HEY BOYS! HAVE YOU HUGGED A MAN LATELY?





AUTHOR - DON CLARKE



In 1991 I travelled to New York with my band ADULT ART to record an album with an American producer. In those days South Africa was still very much persona non grata on the international stage because of Apartheid, so it was an arduous 36 hour journey just to get there! But that's another story.





As you can imagine, New York was a big a culture shock to a group of isolated Southern Africans who had only experienced this mother-of- all -cities on TV. There were many cultural differences which shocked us a little, and one of the first which struck me was that all the men hugged each other by way of greeting. Our producer met us for the first time in our hotel lobby and immediately hugged each of us. Now you must remember that we were fresh out of the land of the deep-voiced alpha-manne-cowboy, so this cultural "anomaly" left us a bit rattled. Well, some of us more than others, because I very quickly got over my discomfort and embraced the true purpose behind a manly hug. For the next 3 weeks we were hugged, and hugged back, by a great variety of session musicians, studio personnel and an assortment of other New York males. And by the time we returned home, we had grown used to this warm custom. Well I had anyway, and decided that I would continue the custom in South Africa whether the guys liked it or not. Looking back, it seems strange to me now that as recently as the early 90s males hugging males by way of a greeting was not very common in South Africa at all. Of course today it is the norm, and so it should be in my opinion, but I can't help wondering if there are still males out there who dislike it. You see, the thing is this. South Africa is traditionally the home of many tough, cowboys-don't-cry Alpha Males, so it would stand to reason that homophobia may well be rife in this country. Of course, I've spent most of my life in show-business and have many gay friends; and wonderful they are, but from my observations over the years, they haven't always been as well received by my friends. Especially my overtly Alpha Male friends who, if touched or solicited in any way by a gay male, would respond with something like this: "Don't touch me you f***ing moffie! I'll f**k you up!" Which is so unnecessary really. In all the times that gay guys came on to me when I was a younger man, with a warm smile I would respond with something like: "I'm very flattered Boet, but that's just not my thing." Fair enough. No harm done. But, of course, I have a theory about all this. From my observation, the more vociferously a guy reacts to the approach of a gay, the more suspect HE is. To quote Shakespeare, this could be a case of "thou doth protest too much". In other words, if you're not homophobic, why is it so necessary to react so viciously. Or perhaps gays are triggering a response in these guys which they really cannot face. Mmmmmm? Anyway, back to the point. I'm sure there are still many guys out there who don't enjoy being hugged by males, but I LOVE giving my male friends and my brothers a good, hard bear-hug. I'm fully convinced of my heterosexuality, so see no reason why this very affectionate, warm and loving form of physical expression should compromise that. So boys, here's a big hug from me to you. And if you really don't like it, you better check your hormone balance.