Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Who needs a hug? | TheUnion.com

Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Who needs a hug?

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Columnist

Hollie Grimaldi Flores

I am a hugger. It's my preferred mode of greeting and of farewell. I hug those I know well, and I often hug people upon introduction, if they are comfortable with it.

I admit to an awkward hug or two over the years, but for the most part, people hug right back. It is a fact that hugging alleviates loneliness, depression, stress and other health related issues.

So, I was a bit dismayed a couple of weeks ago when meeting with a local merchant I have known casually for several years.

I came in for my usual hug hello when he stepped back, hands in the air.

"I might be coming down with something," he said. "But even if I was healthy, I am not sure hugging is such a good idea anymore."

We then engaged in a conversation about the national climate including some discussion over what once was acceptable behavior and the difference between those who have engaged in harassment versus others who have engaged in poor judgement.

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To hug, or not to hug

It seems to be the topic of most of my conversations lately. I swear I am not the one bringing it up, but it just keeps happening. I have heard from both men and women. I have listened and debated with some much younger than I, those in my own peer group and with my elders.

Through these varied discussions and opinions, I have come to this understanding: The reality of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature has a long history. It is not exclusive to this country and indeed, in many parts of the world is much, much worse.

However, scaling the harassment does not make the harassed feel any better.

I offer a bit of compassion to those who grew up where the condemned behavior has been called out as unacceptable, for them it was simply part of the culture and it's possible they did not understand what they are doing was wrong, but in the words of the late Maya Angelou, "When you know better, you do better."

I applaud those who are coming forward to call out those who have offended. They are leading the way to change. I had been feeling some guilt for having sympathy for one celebrity while feeling my stomach turn listening to the behavior of another.

It has become clear that it is not my political views skewing my reaction.

It is simply this: There is a major difference between those who did something foolish and inappropriate versus those who abused their position to hold power over their victims.

It is not all the same and treating it as such is a bit unfair, but I think we can all agree that playing fair was thrown away some time ago.

I have worked and played in places full of unacceptable behavior. In restaurants, in blue chip corporations and in the music business, there were varying levels of politically incorrect behavior taking place long before politically correct was a coined phrase.

As a woman, I learned to laugh off most of it, avoided being isolated with some and ultimately called out others when they crossed the line.

Even then, I feared retaliation and was dismayed more than once when nothing happened to the guilty party — even when what they did was inexcusable.

"He didn't mean any harm." "We talked to him and let him know he isn't to do that anymore." "We can move YOU to another area if that makes you uncomfortable."

These are some of the best examples of responses. Other, not so favorable reactions include, "If you don't like it, you can just leave," or, "It's part of the job, get over it," and, "You must have known this is part of what you signed up for."

Speaking up

I am thrilled that a societal scream is finally being heard. Women, in particular, are saying we have had enough. I had a bit of a heated discussion with a friend who blames women for not speaking up sooner.

Why would they wait so long? Why would they wait so long?

I am almost incredulous. Does anyone remember Anita Hill and what she went through when she came forward? Watch the hearings. She was ruthlessly badgered.

The accused is sitting on the Supreme Court. Over 50 women accused Cosby of varying degrees of assault but the one case that went to trial resulted in a hung jury.

Nearly 20 women came forward to accuse another man in power and he is sitting in the Oval Office! Why didn't they come forward sooner? It's nothing short of miraculous that anyone ever came forward at all.

I realize the avalanche of those being accused is bound to wane and things will likely settle down, but hopefully the days of sexual abuse of power over others is coming to an end.

Alabama is a great start. We can move onward from here. Be the change we want to see (to quote Gandhi) and teach the next generation to do the right thing and make the right choices.

That means leading by example and voting for leaders who will do the same. But we need not go to such extremes that any kind of greeting or display of affection becomes unacceptable. There is a difference.

Now, who needs a hug?

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com.