Opinion

Editor's Column

"The South Whidbey School Board has more policies than the typical teacher has Prozac pills, but it may still be one short. After watching another year of graduation-related activities, it seems to me that a policy on hugging might be in order.Not being a big hugger myself, I've always viewed hugging with interest. It's like watching a foreign ritual or even the making of sausage -- it's not something I want to do myself, but it's fascinating to watch. Sure, I've hugged my kids on those rare occasions when they do something truly outstanding. Making the honor roll or Honor Society doesn't merit a hug, nor does being named Most Inspirational on some sports team, but a hug is in order if one of them gets out of bed when the alarm sounds. The hug follows the traditional dancing of the jig on such an occasion. My kids have spent a combined 37 years in South Whidbey schools, and I remember only a few hugs for getting up on time without parental coaxing.Other adults, however, hand out hugs with wild abandon, particularly school administrators. Through the years I've seen many shake hands with every boy and hug every girl who dares step onto the stage to receive an award or diploma. Seldom do they hug the boys and shake hands with the girls. Some girls fly into the arms of the waiting administrator, as if his arms are huge magnets and their chests are made of steel. Others are more reluctant, but are inexorably drawn into the waiting arms by the force of public pressure. The girl sees the arms, glances around at the crowd of staring parents and fellow students, gauges her chances of running away without causing a scene, and then meekly accedes to a quick hug. I'm waiting for the day a girl actually turns away from the hug or literally dashes for freedom, public pressure be darned. If it ever happens, I'll chase her down and give her a hug.Just as it is not always easy to be a huggee, so it is sometimes difficult to be the hugger. Administrators who are natural huggers seem to sense at times that they are facing a girl whom they barely know, or who is sending off strong anti-hug vibes, as in if you hug me in front of all these people I'll die. But huggers can seldom refrain themselves, and are no doubt also trying to protect the reluctant huggee from embarrassment. If he hugged everyone else and not her, what would people think? So a brief hug is exchanged, and the next girl steps onto the stage to face the same decision.At this year's high school graduation, the new principal shook hands with everyone, boy or girl. I thought that was classy, and saved a lot of girls from experiencing the hug-or-flee response to strange arms. Not that shaking hands is ideal. The Japanese have it right -- just a slight respectful bow, with no germs changing hands. But that's another policy for another school board meeting."

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