What is a hug?

There is a scene from Dreamworks’ The Croods, where Nicolas Cage’s character, Grug, and Emma Stone’s character, Eep, a dysfunctional father-daughter duo, tearfully clasp one another to themselves as the movie’s climax unfolds. They’re not holding each other like an adult would a baby. They’re not carrying the other as one would a tool or vessel. What purpose could gripping another body in such an obviously upset manner serve?

Eep and Grug stand there in that moment, the movie’s music score swelling, on a cliff that’s crumbling around them as the world they know falls to bits. Earth’s crust is cracking, breaking. They’ve got to move! Already, their family is on the other side of the ravine, eagerly awaiting them with worry and terror plainly etched on their faces. It’s a real nail biter!

Secured in her pa’s arms, Eep cuddles up close. “This works good,” she says through her sniffles. “What do you call it?”

In famous dadderly fashion, Grug confesses, “I was thinking about calling it a hug” before throwing in a Dad JokeTM. “Because it rhymes with Grug,” he says as he shrugs sheepishly. “But you can change it if you want.” Eep manages a chuckle and throws her arms around her big, strong Daddo, telling him she loves the idea.

The Croods, a heartwarming film about family and preservation. I recommend it for anyone who’s into a slice of life, family road trip kind of movie.

Man, someone get me some tissues because that scene gets me in the emotions EVERY. TIME! There is a handful of reasons I could think of as to why something that particular wrenches, from the depths of my tender soul, such a deluge of tears and snot.

The Definition of a Hug

Can you imagine a time when hugging, a gesture we are so accustomed to, didn’t have a name… or even happen outside of coupling? A hug in itself, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “a tight clasp with the arms; embrace.” How very straightforward and succinct. They suspect its first appearance in the English language was around the 1560s from the Old Norse word hugga, meaning to soothe, console.

Mmkay, so that’s starting to match what we know a hug to be. That’s certainly a lot more informative in regards to the movie I mentioned just a moment ago.

But what is a Hug?

We are beings with a consciousness. We are a veritable mass of muscles mooshed around a boney frame with this knobby, wrinkly blob encased within our skulls. It contains these vague, misty images we know to be memories. It releases hormones that allow us to move, breathe, digest, and rid ourselves of waste. It collects information from our five senses and somehow molds it all into reactions and moods.

These bits and pieces are what gives us an image… an interpretation of what a hug is. Crazy!

I set out and asked my friends and family via Facebook what they thought a hug is. Only a few responded, but I was intrigued anyway.

A Hug Is

Reassurance, comfort, love.

C. D., a friend, 30s

It’s anything and everything you need right now. It’s warm. It’s peaceful. It’s home.

K.M., a friend and coworker, 30s

A hug is the love inside you coming out through your arms to the one you’re hugging. It’s the friendliest way to say you care without being sexist, racist, religiously critical or too overwhelming. It gives back to you a feeling of well-being.

P.B., a family member, 80s

Closeness among friends.

G. T., a friend, 60s

…like a tip: it’s a sign of gratitude in a (usually) platonic way in the form of something vague and useful.

C. G., a friend and waiter, 20s

Holding someone you care for close to you with the purpose of feeling better or making them feel better.

S. C., a family member, 60s

A sign of affection. Happiness. Sadness.

M.C., a family member, 60s

[…is place where] there are no secrets.

D.C., a friend, 30s
From Google’s Reuse section

In amazing human fashion, there are as many different takes on what a hug is as there are people on this planet. If one were to take the time to make a word cloud of all the keywords from a free response survey, I’m sure real qualitative data could be gathered! Perhaps some of the top docs in the field have already done so.

Throughout the day, as comments continued to trickle in, one friend showed me an interesting perspective. She said something akin to “You must relax and remember to breathe in a hug. They’re not to be taken advantage of.” While I know her to have experienced many unfortunate and inconvenient upheavals in her life, I suspect this view was coming from experience.

What a Hug is Not

Other definitions of a hug are to cling together and to keep close to. Analyzed with a jaundiced and bitter eye, a hug can bring forth ugliness. It can make us remember times where we were oh-so vulnerable and an individual we thought we trusted took that openness in hand with a mean intent.

Touching a touchy subject, pedophilia and pedophiles have been in the news recently thanks to Jeff Epstein (seriously, what was up with that guy?) and the huge push for pedophilia to be recognized as a sexual orientation. Even now, in France, there is a public outcry to revolutionize old and out-dated views on what the best age for consent is because one victim decided to write a book about her encounter with a celebrated pedophile.

