult for a freed slave to make a living in that economy; under such circumstances setting slaves free was both inhumane and irresponsible.”  Today’s black community might have a different slant on that.  Bachmann said in a speech that the Founding Fathers “worked tirelessly” to end slavery, despite the fact that many of them owned slaves and that it was Lincoln who freed them, not any of the Fathers who all were dead by then.

But then that’s those fact things that Bachmann conveniently ignores.

She used to be a joke, but now she’s become mainstream and gets covered by the mainstream media as if she were a real, competent and viable candidate.  It’s as if Bozo the Clown took off his makeup and whipped up a lynch mob.

Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, is a spooky type who runs a Christian counseling business and along with his wife thinks homosexuality is an abomination and that gay marriage would result in schoolchildren being indoctrinated into homosexual behavior.   She has alienated her stepsister, who is gay and with whom she was very close as a youngster.  Other family members also are not happy with her intransigent stance against gays.

Michelle Bachmann subscribes to the religious belief that a wife should be subservient to her husband which raises the question of whom she would be directed by if she were elected—the voters or her husband….her unelected husband.

She also is vigorously opposed to health care reform, apparently preferring the present system where insurance companies and health care providers have driven the costs so high that the system shrieks for reform.  If you don’t think it’s busted, try getting sick with insufficient or no health insurance.  You’d better be Bill Gates or write your will.

The idea of politicians suffused with religious fervor is frightening because one has only to look to history to see the horrible things done by people in the name of religion.  Think of the Crusades, for example, or the Inquisition, or many modern atrocities committed in the name of Islam (every suicide bomb is a blow for Allah against the infidel Christians).   How about this: “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”  Words of Adolph Hitler.

The Ku Klux Klan believes that “Jesus was the first Klansman” and claims to be a Protestant  Christian organization.   Former Grand Wizard David Duke says the Tea Party wants him to run for President.  If there is any good in Bachmann it is that she has supplanted the Klansman as a Tea Party darling.   But being compared to David Duke is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Invoking the name of Jesus or God to justify actions ranging from running for Congress to killing six million Jews should be labeled irresponsible for the former and reprehensible for the latter.  Forcing religious belief on anyone is inexcusable.  Religious freedom (or the freedom to reject it) is as fundamental a part of our history as anything.   And “religious freedom” does not mean “freedom to be a Christian.”  Ask any Jew  or Muslim or Shintoist or….well, you name the religion.

Bachmann’s continual and nasty attacks on Barrack Obama are puzzling unless you suspect, as I do, there is an undercurrent of racism involved.  Granted Obama has showed an inability to back up glowing words with glowing leadership, but her assertion that Obama is scheming to have Medicare go broke so everyone will have to adopt Obamacare is just plain nuts.   And her sneer at Michelle Obama’s endorsement of breast feeding alone should doom her to the nut pile, but probably won’t.

In the longrun this nutty dame’s outrageous persona may well be the Democrats best campaign aid.  Faced with a choice between Barrack Obama, who certainly is not as popular as he was in 2008, and the squirrel from Minnesota, what voter not a patient in a mental hospital would vote for her.

Chances are she won’t win the nomination anyway, but she might shoehorn herself into the vice-presidential slot, like what’s-her-name from Alaska did last time.  But voters then would have to realize that she’s one heartbeat from the Presidency.  And what reasonable Republican would want her as a running mate, like selecting Attila the Hun as your kid’s kindergarten teacher.

If, in some awful nightmare scenario (think “Alien” or “Predator”) she were to become President because enough people voted for her to make it happen….well, we’d deserve what we get.







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