How to Hug For Introverts: The Non-BuzzFeed Way

Do you have friends who give really great hug? I hope we all do – at least one, for cryin’ out loud. One of the best way to up the ratio of meh-huggers to great huggers is to *become* a great hugger. Easy, right?

Unfortunately, the practice of hugging has a terrific load of baggage in our culture – Shane Snow wrote about the dilemma of male/female hugs in a professional setting, and The Wire even has a roundup of different types of huggers (woe to be the “Hug-fectionist” type of hugger – that’s just bad, and you’re a needy person! Or, be careful of those “hug activists” out there – just in it for the oxytocin!)

High schools have even been taking notice of this disturbing trend amongst their students – that of expressing human affection and friendship through touch – and are clamping down on that “very dangerous territory” ASAP, says an article in the New York Times: “Comforting as the hug may be, principals across the country have clamped down.” That’s real, and seemingly the newest example of old time-honored restrictions on physical contact by kids, just like using rulers to judge how far apart they dance. See what I mean? There is so much stigma on what constitutes a good and appropriate amount of physical contact between humans.

I’m calling bullshit, and I don’t even need to invoke bonobos (thanks, Christopher Ryan!). Hugs are awesome and the sooner you get that thought in your head, the better you’re going to feel – and the better hugger you will become. The Daily Love agrees with this idea and has created a wonderful tutorial on hugs – read it as a complement to mine.

Writing a “how to give good hug” crossed my mind about a month ago, for fun and incremental betterment of the world. And then, Buzzfeed came along with their cutesy video demonstration just two days ago. Take a peek:

Their video is cheeky and entertaining, and I can launch off from their overly snarky how-to into something a bit more substantive. Learning how to hug is easier than a properly contextual handshake – boy, that is rife with problems, especially when many of the handshake tutorials out there are how to NOT screw it up.

Hugging is easy

I say that as an introverted and somewhat socially-awkward person. When I was a kid and young adult, I never saw the value in hugging, nor did I give or receive many hugs. They seemed to be special occasion only kinds of things. Not that there’s anything wrong with special occasion hugs, mind you:

Yay! We won! Awesome hug of joy!!!

Yay! We won! Awesome hug of Canadian joy!!!

Three hugging tips

Here is my super easy peasy way to hug like you were born doing it. Go forth and make happiness.

1. Evolve your hug to the receiver. This tip takes a little practice, but the benefits are huge. Essentially, you adjust all variables of your hug moment by moment DURING the hug. Some of the best hugs in my memory are those with people I like and respect, who give me a slightly warmer hug than I was anticipating (see the next tip), and I reciprocate with an even warmer embrace and we both peel away with shiny unicorns singing and farting rainbows. It’s glorious.

2. Be 1% more affectionate than you think you can get away with. This is a way to reassure the other person that you value them, you value human touch, and that you won’t go overboard into inappropriate territory (see #1).

3. HOW TO ACTUALLY DO IT. Use both arms, gently wrap them up, pull in, close your eyes, smile, and squeeze following tips 1 and 2. Go with the flow and giggle if you smack arms or something. That’s it!

Perfect hug: both arms, smile, eyes closed, joy!

Perfect hug: both arms, smile, eyes closed, joy!

Finding practice opportunities (with little social repercussions in your own peer group)

This is super simple but obviously a little weird if you are an introvert. Even I need practice sometimes, as evidenced by this photo-op awkward hug with a dear friend in Austin:

Side-hug. Not very warm or intimate!

Side-hug. Not very warm or intimate!

That’s OK – Juan Mann has been there before you. He’s the guy who created the “free hugs” campaign in 2006. He was a recent convert to the world of hugging, after spending many years as one of those ‘dead fish’ kind of huggers. His free pdf ebook about hugging is seriously awesome and you should download it right now.

Practice on strangers!

Practice on strangers!

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Be a Woman: Stop Saying “Man Up” or “Grow a Pair”

I consider myself somewhat of a feminist. Women are not yet on equal footing in our society in a variety of factors, and I think that’s shitty. Women can do damn near everything men can do (and some things they cannot), but I don’t know all the answers on how to fix the disparities.

However, my own ‘feminist cred’ is tainted when I talk about being strong or bold or forward, because I use masculine terms to describe those qualities.

In self-talk to myself or others, I will say:

  • “grow a pair, Andrea, and do this thing”
  • “ok, time to man up and talk to this person I’ve been avoiding”
  • “I’m feeling cocky and confident”

So… is that a problem? I personally don’t find myself any less confident when I say those things. I feel like my confidence or boldness is inherent to ME, not inherent to my gender. I take no offense when I hear anyone else saying such things, and I’m oft to use masculine terms in a negative or sarcastic way, as well:

  • “I was so full of myself, waving my dick around like an idiot…”
  • “oof! Right in the NUTS!”
  • “ok, too much testosterone there”

I found a kindred spirit, another woman who considers herself technically a feminist but doesn’t like to use the term because it has too many connotations. She writes about the masculine compliments in a blog post, and the reverse phenomenon, too – calling someone a pussy, for example. And she comes out strong, in the end. She takes no offense and would like to think that she can say what comes to mind without others taking offense. I like that optimism.

