“Because People Might Think We’re Dating” and Other Reasons My Grandfather Doesn’t Like Hugging Me

Whenever people ask me about my grandparents, I usually give the same responses: They live in New York, they’re two of the most important people in my life and my grandfather is super hot.

That last bit usually comes out wrong.

Let me start over:

My grandfather is the most adorable man on the face of the earth and I can’t help but maul him with love whenever possible. Unfortunately, he’s not the biggest fan of mauling. Nor does he enjoy when I try to pick him up. Nor is he a fan of my sexy-forlorn poses when he tries to take a picture with me. In his defense, I’ve become aggressively more annoying since our conflicting feelings on PDA hit a breaking point a few years back.

It was the summer of 2007, on the family cruise vacation my Nonno had always wanted to take all his grandchildren on. I tried holding his hand while walking to dinner one night, to which he responded with even more Italian curse words than usual. I usually find this comical, but having already had a week of Nonno being exceptionally tense towards my usual fawning, I finally attempted to address the issue. The following conversation took place:

Nonno [through adorably indecipherable European accent]:  You shouldn’t be all…touchytouchy with me. People think things, you know.

Me: Things like…we’re family? And I… love you?

Nonno: No! C’mon, you know! Older man… traveling alone with young boy…

Me: [Horrified Silence.]

Nonno: …You know.

CLEARLY people would see right through the grandpa-grandson shtick and know he’s actually pimping me out world-tour style. While I was somewhat complimented that he thought I was pretty enough to be mistaken for a hooker, everything between him and I changed that day. Up until then, I had been all right with my Nonno’s inability to touch me. I assumed that it was an old-person thing, being frail and whatnot. It now dawned on me that the actual issue was our gender. I should have realized it sooner with how openly affectionate he is to my female cousins, pleading for their hugs and kisses! And they’re totally pretty enough to be hookers! But this, unfortunately, was never an issue of “who’s prettier” (me) – it’s about how terrified men are in our culture to show affection towards one another. It is, for some reason, verboten – and you know it’s serious when only a German word can explain the feeling.

Men in our culture suffer from an affected assumption that if they’re too “touchytouchy” around other guys, one of two things will happen:

1.) People will think they’re gay.

2.) They will somehow, by means of science and/or magic, become gay.

Rather than focus on how incredibly insulting this belief system is to actual gay men and women, let’s take a moment to consider the alterations to perfectly normal physical contact most men make to appease this belief system. First and foremost is “the fist bump”, originated by the hip-hop community and perfected by awkward white guys who want to look like they know a black person. Then there’s “the hand-slap”, the more adult version of the “high five” that always feels like a secret handshake neither party has learned correctly.

You can never tell if the initiator of a hand slap is intending to follow the strike with a handshake, a finger-pop, a shoulder slam or all three in a randomly ordered sequence. On the rare occasion that something resembling an actual hug does occur, two dudes will keep their feet planted while leaning in with their chests so their crotches don’t touch – because apparently all hell would then break loose.

It must be very frustrating having to put so much energy into avoiding physical contact with a member of the same sex. Maybe that’s why guys put so much meaning into girl-on-girl affection? It could actually just be a form of jealousy, wishing desperately that THEY could simply hug their best friend hello, which causes them to go into hysterics over the mere cheekbones of two girls softly colliding as they greet one another. An unfortunate number of guys I know are completely obsessed in this department, and what really disturbs me is when girls fall for the double standard. You know that friend of yours that will make out with another girl solely for a guy’s amusement? You should tell her to stop that. It’s sort of demeaning. And if you’re that girl, you need to demand that the guy make out with his friends first. But please don’t tell him afterward that you think he’s gay now. Because even if it’s just a pat on the back, an arm around the shoulder, or a friendly hug – people need to be touched.

As a guy, I’ve never had a problem with physical contact – I’ve demanded it. Friends of all ages, genders and sexual orientation know that when I’m tired or not feeling well or slightly intoxicated, my head is going on someone’s lap and there better be fingers running through my hair or all bets are off. I’m a sickeningly affectionate person and have a real do-or-die policy with friends: do let me touch you or our friendship is going to die.

