Unwanted Physical Contact

Let’s get on to our subject this month.  The topic comes as a result of an experience I had a month ago.  I was in Cincinnati speaking to a group of about 500 teenagers (because I’m on a mission).  After I spoke, I had 4 teenage girls come up to be separately and asked me the same question.  I was really surprised that four different girls would have the same question.  That’s when I knew we had a problem and it’s was time to solve it.

The question was, “What do I do when a boy or man tries to hug me and I don’t want to be hugged?”  These four girls all had personal experiences where a man or boy tried to show physical affection to them in the form of a hug.  Interestingly, all four girls each admitted that they didn’t think the show of affection was of any inappropriate nature.  They just simply did not feel comfortable with it.  So, let’s learn the etiquette rule.

It is not polite for a gentleman to show physical affection to a lady without permission or without it being requested in casual relationships.

What does this mean?  It means that men, young or old, should never approach a lady and offer physical contact without the lady initiating the contact.  For instance, when a gentleman and a lady meet for the first time, it is the ladies’ decision whether to extend her hand and shake hands with the gentleman.  If the lady does not extend her hand, then the gentleman simply stands with his hands to his side and nods his head while he verbalizes the introduction.

This also means that gentlemen never just go up and hug a lady, young or old.  Realizing that most hugs are just friendly ways to show our affection and admiration for others, it is simply not appropriate for a man or boy to initiate this behavior.

One of the girls I previously spoke about, told me that her preacher often hugged members of the congregation, and that when he approached her, she was embarrassed to tell him that she wasn’t comfortable with hugs, especially when everyone else seemed OK with it.

Think about the deli-ma that we place young girls and women in.  All our lives as women, we are encouraged to be polite, to not hurt other’s feelings, to be sensitive to others.  Yet, we’re expected to know how to handle it when we’re placed in an uncomfortable situation, and not be rude.  What are we supposed to do?

We can start by teaching our boys and reminding our gentlemen of this etiquette rule.  I realize that they’re probably aren’t many men or young teens who wish to cause young ladies discomfort.  It’s usually just a man’s way of being friendly.  I have recently had to have this same conversation with my own teenage son.

I was so glad that these young girls brought up this deli-ma to give us a chance to talk about it and make sure that we are  all sensitive to it.  Physical affection is meant to shared between more intimate relationships.  I’m not saying it’s rude to hug others.  I personally love hugs.  However, we have to make sure that we recognize that although we may be comfortable with an in-particular behavior, that doesn’t mean everyone else is and if we’re trying to have proper etiquette, then are focus is always on helping others to feel comfortable.

If you’re wondering what my advice to the young ladies was, I told them that the next time a gentleman tried to hug them unannounced or unwelcomed, to simply turn, pop up a “high five” and say, “You know, a ‘high-five’ is good enough for me.”  Hopefully, they’ll get the message.
Have a great month.  Don’t you be hugging people who don’t want your ‘stinkin’ hugs.

Very best,
Monica Irvine
a.k.a.  Mary Manners