Grow a Pair! Of Ovaries!

In the end, what does that say about me? Perhaps it is not so much that I am a feminist, or not a feminist. Perhaps it is just that I am a potty mouth.

“Health” Prescribed Here: Women’s Magazines

random magazines

random magazines

Just a few numbers to liven up your Tuesday, shall we? The world of women’s lifestyle magazines is crammed full of contradictory messages, and that’s not a shocker to most folks. I even remember when I was a teenager noticing that “mature” magazines like Redbook would cram a brownie advertisement directly across from that “low fat casserole” recipe feature. It made me a little sad and angry then, but in the intervening years it’s all but tuned out as the normal way of things. Today I’m un-tuning it out by doing some page counts on just one issue of just one popular women’s healthy lifestyle magazine. Ready? Let’s go.

Prescription drugs:

  • Number of different prescription medications advertised in a 136-page women’s health magazine issue: 11.
  • Number of pages occupied by those 11 out of the total 136: 30.
  • Percentage of pages occupied by prescription medications in a health magazine: 22%

Non-prescription “cures” or interventions/detoxes:

  • Number of pages occupied by OTC medications like detox kits or supplements (not including “standard” beauty products like makeup or sunscreen): 3

Sugary crap and artificially sweetened stuff:

  • Number of pages occupied by food products with added sugar or artificial sweeteners: 8
  • Number of those pages that were placed directly opposite content with a recipe including vegetables or a model in a bikini: 4

TOTAL number of pages in 136-page women’s health magazine devoted to prescription drugs, OTC cures, or sweet foods?

41 pages

PERCENTAGE of pages in 136-page women’s health magazine devoted to prescription drugs, OTC cures, or sweet foods?

30%

It’s in front of us every day. Once you start really noticing, it’s a little disturbing, no?

Vegas: Unlike Virginia, Not For Lovers

Las Vegas is many things to many people, but opinions vary on what it is not. From the surface appearance, it is not for the long-term, the serious, the romantic. In other words, it’s for fast fun frolics. At least that’s what everyone says. I wonder how often the casual-meetup section of Craigslist or the hookup apps crash under the sheer weight of panting people in party apparel.

Now its mid-May and the first blast of heat for Las Vegas in 2014: four solid days of 100-ish temperatures with barely a bit of gauzy clouds to filter the rays. Tourists pound the pavement in search of whatever it is they think Vegas is, with barely a bit of gauzy clothing to filter their derrieres.

The King (of photobombs?)! Photo by Geo Perdis

I use the word tourist deliberately, optimistically, and elitistically, for I no longer consider myself a tourist. In my first few Vegas stops, sure. I “did” the Strip, stayed out relatively late, ate comically-cheap-in-every-sense-of-the-phrase buffets, and tried to not make an ass of myself. (In that last bit, perhaps I’ve isolated myself from many tourists here.)

These days, and this trip in particular, I’m a visitor. I work with Vegas to coax out what I need: wonderful but not stupid expensive food, trail running, social opportunities. Getting lost in the thicket of Caesar’s Palace is amusing and a bit sad instead of exciting, even if Bourdain and Ruhlman lived it up within those walls. In the mornings I escape for dirt pounding on trails south or west of town, or find a local coffee shop a drive away from the hubbub. Note to coffee-fiend visitors and tourists alike: Sunrise Coffee is THE SHIZ.

Las Vegas, this visit, is the vehicle for a group get together of sweets professionals: the 2014 eGullet Confections & Chocolate Confab. I’m no pro, but good friends with some in the bunch, including the amazeballs James-Beard-nominated Rob Connoley of The Curious Kumquat. I’m not a pro, so I’m just spending my time doing writing, researching for Rob’s book, and attempting to take in some of the local non-strip offerings.

I’m not sure what I hope to learn from the stay this time. A trip to a completely divey spot like the Double Down might be awesome. I’ve had Lotus of Siam now, and that is well worth the visit for crispy fried prawns. Tonight will be taco trucks a go-go and hey, sometimes that’s all a person needs.

Please Gawk And Stare at North Korea

As a modern internet-addicted lazy person, I pondered two wormholes of internet interest recently. They made me think about celebrity culture and our human desire to LOOK. The first was new to me – a family that has spent the last 5+ years documenting every single day of their lives. They seem very nice, and normal. I have no problem with what they do or how they broadcast it. Neither does their 2 million subscribers.

