With hindsight in my hands, I now think of this experience as my first ‘performance art’ piece. I had been studying the scientific benefits of touch when I traveled to New York City to run a 5K race at midnight on New Year’s Eve in 1989. It was also my birthday and I wanted to do something wild and weird to celebrate it.
So, I committed to roaming the streets, offering free hugs to anyone who would like one, aiming for 37 hugs to 37 strangers on my 37th birthday. At the time, NYC was quintessentially “New York,” aka as far from touchy-feely California as I could get. My Manhattan friends’ offered dire warnings for my safety. “It’s dangerous to get so up close and intimate with strangers in New York!” Read more