Friday, September 6, 2019

Hugs Galore.

Fr. Des
Dear reader, have you have noticed that republican men of a certain age are nowadays more inclined than their predecessors were to hug other men, including other republican men of a certain age? I want to take credit for this very welcome development. I have long been a champion of hugging. It is a warmer, more-friendly form of greeting than handshaking. Handshaking is formal. Hugging is more natural. Instinctive. Wee babies don’t shake hands with you when you greet them. No. If they like you they hug you.
People with Downs syndrome do the same. They are wonderfully welcoming and affectionate folks. They could teach us a lot. Latino people hug. Normally macho companeros do it all the time. Irish men? Nawh. So I’ve had my work cut out for me.

Ask RG? He will vouch for my credentials over decades of this pioneering work. He will also advise you if you press him that for a long time this was a lonely and challenging task for me. He may even admit that he frowned upon and resisted my efforts to hug other men. Especially him. Martin McGuinness was the same. They weren’t so bad when they realised that my efforts were completely platonic. So occasionally maybe they would indulge me. The odd time. But only if no one else was about. Hugging in public was a Never, Never, Never occurrence. But thankfully all that has changed.
Hugging Bernie 
I remember once, before he embraced hugging, Martin and I were meeting with David Trimble and Ken McGuinness. John Taylor may have been there also. Or maybe not? But there was a barge pole leaning against the meeting room wall. Anyway we were having a difficult conversation with a lot of grumpiness from our friends. Then one of them flung a document down on the table. We all rose to our feet glowering at each other for a few awkward red faced seconds.

“I think we need a group hug” I suggested opening my arms wide.

“No” said Martin and David in unison. And agreement. No hug here.

It’s funny how other male adversaries hug regularly. Especially sports men. Gaelic footballers or hurlers take big hits off one and other. Then when the final whistle blows what do they do? They hug each other. Boxers do the same. Rugby players too.

So, I never gave up on my hugging mission. I stuck with it. RG was my first convert. Although he is an awkward hugger. At least with me. He doesn’t do full frontal hugs. He is a hip hugger. No groin contact. He swivels his hip forward so that part of his anatomy meets you at a right angle. Although to be fair his upper body embrace is warm and welcoming.At least with me.

Martin McGuinness followed suit. Soon he was hugging everyone in arms length. Nothing too aggressive. More a very respectful and chuckleyarlácuddley bear hug. I think that’s one of the reasons why Martin was so popular. So hugging is good. It helps to break the ice. Unless your breath is bad. That can be offputting.
Mary Lou is a hugger
I think that’s why most unionists don’t hug me. I eat a lot of garlic. Garlic and hugging are not very compatible. But discerning readers will note that I say MOST unionists don’t hug me. That’s right. I didn’t say no unionists hug me. Because some do. Not a lot but fear not. Remember it isn’t that long ago that most republican men wouldn’t hug other men. Ted still resists my overtures. I blame the Catholic in him. Trees have more give in them. So my work continues. And no. I won’t name my unionist hugger mates. In time we will all take these little human embraces for granted. Until then let’s help them by making men hugging men popular. If you know Ted give him a wee squeeze. Ease him into a group hug.

Start now lads. Hug the men in your life. It will do you and them good.
Cyril Ramaphosa at funeral of President Mandela

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