As humans and social creatures, we are all compelled to LOOK.

If you visit countries that have different social and cultural expectations, such as China, you’ll find something stands out – people STARE. If something is interesting, they’ll form a crowd and just look. Americans seem to constantly be fighting with themselves over whether to look at something interesting or do the “polite” thing and walk on by. The idea of “rubber-necking” is frowned upon as something crass and unseemly – wholly apart from any actual risks from the act of looking itself (such as causing another car accident while you drive by staring at one already happened, et cetera).

From Chinese News Daily

From Chinese News Daily

In China, if you see something, you look. Because, why not? Interesting things are fun to look at, so what is wrong with looking? That seems to be their attitude.

Source: Off Exploring's blog

Source: Off Exploring’s blog

Here in the States we reserve much of our staring and looking for the safety of the internet and tabloids. We don’t want the objects of the staring to experience it firsthand, so we do it by proxy. This includes using paparazzi to get our celebrity cellulite photos for us, and YouTube to chronicle an entire family’s life, day by day. We feel strange or awkward if we were to see one of those interesting people on the street and were caught just looking at them for no good reason.

Where is all of this leading and how can it possibly involve North Korea? It is because in the case of North Korea, we cannot look directly. And yet we must, by any means available.

Rather than spend another minute on the Shaytards, I went back to the haunting photos of North Korea of the daily lives of their people. More and more I searched for photos and articles on what’s happening because it is so . . . interesting.

Source: The Guardian UK. North Korean workers at the Chinese border

Here’s one description of what eating looks like for citizens there: “Food shopping is equally problematic. Staples such as soy sauce, soybean paste, salt and oil, as well as toothpaste, soap, underwear and shoes, sell out fast. The range of food items available is highly restricted. White cabbage, cucumber and tomato are the most common; meat is rare, and eggs increasingly so. Fruit is largely confined to apples and pears. The main staple of the North Korean diet is rice, though bread is sometimes available, accompanied by a form of butter that is often rancid. Corn, maize and mushrooms also appear sometimes.”

Women in North Korea have recently started wearing some amounts of makeup, and it is noted that the reasoning is partially to hide blotchy and unhealthy skin – one side effect of underlying malnutrition. So a country where some people have enough spending money to buy cosmetics in order to cover up the health effects of not being able to purchase real food – that is North Korea.

Source: Guardian UK. Public transit in Pyongyang.

In the last few years, things appear to be getting way worse for an average person. For instance, this spring, outside of the capital city of Pyongyang, food is basically becoming a luxury. Food is actually starting to disappear as a thing you can “get”. Read that again, from a local, “In January, housewives were given two kilos of mixed rice and corn and households received 10 days of rations on top of that. But there has been nothing since then . . .”

There might be little as a single person I can do about the conditions in that country, but perhaps much we can do as knowledgeable humans, collectively. But to be blunt, just start with gawking and sharing what you see with friends and family. Spread the images and the situation far and wide.

Rubber-neck all you want. And then consider what you might be able to do, as wished for by North Korean people.

 

Cage Fight: KFC’s Double Down vs. Sanity

Knock, knock! Who’s there? Nutritionists and foodies having apoplectic meltdowns!

Oh, yes, it happened. The “limited run” legendary whipping-boy sandwich from KFC called the Double Down is back after a multi-year hiatus, to the chagrin and delight of the Internets.

When first unleashed in 2010 the Double Down was the scorn of nutritionists and the bane of foodies alike – a strange alliance given that the two camps are often at odds over concepts they believe cannot exist together like “health” and “deliciousness”. The vitriol from both was rather frothy.

But perhaps in the context of our “eat less evil foods” culture, popularized by sites like Eat This, Not That and YumSugar, I can look at the Double Down within my own paradigm – that of valuing foods that are less processed as the better choice. (Note, my book proposal – no joke – to Rodale for “Eat This, Not That: Paleo” is yet unanswered….)

What does the Double Down have going for it? Let’s take a look:

  1. Low-carb option for those on the Atkins or other ketogenic diet (though not rock-bottom due to likely seasonings in the meat, for a grand total of 11 carbs vs. 35 carbs in a regular KFC fried chicken sandwich)
  2. Made from three sort-of straightfoward ingredients (if you get the grilled chicken option instead of fried and skip the sauce): chicken, cheese, bacon. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you what kinds of awful go into making sandwich buns at fast food joints (like dough conditioners also used in yoga mats).
  3. It’s a chicken cordon bleu for $5.49. Yay.

Um, that’s about it.

