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Grasping the Concept of a Good Hug

Books: William Cane can tell you almost everything you've always wanted to know--and maybe a few things you didn't want to know--about the fine art of embracing.

February 05, 1996|PAMELA WARRICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

And now, from the too-much-of-a-good-thing category, the man who brought us "The Art of Kissing" tells more than we ever wanted to know about what comes next. According to author William Cane, that would be hugging.

Hugging in the car, hugging with a pet, hugging over the telephone, public hugging, bed hugging, group hugging, leg hugging . . . well, we could go on and on. Cane certainly does, offering precise how-to techniques for more than 25 hugs, including a few X-rated ones from the Kamasutra.

"The Art of Hugging" (St. Martin's Griffin) is billed as "a cheerful compendium for snugglers everywhere." But it reads more like a book about breasts. How much men like to touch them, be close to them and feel them pressed against their hard chests.

Under the heading "How to Make Yourself More Huggable," Cane suggests: "Simply wearing a bra will make you more huggable for over 80% of men aged 18 to 50. Seeing a woman whose breasts stick out excites a man and makes him want to get closer and hug."

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And what are women looking for in a hug? Certainly not to have their breasts squashed, or to have their bottoms grabbed either, for that matter.

Women--surprise!--just like to feel close. They don't view hugs as sexual foreplay.

And there's the rub, so to speak.

In counting off the top 10 reasons women hug, Cane says women report hugging makes them "feel warm," "feel important," "feel safe."

Men like to "feel warm, "feel loved" and "feel breasts."

Professor Cane (the pen name for Boston College English teacher Michael Christian) is not surprised.

After all, he shrugs, the sexual element is "almost always there" when a man hugs a woman. "Nearly half of all men think about a woman's breasts when hugging, even if the hug is friendly or platonic."

So what did you expect from a book researched almost entirely from that great international resource, the Internet?

Although there is scant reference to the true science of hugging--the fact that it boosts our immune systems, helps premature babies thrive and floods our brains with soothing endorphins--Cane's book does devote a chapter to the unspeakable trauma of "The Unrequited Hug" and another to the finer points of initiating hugs within a blended family.

And you thought all you had to do was reach out your arms and squeeze. . . .

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