I never meant for this to happen.
This past New Year’s Eve I made a mistake. I established myself as “a hugger” – the person who gives complete strangers hugs in greeting.
The way I see it, there are 5 Levels of Stranger-ness (at Parties):
1. Randy: This Stranger is a total stranger. He probably wants to make out with you and/or your friends…and/or the lampost. Who is he? It doesn’t matter! You won’t learn his name because you’ll be calling him by his Code Name for the rest of the night. Code Names are often derived from identifiable features, including, but not limited to: “Lady Hair,” “Captain Blackbeard,” “Facial Tat” and “Chlamydia.”
2. L’Etranger: The Foreign Stranger. No one knows this person. You can’t even figure out how he got invited to the party. Frequently, he is a random French dude (always french) who your friend’s friend met six years ago on their two-week life-changing “study abroad” adventure. He doesn’t speak – presumably because he doesn’t understand Slur (drunk English) – which makes him seem mysterious. You can safely assume that he spends more time contemplating the meaning (or meaninglessness) of life than you do. This party is probably just another vapid gathering of nothings in his existential existence. He looks like maybe he killed someone. You just don’t know. But, does it even matter?
3. Future Ex-Boyfriend: They say when you know, you know…that he’s going to be your ex-boyfriend one day!
Me: He’s cute! He looks like he’s going to make me MISERABLE.
Melanie: Yes. He seems “nice.” You might, maybe, want to consider avoiding?
Me: And steer clear of my type? Never. Not while there are RED FLAGS EVERYWHERE! Silly.
4. Your New Best Friend: When you look into this Stranger’s eyes for the first time, a wave of acceptance that you will be friends one day washes over you. It’s Friendlove at first sight, and it is real. Often, you can just outright tell these people that you want to be friends with them, like you did in Kindergarten:
A snippet of an actual conversation I had last Saturday:
Me: I WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH YOU.
Girl: Okay! Me too!
5. Actual Ex-Boyfriend: This is awkward. This Stranger is technically not a stranger. You actually knew them pretty well one time, but hey, the past is the past. Now, they’re relegated to a subcategory of Stranger. And you’d like to keep it that way!
Him: Hey. How are you? You look really pretty.
Me: I know. I would literally rather be in that booby-trapped room in the Temple of Doom with walls that move in to slowly crush me to death than be in this situation right now. Soooooooooo nice to see you! Hope you’re good.
6. Ozzy Osmosis: You basically know this stranger because everyone you know knows them. Sometimes, Ozzy is your friend’s sibling. Sometimes, Oz is the friend-of-friends who is living somewhere abroad (NOT to be confused with L’Etranger over there in the corner.) And sometimes, but only sometimes, is Ozzy The Unicorn Friend: that friend from college whose whereabouts are generally unknown; you’ve been told before that s/he only emerges a few times a year, if s/he even has cell phone coverage again. The point is: you know who they are and they know who you are. You know they know who you are, and they know that you know that they know that you know… who they are.
And so it was, that in the hours before 2014, a rather delicate situation arose: I was faced with meeting and greeting an Ozzy and a Randy at the same time.
Greetings are the worst part of meeting Strangers. They are a hotbed for awkwardness because they require you to read the comfort level and appropriateness of the situation. Usually, I am quite good at this, but occasionally, I slip up.
ASIDE: It is for this reason that my dream of being on a talk show is also my greatest fear. I know that when that day inevitably comes and David Letterman greets me on stage, I will go in for a hug while he goes in for a handshake. I will probably go to kiss the same cheek he kisses, too, causing both of us to do the awkward chicken-bob head dodge to avoid kissing each other on the lips. I’ve thought about this moment a lot.
On this night, the part of Ozzy was played by the brother of two of my friends. I had been hearing about him for two years and he had never surfaced. I was beginning to doubt his existence. Naturally, upon greeting him, I gave him a hug and said “So nice to finally meet you!” (or some shit like that.) I don’t think he knew who I was. Boys don’t pay attention to anything, though, so whatever!
Unfortunately, I chose to hug him almost immediately before I stuck my hand out to greet Randy, who stood waiting next to him. I watched, with awkward horror, as Randy’s look of expectancy turned to Kind-Of-Sad-Confusion.
Randy looked down at my hand.
He opened his arms and stared at me.
I hesitated. My extended hand involuntarily retracting.
“What? No hug for me?” Randy said.
So, I gave in. I did. I hugged him and I thought:
I am the most awkward person on the planet! I am so mean for not going to hug you right away!
But not really, because hugging you is so awkward because I REALLY DO NOT KNOW YOU!
Who are you?
Why do you have the same haircut as Jennifer Lawrence?
Did you just say your name? I wasn’t listening. I’m going to call you Lady Hair for the rest of the night.
And I did.
That’s the story of how I became a hugger.