How about the Double Down-sides? I can come up with a few:

  1. The cheese. Likely a frankenish creation that has mere molecules of dairy as an ingredient in order for it to use the word “cheese” in its description. Also source of part of the low-carber’s unwanted carbohydrate grams.
  2. The chicken. I won’t even go into the horrors of life as a battery chicken; here I will only talk about nutrition. There ain’t much that resembles what a real chicken should taste like after you’ve raised the birds on soy and antibiotics, injected the meat with saline, and then slathered it in a crusty spice layer (which includes wheat, according to KFC’s website). I’ll stop there.
  3. It’s a chicken cordon bleu for $5.49. Ick.

Interestingly, even with a bit of nutrition education, I (just like the rare blogger back in 2010 who said Double Downs were not the most evil thing they could imagine) would put the Double Down far ahead of many, many things recommended by the likes of Eat This, Not That and their ilk. I do give some kudos to that series’ desire to allow folks to make incremental changes from where they are now in their habit. However, I think their “evil” list is misguided, namely in their rote avoidance of saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol.

So where does this leave us? My dude and I (mostly him, OK) tested out a real Double Down, for science. It was breaded and weird. It was not at all like the “extra tasty crispy” stuff you expect from KFC. The cheese didn’t have time to melt, the sauce was unnecessary if they’d only use bacon with flavor…. but…. it didn’t make us throw up in our mouths. So, good job, KFC?

Eating Disorders Can Kill Your Body OR Spirit

Pop quiz: which clinical mental disorder has the highest mortality rate? It’s not bipolar disorder. It’s not schizophrenia. Rather, it’s that heady place where out-of-whack brain chemicals meets up with out-of-whack societal beauty standards and renders a person incapable of eating enough to maintain their physical existence: anorexia nervosa.

Everyone knows that anorexia is horrible-tragic-shocking, but one thing it does have going for it – it is VERY visible.

Do you have any doubt that this person (who is in their 20s, by the way) has a problem?

Ilsa Paulson

That’s Ilsa Paulson, who looked pretty normal in high school, only to turn pro after college and got lean. Really, really lean.

On the other hand, how about this person?

Hollie Avil

Yep. That’s Hollie Avil, who retired from triathlon at age 23 because of trauma from eating disorders, depression, and general breakdown.

That’s the rub – in a strange and bizarre way, anorexia is easier to spot and therefore intervene. I’m not saying that such interventions are successful – there’s a good reason why those mortality rates are NOT falling – but for some sufferers who have hope of recovery, it can make a critical difference to hear someone say, “I really care about you and I think you might be harming yourself. Please know that I love you and want you to not die.”

But for every obvious case, there are likely hundreds who suffer almost in silence. Ironically, they can suffer more because if they don’t look the part of the eating disorder patient it can be internalized as a failure – a failure to successfully execute this disease that they identify with control and perfection.

That’s the gist of this post, during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, to get you to contemplate people in your life who might be on that edge. Those who could be slipping into habits that lead to a real problem, or those that simply spend years and years and years just under the threshold of a real diagnosis. They can eat just a tiny bit less than they really need (instead of eating a LOT less than they need), while bones are weakening, muscles are atrophying, organs are shrinking (!!!), metabolism is shutting down, the brain itself is undergoing structural changes under one’s skull.

This is not as ludicrous as it sounds – I have weighed 25 pounds less than I do now, and honestly you could look at me and be like, “Ok, yeah, she’s a little smaller, but 25 pounds smaller? She’s not scrawny, like real eating disorder scrawny!” Those pounds came from skin and fat and muscles, yes, but they also came from my organs, and my bones, and my glycogen stores.

Here’s the thing: you can’t help if they are not ready. But I do believe, strongly, that if you care about someone and you tell them you care enough about them to want them to stay in your life, at absolute worst, it CANNOT HURT. Awareness of self is one of the first steps if recovery will happen.

I lost someone recently who “successfully” managed their level of disorder for more than 20 years. It’s true that you can ‘get away with’ a great deal of abusing your body with lack of food – we are remarkably resilient creatures. But not forever. She was a talented runner and no doubt helped by a very low weight (a subject for another post), but in the end her systems were too beat down, taxed, and on the edge to make it through acute dehydration due to the flu. It’s a fucking shitty way to die. My friend loved helping other runners achieve their goals and loved helping kids get excited about running. If a car came barreling down on them while on a run, I have no doubt she would have gladly shoved them aside to take the impact herself. That would have been an O.K. way to go, especially at 46 years old. How she did die should not have happened. But. It. Did.

Finally, she was not just some anonymous friend that I need to hide. She was Susan “Sus” Brozik.

Find your little-bit-skinny, little-bit-obsessive, little-bit-food-paranoid friends and tell them you appreciate every part of the good things they do. If you think it’s not too much, also tell them that their healthy body is the thing that lets them do those awesome things, and you’d love it if they kept their body around for a long time.