One of the (many) things that suck about being in a wheelchair is the awkward wheelchair hug. Someone comes to the house for dinner, and it’s hugs all around. Then they come to me, and, game though we all might be, no one is entirely sure how to go about it. It’s relatively easy for most guys – we just shake hands or do a “soul shake,” a shoulder-slap, and that suffices. Some guys who are very good friends, we still make the attempt.
With women friends, it maybe be that, were I not in a wheelchair, we’d just hug. Which would be lovely. But, I seem to get more kisses – on the mouth, too! – since I’ve been seated. This is a good thing.
Either way, male or female, the wheelchair hug is just awkward. I’ve never asked someone, even just as an experiment, to try kneeling or squatting when hugging me. On one knee? Would that feel like a marriage proposal? In most cases, I’d be OK with that; not sure my wife would be.
A related awkward situation is the longer conversation. If it’s just you and me, I think the etiquette is for you to sit, if possible, so I’m not craning my neck. Having to gaze up at you feels somehow demeaning. I don’t know what the etiquette is when there’s a group of us. I don’t suppose I can expect you all to sit down.
When looking online for ideas about this topic, I found When You Meet a Person Who Uses A Wheelchair – which many of you have probably already seen, in one version or another.
I go to a men’s retreat/gathering twice year, and there is a lot of hugging. (There is nothing like a hearty hug from another man.) One of the regulars is well known within the group for his full-contact, full-body power hugs. Getting my yearly hug from this man is something I look forward to all year. I’m not sure how I’ll deal with it the next time I see him. Maybe I’ll just have to figure out how to stand up.
(If anyone knows of any tips on how to handle the wheelchair hug, pass them along!)