Have you noticed how the trend of dudes hugging other dudes isn’t thought of as a negative any more?
Well, at least for some people. And especially among younger dudes.

In many cultures it’s been taken for granted.

I have relatives in Italy that are very open about giving you a hug and kissing you on both cheeks. It was always kind of strange getting that show of affection for the first time – sort of like feeling awkward, but going along with it anyway.

Today - among other men – not so much.

Not the kissing part, but the hugging part.

And if you check out the accompanying video, you just might get some tips on how to hug another guy without getting all weird about it.

Hence, it’s not so uncommon anymore – even though some of us still are standoffish when it comes to the male on male hug?

Maybe it’s the “people will think I’m gay” thing that bothers a lot of guys.

If that’s the case, just think “Christie on Obama” hug. It didn’t seem to bother our “alpha-male” governor one bit – now did it?

The rise in hugging can be directly traced to declines in homophobia, according to Mark McCormack, a University of Durham (England) sociologist who has studied the behavior of young men in the United States and the United Kingdom.

McCormack said several types of gateway hugs are facilitating the shift.

Other influences include the tactile traditions of team sports, known for encouraging swats on the butt and exuberant post-win pigpiles. Lately, even the NFL draft has become a hugfest: Each player gets a squeeze from commissioner Roger Goodell (although kissing on draft day, as gay player Michael Sam proved this year, remains controversial).

Yet another gateway is the widespread adoption of the hug-handshake hybrid (in which a handshake gets upgraded with a slap on the back) appropriated from African American culture and favored by President Obama - which caused a scandal for New Jersey Gov. Christie, who has denied hugging the president during Hurricane Sandy's aftermath.

But even some boomers are hugging more these days. McCormack thinks that will only increase.
John Langan, 54, a marketing professional from Northeast Philadelphia, is, he admitted, "kind of a hugger."

Sociologist McCormack noted that studies had found that hugging has real health benefits, including increases in mood-elevating hormones like oxytocin and declines in blood pressure, heart disease, and depression.

Whatever the benefits, more are taking part. Minimum-wage activist Rafael Rivero, 28, of South Philadelphia, who is gay, said he had noticed that as rights issues - such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania in May - become more visible, many men welcome a friendly embrace. But others do not.

"There are two divergent trends," he said. "Some people are more open to it, others it makes uncomfortable. You kind of have to feel the person out."

Perhaps that's a bad pun on his part.

But it's true - while it's become more common among men to hug, you really have to know the person on the receiving end - so to speak. After all, you don't want to come off as a cold fish - but neither do you want to bear hug the other guy into submission.