Get over here. Come on in and let the big bear get his paws on you. Sometimes men are afraid to hug each other, aren’t we?
I am not, and I don’t think you should be either. If you and I have met before, and interact more than five times a year via any social media avenue or e-mail, I am very likely going to go in for the bro hug next time I see you (instead of a handshake). If you invite me to stay at your house when I’m in town, or when I’m talking with someone else about you and I say “Isn’t that dude awesome?”, or you are a generally likeable person whose contact info is in my cell phone, the bro hug is a very real possibility. Unless you want to keep it professional or something like that.
Sometimes, when dudes are happy to see each other but don’t really know what the parameters are, they will do that awkward handshake-into-half-hug thing, which is rather unsatisfactory unless that’s really what you mean, and usually it’s not. It is about as rad as an almost-cold beer or a kind-of-soggy sandwich. It is OK, but lacks authenticity and meaning.
It looks like this:
“Oh, are we going to do that … you know, the handshake thing but … oh, you’re kind of doing the hug with the one arm … OK …”
Avoid this. Get comfortable with the hug. This is the 21st century. It’s OK. The best strategy to avoid awkwardness is to communicate with proper body language as soon as possible — when you recognize your bro, you open up your arms, signifying Dude, You Are About To Get Hugged.
The proper way to bro hug is to approach your bro with one hand high and the other low — not 10 and 2 in clock positions, but say 7 and 2. That way your bro will be able to come in with his arms in opposite positions. Like Chris’s hands in this photo, as he approaches for the bro hug (note enthusiastic expression):
One pat on the back is the limit here. Two is excusable, but any more than that and you just look like you’re really uncomfortable/nervous to be hugging another man in public, which should not be the case.
Don’ t — DO NOT — go in for the hug with your arms at the same level, low or high. This forces your bro to take the opposite arm position, and you end up in a very strange hug, one dude’s arms up high, the other dude’s around his bro’s waist, somewhat like junior high dancing (without the nervous armpit sweat and the strange, new tightness in your pants). It also makes it really difficult to avoid your bro’s face with your face, and you get dangerously close to kissing each other. Which is of course totally fine, but maybe awkward in a lot of bro/brah relationships.
- Note the acceptable distance between Chris’s crotch and my crotch in the above photo.
- Duration: A typical bro hug lasts at most three to four seconds. It’s OK to have multiple bro hugs, just not all at once. Say you’re parting ways after a climbing trip and won’t see each other again for a while, so you bro hug, but then you get started talking about some future climb you’re going to plan, and then suddenly 10 minutes have gone by since the original bro hug. Then you’re like OK, I’m really leaving this time, and you’re both going to your respective cars. At this point it is OK to have one more bro hug.
- If you want to add a little more bro-love communication to the hug, like if you’re not going to see someone again for a few months, it’s acceptable to touch heads mid-hug — but not cheeks.
And, you know, if you see me somewhere, and you need a hug, that’s cool. Come on in for it. Remember, 7 and 2.
(Thanks to the talented and charming Joe Penacoli for the photos!)