Not only that, but both men and women with a record of manipulation, aggression, and emotional abuse of their peers (among other things) use hugs to gain our trust and rip our finances, family, and peace of mind from right under our noses. What is their end game? Is it an internal drive they can’t rid themselves of? Perhaps they’re receiving some kind of divine vision from Up High. Do they feel this urge sometimes or has it been there since birth? I can continue to wonder in suppositions.

However, I’m certain we can agree on what a hug is not. It is not permission to do as we please with another human, their surroundings, or loved ones. It is not a green light to strip someone of their self-worth; for who are we to play an Ultimate Being?

A True Gesture

In my humble opinion, a hug is a place in which all is communicated and all is felt on the deepest of levels. It is a delicate dance that brings balance to us — a weakened state garnering strength from a sturdy source, a wail in the dark being soothed back to sleep, a celebration after much toil.

A hug is the hallmark of a strong community, a gesture shared among strangers and loved ones alike. It’s used to bring others into the fold, warm and secure.

Simply put, a hug is an aspect of true human experience.

***

For my next post, I’d like to discuss “silence.” But first, a poll!

A List of Firsts.

It’s the day after Valentine’s Day here in Japan and it’s just as insane as it is back home. The only difference is that it’s the girls that declare their love for the boys rather than everyone braving their confessions. The men have their chance on March 14th, on White Day.

Never have I see so many advertisements impressing upon the public their ability to win over your love interest. Cakes, chocolates, cookies and bread could be found in all manners of bakeries and you would always be able to spot a home-making kit in just about any kind of store. I feel that Japan is more capitalist than America is sometimes. In my case, I drew a picture using the language of flowers since I enjoy the subtlety only a bloom can offer.

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The red rose for love and devotion. Valerian for readiness. White clover requesting him to think of me. Violets for loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness. Lastly, the morning glory for affection. I eventually colored it, much to my dismay. Despite what I think, he took my gesture to heart and appreciated my effort to turn his head. Unfortunately, due to reasons outside of my control, I was turned down. I quickly added this experience to my list of “Firsts in Japan.”

Since then, I’ve been going through this stupidly self-inflicted cycle of anger and depression. Anytime I remember something he told me, I get bummed out. As usual, I’m trying to blame everything on myself when that’s not the case.

A second “first” was my visit to a Japanese dentist. I had no idea what to expect. How much will it cost me? What tools do they use? Do they use a different method of fixing cavities? Do they even use Novocain to numb the teeth? The Japanese could definitely compete with the British stereotype in regards to gnarly teeth.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, folks!

The clinic I went to was near my main school and, despite my limited Japanese, I understood everything that was said, was very comfortable letting strangers root around in my mouth and was impressed by the efficiency.  An astonishing 6 cavities were found in my mouth. I blame stress and my penchant for sugary things. Needless to say, I’m now on the fast track to fixing them. No offense to my dentist back at home, but… Japanese dentists do a better job with cosmetics. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the amount of time I wait has changed. My 5 o’clock appointments might as well be called 6 o’clock appointments.

For anyone wanting to move to another country, check out what kind of health insurance system they have. Japan has two programs, a public and a private. I’m enlisted with the public one: National Health Insurance (NHI) and thank goodness for that. My first cavity cost me about $20 to fix. Last night’s lie-in was around $9. So cheap! Going to an all-Japanese staffed establishment really tests my language ability. I feel slightly guilty for abandoning what Spanish I learned back in college.

The third “first” was experiencing a yeast infection and discovering what medication was available and what wasn’t. My preliminary action was to see if I could get Monistat here. The only option was a vaginal testing kit through Amazon Japan. For any woman who has faced the fires of hell in the itching department down there will understand me when I say that that wouldn’t cut it. Back to Google I go and exploring the forums on GaijinPot and other ex-patriot sites. I kept seeing a few medications mentioned several times: Feminina (フェミニーナ), Torikomishin K (トリコマイシン), and Empecid (エンぺシド).

