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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks

The Talk

I’d like to think that at some point in every teenager's life they get pulled aside for a couple of very important “talks.” First would be the birds and the bees, but a close second would be how important a good handshake is and what it says about you. 

I remember being told that you need a handshake that is firm.  Not too tight, but certainly, at all cost, not too timid. It is funny how we judge people by the way they shake your hand.

Some of the most obvious handshakes:

The ones that grip your hand like it’s an arm wrestling contest.

The ones that slip around because they are sweaty.

The ones that are creepy because they linger too long.

The ones that over-eagerly pump your arm too many times.

But worst of all,  is the dead fish handshake.  The hand that is simply in your grasp but doesn’t seem to be involved in the transaction at all. Above all else, this is the one that makes it obvious that not everyone gets pulled aside and given that talk.

No one really talks about this, but hugs are much the same. There is someone in our family who does the hug equivalent of the dead fish handshake. For all intents and purposes, they stand with their arms by their side and endure being hugged, but certainly do not actively participate.

For the most part, embraces by themselves leave you feeling better.  I do have a friend who brings you in and conveys with her hug that she has missed you and is very happy to see you. It’s the equivalent of a firm handshake and so incredibly comforting. You leave her embrace feeling a little bit better about yourself and the day, even though you didn’t know anything was missing. I hope she raises her daughter to do the same.

The hug really is the most versatile form of nonverbal communication. There are embraces that are obligatory: at a social gathering or party, air kiss on both cheeks. There are sad ones, happy ones, comforting ones.  There are also desperate or grieving ones. Then there are the little kid hugs, which either get you at the knees or around the throat depending on your height at the time of said hug.

At Disney World there’s a guideline concerning hugs.  It's not an official rule. The Disney characters who wander the park and meet the children never let go of a hug first. The child may hug as long as they want. Walt Disney said, “You never know how much that child may need that hug.”

Have you ever thought about the best hug you’ve ever received?  Do you know which embrace is the one you will never forget? That’s one question I can answer instantly. There is one hug that is by far the best one of my life.

Madi was in middle school. Trying out for all district. High anxiety and high stress. There were close to 200 clarinets trying out for 22 positions. We had arrived at the out-of-town venue before 8 AM. It was a long wait for a three part audition that included scales, sight-reading, and the complicated piece all of these kids had been practicing for close to six months.

Sometime around two in the afternoon, I was standing in the hall with about 400 other parents when I heard “Mama“ and saw a flash of light headed right toward me. I had just enough time to brace myself before Madi barrelled into me with all the relief of it being over, and all the joy of knowing she had done her best. I was the one she wanted to celebrate with, and I was the one she wanted to share her joy with. The power of that hug nearly knocked me down quite literally. I was definitely not the first to let go.

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