One of the pleasures of being an artist is getting to express the joy of being alive. As we say in this country, “what gives me life is joy.” This has been true for many of us for many years. I’ve written about the joy I get from love and some of my work has reflected my love for my wife. I find both joy and love in artists and it’s for this reason that I wrote a manifesto saying it was okay to hug my wife again. Here’s what it says:
I wrote an essay to drum up support for the Hugging Machine that Richard Dreyfuss proposed a while back. Well, the Hugging Machine is still available in all its easily grasped 1980s glory.
What happens if I want to hug a woman, I asked? That’s a good question. All I can say is that I want to give her a hug in a situation where there is no hurry, where I can make it as comfortable and natural as possible, and I want her to give me the same.
For decades I didn’t have a good answer.
The Hugging Machine was conceived by Richard Dreyfuss as a natural, universal gesture of affection for women. If you don’t know who Dreyfuss is, he is an American actor who played the baldy villain of Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can.” In this he famously become known for his uncomfortable hug of the young Leonardo DiCaprio. If you were around on the set of “Catch Me If You Can,” Dreyfuss could be laconic, smiling but cold and distant. He spent the first half of the film acting this way — and the second half, as DiCaprio’s father, speaking paranoically — even as DiCaprio was approaching tears.