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Everyone that suggested them found them as reliable substitutes for the trip the Lady Doctor. Coincidently, there’s a drug store next to the dental clinic. I stopped in to question one of the employees and they flat out said they didn’t sell the medications; that I had to go see a doctor for a prescription. My friend in the city even told me via pharmacist she went out of her way to talk to said that the Torikomishin was now illegal. Feminina is only used externally and… I didn’t ask about Empecid. Behold! my first glimpse into Japan’s strict drug laws. I could feel me and my vagina beginning to panic. Without Monistat, what would we do? I didn’t even want to begin to dwell on what a complicated infection would be like. Luckily, I remembered searching for home remedies at one point and decided to dive back into the realm of alternative medicine.

The top choice was plain yogurt with live probiotics. The second choice was douching with apple cider vinegar (this has many other uses, if you’re interested in looking them up). The third was using boric acid tablets but wasn’t recommended if you had a complicated case. Pondering my options, I thought I’d give the probiotics a go. I happened to have some supplements I brought with me from America and well… you can connect the dots, I’m sure. With positive reinforcement from my mom, it’s now the 3rd day and my symptoms are subsiding. I can now sit without squirming.

As a precaution against further upsets, I caved and used my credit card to get some Monistat sent my way through the original Amazon. One online pharmacy wanted to charge me around $100 to ship a 7-day supply on the suppositories! Outrageous! I could hear the ATM crying from my apartment. $12 and some change later, my savior is now on its way.

As a rule of thumb, if there’s any medicine you particularly like back home, make sure you bring enough for one month as that’s the only amount Customs will allow you through with.

In other news, I got on the wrong train last night, not paying attention. That was a “first.”

The Disease

I think it’s time I talk about “homesickness.” But, before I do, I need to get my thoughts out about what caused it.

I was watching a movie called The Little Prince based from a book of the same name. The side story introduced me to this little girl that was surrounded with the pressure of growing up and life plans. Enter this eccentric old aviator and a relationship was born. In the end, as heartwarming as it was, I still became overwhelmed with my emotions. They all centered on my grandma.

Before I continue, please do me a favor. Go hug someone you love. Read this with them. They are the only ones who will cry with you. Give them a big squeeze. We are only flesh and blood. No one has yet to tell me if there is central heating where our souls go.

My grandma is a beautiful woman and there’s no one like her. With all of my grandparents dead in the ground, I consider myself lucky to know her. What’s funny is that I may not know her favorite color or be aware of her favorite food but I can tell you that she likes blooming flowers with fuzzy bee butts, breezes that bring the smell of good food being cooked with love, and the liveliness only a family can give.

One of the things my mom talked to me about before I embarked on this journey was how I would react to the news of my grandma’s inevitable passing. I address it now rationally before I give my heart a chance to start making a plan. Death is an unexpected visitor and always comes on laundry day. I believe it’s our duty to greet it with souls laid bare. But I know, too, that a little part of me will die with her. My smile will be a little more false and my good nature just a tad darkened. It kills me to think I will be without her caring and kindness some day.

These feelings of loss — of something missing from my life hits me every weekend when my brain is given the opportunity to go blank. I would swear I was pregnant if I wasn’t keenly aware of how much I miss the people I’ve taken for granted all of these years (I can already hear my parents in my subconscious telling me “We told you so!”). My grandma is just the tip of the iceberg.

On Friday, I watched some students attempt to recreate professionally demonstrated tamagoyaki. I was immediately reminded of my Aunt Judy’s old home on Montebello Street. In the kitchen, under the dim glow of the stove light, she showed me how to crack an egg. I struggled just as those kids did. Even when they burned them from too hot of a pan, they were proud. Now I think nothing of breaking one open most days. What’s funny is that I still have difficulty sometimes. There are a lot of good memories I have in that house. If only it could talk. I wonder if it remembers me as fondly as I do it?

At the end of The Little Prince, the girl was seen with her mom. The one regret I have is not being closer to her. She and I are like magnets with our positive poles facing each other. You can get us close, but not too close. So, we have been forced to watch the life of the other from the sidelines hollering encouragement as best as we can. It’s rare when the Wi-Fi signal is strong. My guilt runs deep. I only hope we can lean on each other later in life.

Lastly, my love for my father is as natural to me as breathing and I’m reminded every day of his absence. He tells me often of how much he misses me. Whenever I hear a motorcycle in the street, my skin crawls with the expectation of seeing him. I anticipate on a daily basis him walking through my door. Some mornings my apartment is too quiet.

To me, this is homesickness. It’s the remembrance of the family I can’t immediately see.

If you think you’re strong enough to move away from everything you know, fine. I just want you, Dear Reader, to know that the disease will sneak up on you when you least expect it. I love you.