DEAR MISS MANNERS: If I haven't seen an old friend of the opposite sex in a year or two, is it proper to exchange hugs in front of others, or should a handshake be the best thing to do?
GENTLE READER: Were you on social hugging terms before?
If you were on handshaking terms then, Miss Manners fears that you will find your arms encircling a mass of confusion. Your old friend will be doing a memory search, on the chance of having forgotten how things got so warm.
However, if you were on more-than-social hugging terms in the past, it will be whoever is accompanying your friend who is doing the wondering.
So unless you are resuming an old greeting, it is best to start with a hearty handshake. It is easier to increase warmth than to explain it.