To some I might seem over the top, but to others it’s refreshing. Several of my guy friends have gone on record saying how much they enjoy being able to let down the usual barriers they have up with other guy friends. And, yes, I can tone it down when it’s clear that someone will not respond well to my kamikaze attack on personal space. I can shoulder-slam and solemnly swearing that torsos shall never meet, but am I seriously supposed to use that brand of bro-code in showing my own grandfather how much I adore him? If my Nonno ever tried to fist-bump me, I’m fairly certain I would die.

So it’s in these entanglements that I do what I do best with societal boundaries that make no sense to me: I act wildly inappropriate. It was on that cruise that I started referring to my grandfather as “hot” when introducing him to people. This is my grandfather, isn’t he hot? So hot. Look how hot he is with that pocket square. My God. I can’t help but respond with childlike absurdity to the need men have to limit affection between one another, especially with the understanding that at the root of it is homophobia and misogyny. And I’ve always found that the key to crossing a line is to traverse it at such marathon length that you make a mockery of its very existence. Or at least that’s my excuse when I jump on a pal’s back and pretend I’m a koala, pantomiming the eating of eucalyptus leaves while yelling “NAARRR NAARRR”, because in my mind that’s the sound a koala makes.

It’s in ridiculous, uncalled for, and even annoying displays that I show other men how fond of them I am. Is it sometimes obnoxious? Without a doubt. Do I intend on changing? Not a chance. So many people in the world go through life being glacially cold, forcibly sucking the warmth out of every interaction they have; why not let there also be loads of manic pixie dumbasses like me, who forcibly interject the warm and fuzzy in every repartee? Sure it’s exasperating, but is it really so bad to try and deflate their phobia of affection?

Over time, Nonno has adjusted to me slightly. He can now withstand ten seconds of hug-time before yelling at me to get off him. I can even slip in two kisses on the cheek before letting go, but the second is really at my own risk. I must drive him nuts, but I’m comfortable with that as long as he knows just how much I love him: overbearingly so. And any incidental comedy that comes from enraging him is purely coincidental.

Okay, so maybe I could cut back on putting my hand over his when the waiter comes to take our order, but I can’t help it. He’s just so damn hot, my grandfather.

  • http://www.facebook.com/redcristina42 Cristina Hasenohrl


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500027279 Clara Ting-Ting Lee

    please, be my bestfriend.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kinseystout Kinsey Stout

      My first thoughts exactly.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mishaDfisher Misha D. Fisher

      “they say that the Misha’s self esteem grew three sizes that day.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002078517135 Josias Navarro

    Really well written article about a very real issue. Although i’m definately not that into physical contact, i have a rule that if someone is a true friend, they get a hug goodbye and a hug hello, male or female.

    • http://www.facebook.com/JazzCook5450 Jazz Cook

      Aww that’s so nice 😀

  • http://www.facebook.com/JazzCook5450 Jazz Cook

    You forgot to mention the really awkward backslap thing some guys do. My mom’s side everyone’s super affectionate and my dad’s is you’re lucky if you get a hug.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mishaDfisher Misha D. Fisher

      I should have just gone all-out and mentioned fight-clubs. Guys do that, right? I just assume I’m never invited.

  • http://www.facebook.com/william.hicks2 Billy Hicks

    This is hilarious!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1206570027 Paula Rocha

    My friends and I have no problem showing affection, take my husband and his best friend for example. I hope this video link works. I think it’s really sad that people are so homophobic it’s “gay” when you give your best friend a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I think it’s so sweet!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/mishaDfisher Misha D. Fisher

      Oh no, Paula! It doesn’t work! Quick, fix it so we can all see how your husband defies the laws of magic and/or science!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kaliska47 Erin Miuccio

    ahahahaha!! Love this post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23300247 Ashley Rose

    This is fantastic! You have a gift!

    Both in your openness of affection and in your writing abilities.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mishaDfisher Misha D. Fisher

      Now replace “gift!” with “impossibly incessant need to be loved”, and that statement still reads. Coincidence?
      But seriously, thank you so much Ashley Rose!

  • http://www.facebook.com/h.schieding Hallie Barry

    I am forwarding this to all my guy friends right now! You are amazing!

