Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hugs Are For Thugs

I plead guilty to cultivating a certain detachment -- one of my best friends calls me The Tin Man -- but my Cuban blood, which demands chaste kisses on the cheek between male relatives, pulls me in other directions. In short, I'm trying to be more expressive; a handshake just won't do anymore.

This thoroughly odd story in today's New York Times set off mild chatter in my little corner of the blog world. Some parents, educators, and behavioral psychologists, alarmed by the rise in hugs between adolescent students, want to monitor how much physical affection the children under their care receive. While I'm as repulsed by exhibitionism and the heart vs mind cliches that animate most popular culture (the truest line Steve Malkmus ever penned was "We need secrets"), we can stand to see less friction between bros and ladies. The characters in this farce don't seem to remember that Hispanics will soon outnumber blacks as the largest minority in the country, none of whom exactly stint in expressing themselves. Ethan Frome and The Scarlet Letter are so nineteenth century.

One Beth Harpaz, a columnist for the Associated Press, provided a quote that proves what fallow terrain the novelist irrigates when seeking to lampoon the shibboleths of modern psychology:
“And there doesn’t seem to be any other overt way in which they acknowledge knowing each other,” she continued, describing the scene at her older son’s school in Manhattan. “No hi, no smile, no wave, no high-five — just the hug. Witnessing this interaction always makes me feel like I am a tourist in a country where I do not know the customs and cannot speak the language.”
The last sentence reminds me of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's more apocalyptic pronouncements.


Jose Aparicio said...

This has got to be the stupidest non-issue ever raised. Be thankful the kids are expressive of emotion and not shooting each other...

Hans said...

Second Apa.
I can't believe the covert homophobia in the issue didn't raise some alerts- "those guys are touching each other a little TOO MUCH. THE HORROR!" That AP quote is similarly antropologically asinine- "Why is this new generation not communicating the way I used to do in my day?!? I want to control the things young people say and do more effectively!!!"
And that scares me.
Not to mention that it's all complete bullshit. I'm around kids all the time. They hug/AND say Hi/ and smile/ and wave as much as they ever did. It's true, they DO high five less than in some mytical past, but I for one I'm not mourning the loss of THAT great cultural tradition.

Alfred Soto said...

I'm waiting for a NYT article on the dangers of ass-grabbing.

Jose Aparicio said...

I think you are right about the homophobia, Hans. Wy else would this be such a scary topic worthy of being written about?