In Los Angeles, a Hug That Seems to Never (Ever) End

In Los Angeles, a Hug That Seems to Never (Ever) End

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“I’m what I like to consider a warm and affectionate person, but it can be a very strange thing to hug someone — anyone — on first meeting,” said Mr. Bhattacharji, who is in his 40s and lives in Eagle Rock. “Not even friends of friends, but random people at a work event. And it can be particularly odd for someone like me, a straight cis man who tries to be very aware of how such unwanted gestures can make women uncomfortable, to be pulled into an embrace by a female I’m meeting for the first time.”

It’s not that people don’t hug in New York. But when we do, it’s often quick and to the point: a handshake leading into a quick embrace (the “bro hug,” as Mr. Bell Pasht put it); a perfunctory one-armed wrap around the back; or an efficient two-armed squeeze — in and out — before you each part ways, because, for God’s sake, we have stuff to do.

“I arrived in L.A. in a leather jacket with an ‘If you touch me, I will cut you’ look on my face,” said Andrea Bendewald, an actor and healer originally from New York. “In New York, you’re around people all the time. You’re sardined in a subway car. All you want is your own space and thoughts.”

Cut to Los Angeles, and “the sun is shining, everybody is in their cars, there is all this space,” said Ms. Bendewald, 49, who now hosts “goddess circles” in Los Angeles, which sometimes include her childhood best friend Jennifer Aniston. “It’s much more, ‘I want to meet community.’ ‘I want to collaborate.’ So you come out here looking for your tribe, like, ‘How can I connect with you?’”

One way: A lengthy, drawn-out embrace that sometimes feels longer than a Martin Scorsese movie.

“Oh, they’re endless. Some people you hug and you end up having a conversation in there,” Ms. Bendewald said.

She noted that if you want to really lean into it, you can try the “heart chakra” approach: left shoulder to left shoulder, so that you and the subject of your hug’s hearts are touching.

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