I did an article about handshake bullies a few years ago. You know the type; you stick out your hand and find your fingers clasped in a vice. The bully looks at you with one of those “gotcha” grins and squeezes. You hear your knuckles crack, feel the joints buckle and you fight with everything you’ve got to hold back the tears and stop yourself from screaming.
But, handshakes are on the way out. Most people hug instead. Even old coots, who came to the game late. We felt awkward at first. We didn’t know how to go about it, where to put our heads. A handshake was easy, firm grip and look the person in the eye (and, watch out for the handshake bully). But a hug? There is no steady eye contact, just a quick glance. Otherwise, you’ll bang heads. And, it takes a while to learn to go left, to avoid a concussion.
Unfortunately, the handshake bully hasn’t gone away, he’s evolved. Now he’s a “hug” bully. Just before the hug, he grins, and then comes the big squeeze. Of boa constrictor proportions. Your vertebrae crack louder than when a chiropractor performs a manipulation. Soon, you are out of breath. The bully squeezes so hard you can’t inhale. Finally, he lets go. And, you get the grin again. (And, you remember to put his face in your “don’t hug this guy” file.)
It’s bad enough for us old coots. It’s worse for women. They have to deal with “inappropriate” huggers. They have a different “don’t hug” file. I’ll leave it at that.
I’ve developed a few defensive moves; I like my ribs where they are, outside my lungs. My vertebrae too. They may curve a little, giving me that old man posture, but they all line up pretty good.
When a hug bully approaches me with open arms, I step back and say, “Don’t hurt me.” That usually works, His hug is dialed back. If it doesn’t, a sloppy wet kiss on the cheek will get him to let go. That is when he gets the grin from me, for a change. It’s like a tap in a wrestling match; one second you’re in a stranglehold, the next, you’re free. The third option, which I haven’t had to use, is the fake leg cramp trick. You shout, “Ooh, ooh, ooh, I’ve got a cramp in my leg,” pull it up in a fake spasm and let your knee win your freedom.
I may be too old to be a Boy Scout, but not too old to be prepared.
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