    • Misha Fisher

      Please do, Hallie! I’m curious to see how they respond. Probably with fire, would be my guess. But still curious!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikaylah.roggasch Mikaylah Roggasch

    Such a great article. I talk about this with my girlfriends all the time. We’re really lucky to be friends with guys who are comfortable enough to be affectionate with each other though. It seems that the stigma may be shifty, and more people are okay with it, but for older generations obviously it is still an issue.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mishaDfisher Misha D. Fisher

      True dat, Mikaylah! I think progress is moving at the same speed of inter-gender friendships (I just made that term up now). I wanted to include some stuff on how the same type of guys who won’t touch other dudes also have the mindset that men are from mars women are fromblablabla, and therefore can’t be friends. But I left it out because a.) It’s not 1993 and b.) The article was running long.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mzbenitez Micha Z Medenciy

    This is such a well written piece on a topic that is relevant to many and yet not touched upon often. Loved it. ^_^ Its good to be female sometimes, I think I’d shrivel up and die if I had to deal with “dude boundaries”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/taylormadisonrussell Taylor Madison Russell


  • http://www.facebook.com/hettyga Harriette Gibbard Adam

    SO true! I’m British and we’re very reserved with our greetings (less so of late but not as expressive as the Spanish for a start!) and I am married to a French dude………imagine the greetings at our wedding! Nose bumps, half hand shakes conjoined with awkward back pats, the inevitable ‘why does he have to kiss ME?’ from an ancient old male relative – made for some cracking entertainment!

    • http://www.facebook.com/mishaDfisher Misha D. Fisher

      Oh GOD do I wish I could write an entire piece on how the British do intimacy, having dating one. But it would probably cause an international incident and I just can’t do that to HelloGiggles.
      Also, I imagine your wedding as a hilarious film script that has yet to be written. Get on that. Call Ricky Gervais.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tessa.pantuso Tessa Pantuso

    Love this! Whenever my little brother shakes one of my uncle’s hands my mom goes crazy about how men should hug each other and how we’re all family. I’m super affectionate too and thankfully haven’t received too much crap for it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sandy.hirsch Sandy Hirsch

    Your grandfather is pretty damn hot. It is the truth. Remember the time he batted my eyes and made me pour out a full cup of coffee? His musk, charming smile, and that hat he was wearing that day made my knees weak. Nobody else in the world would get me to so freely pour coffee down a sewer like that. The hug and thank-yous that followed made me want to rip his clothing right off, but instead i had to settle on you. ;-P

  • http://www.facebook.com/gea.marin Victoria Marin

    Mu grandpa (whom I call ‘papi’ because he’s just like my own dad) never hugs me in public either, but it’s because I’m a girl. Three years ago he couldn’t stop himself and walked hand in hand with me to the airport (we live in different countries!). So I WON, meow.
    Actually I’m not a touchytouchy girl unless I’m drunk, so after a few vodkas my friends either run for their lives, or keep closer to me so they can have a kiss and some hugs, and some more kisses. My guyfriends all are touchytouchy with each other, as are my girlfriends, but it kind of freak me out when someone holds my hand out of the blue, or kiss me and hug me.
    But, oh, it’s okay… I just want you to know that I ‘NAARRR NAARRR’ you so much -wanna be my BFF, pretty please?

    • http://www.facebook.com/mishaDfisher Misha D. Fisher

      I’m now following you on twitter. Consider yourself BFF’d.
      Thanks for tweeting this article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/bethkemnitz Beth Kemnitz

    Great post! My husband and his dad are totally huggy-kiss on the cheek guys, and I think it’s wonderful! Over the years we’ve been married, he’s acclimated my dad to the hug and cheek kiss, and though my dad may laugh about how bristly his beard is, I think he kinda likes it. How else are we to show affection for each other? Aren’t our arms made as long as they are just for that reason?

  • http://www.facebook.com/soleahda Leah Concepcion

    Misha, I really enjoyed all three articles you have here at HelloGiggles, especially this one. Can’t wait to read more of your writing. Btw, how awesome are HelloGiggles authors? I appreciate that you all take time to respond to comments and interact with the readers. Kudos!

    • http://www.facebook.com/mishaDfisher Misha D. Fisher

      You are too too kind, Ms. Concepcion. I fear that one day all the authors over at HelloGiggles will be in the same room, at the same time, and universe will implode with awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melissa.osorio Melissa Osorio

    Love this post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1574504750 Rae Ghun

    hahaha this was hilarious!

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