Last evening Jan and I attended a Mothers Day diner dance. We were accompanied by her son Scott and Scott’s girlfriend Liz. On the dance floor, at the end of the number, I gave Jan a big hug, lifted her off her feet, squeezed her two dress sizes smaller. “That’s the biggest hug I’ve ever seen a man give a woman,” a neighboring dance couple said: a couple we recognize from here and there, one that’s joked with us around dance floors before. Back at our table Jan wrapped Scott up in a mother-hug and held him tight, for more than a few seconds.
I’ve mentioned at this blog how much I love it when Jan wraps me up in her arms, sitting at our table between dances. She’s telling everyone in sight, “This one is mine!”
Behaviorists have terms for such behaviors. The male / female public hug is called mate guarding. No, the scientists do not ask to see marriage licenses in the field: they try to observe nature; it’s the priests who try to supervise nature. Jan is a widow, Hilary still lives, and we are not divorced. Never mind what Jan and I do when we’re alone, never mind what is or isn’t written in a municipal register: from the standpoint of the biologists, we’re “mates.” Notice: affection, sensuality, stimulation are only a few among many reasons for heterosexual “hugs.” Complex critters have multiple purposes. (See Desmond Morris on the Ten reasons for sexual intercourse.)
Our situation last night was really complex: let me tell you a couple of other things that couple said on the dance floor, the guy doing the talking. He said my hug for Jan made the other women want such a hug too: and he opened their dance position, exposing his partner toward us. What did he want? I was supposed to hug his partner? I covered my confusion, “She wants you to hug her, I said. “No, you,” he clarified. Uh oh.
Then he added, still addressing me, “You make the rest of us look bad!” And I danced Jan away.
Later Jan admitted to hearing only part of that. I’d forgotten my hearing aids, but I heard this dialogue well enough. Jan half-heard it. Confusing acoustics in that hall.
Earlier, Jan and I were seated together. Carole came over to say Hi.
Jan was on my right, Carole came up to us on Jan’s right. I got up, came around Jan, and hugged the two of them together — Jan seated, Carole standing — saying “Happy Mother’s Day” to Carole. What a complex molecule that made!
I clarify: I’ve demonstrated affection for Carole for the couple of years we’ve known her. Carole is also a dance partner, Carole is beautiful and a wonderful dancer, a good friend, a welcome pal. Best of all, Carole knows how much I love Jan, ’cause I’m always telling her! Carole understands that I need her, Carole, as a friend all the more when Jan goes off to Nova Scotia for a couple of months in the summer. Last summer the hall was loud with rumors of how Paul loved Carole, that Carole was birddogging Paul. No, no: Carole is a wonderful dance partner, a beacon of color, a shinning light on the floor: and I love Carole. But Carole is not my girlfriend; Jan is my girlfriend. And as long as Jan and Carole understand that, I don’t care who else doesn’t understand it.