The house manager comes in my front door at 8am. I tell her, “The exterminator is in the kitchen but I forgot to get the cats and bunny out of the house, and the cleaning woman is in the dining room, but she cannot clean while the exterminator is here, and I forgot to send the violin to school for first-grade show-and-tell day.”
The house manager watches me run upstairs to change and yell behind myself that I have a big meeting at work and I can't reschedule the exterminator because my son already thinks we have too many ants in the kitchen and I don't want him to think we live in a nut house where we can't even deal with an ant problem. Then I yell downstairs: “Does anyone know where my black top is?”
The house manager comes upstairs. She says, “First of all, you have twenty black tops and second of all you sound like you're losing your mind.”
I look at her.
She says: “You need a drink.”
“A drink? Are you kidding? I have to go to work. It's 8am.”
“You need to take the edge off yourself. You sound like a nut.”
I decide that this is an interesting idea. “But,” I say, “We don't have a drink here. I mean. What would I drink?”
She points out that I still have the wine my editor at Yahoo sent when he fired me.
I think about how Alex Morris wrote in New York Magazine that women who are in control of their lives drink because drinking is more fun: I want fun. I want control. So I say, “Okay. Fine. I'll try it.”
But it turns out that we don't even have a corkscrew.
Fortunately, the exterminator has one on his key chain.
The house manager pours cups for me, the cleaning woman, the exterminator and herself. We drink in the kitchen. I have two sips, and I actually feel it in my head.
My house manager says this is lucky. It would take every other adult in the world more than two sips. I take a couple more and I think alcohol is magic. I think, why don't more people drink during the day?
I get nervous about driving, so I say goodbye. I make phone calls on the way to work and I am calm, and collected, and a little bit more fun than normal. I worry that maybe I'll start drinking every morning.
I get to work, and I am glowing. I walk into my office and the guy I'm meeting with is there, and I give him a huge smile and a huge hug. The kind you give someone on the fifth date, when you think you might marry him.
The thing is, before I realized what I am doing, the guy is hugging back.
And that's why I never drink in the morning. Because only four sips leads to hugging insanity.
But I've met with that guy a bunch more times, and he has hugged me each time. Not like, let's-do-something-inappropriate-later hug. But just sort of a nice, I-like-doing-business-with-you hug.
And I've been thinking about what this means at work, and then I read that Obama is hugging. Men. In the White House. Obama has made hugging co-workers cool by using the combination of a handshake and a one-armed embrace, which Time magazine has illustrated nicely for the uninitiated. (The genesis of this hug might be the hip-hop hug, which black men have been doing casually for years. But, according to Wikipedia, white men have been hesitant to embellish beyond a handshake.)
After my drunken hug, I became aware that men are actually hugging a lot in the workplace — so much that people are studying this at the university level. Really. (These studies remind me of cancer research. We had decades of research about how men get cancer before there was anything about breast cancer. The same is true with hugs. All the hug research is about men. Which is amazing, because there are even workplace etiquette videos, and you gotta believe that the videos for the woman-to-woman hug would be great: Finally! Soft porn that is safe for work!)
The research shows that there are a lot of benefits to workplace hugging. First, a hug from someone you are friendly with can release the feel-good brain chemical, dopamine, which improves your mental and physical health.
Also, if you hug people you are less likely to touch yourself. Not touch yourself like you're probably thinking. Because presumably, you can control that at work. But touch yourself like, nervous touching — your hands, your hair, biting your nails. These are all weird quirks for the workplace that make you look anxious at best, and a liar at worst.
Huggers also benefit their workplace by making the atmosphere more casual and relaxed. The Society of Human Resources says that younger workers frequently hug each other — probably because they are less uptight about outdated sexual-harassment hoop-la emanating from older workers.
So if you feel like hugging someone, go for it. And I'm not saying that you should drink in the morning, but I am saying that drinking made me try something I wouldn't have normally done, and it turned out to be a good thing. And I gave my house manager a hug for suggesting it.