It has been my experience that people are kind of lousy at showing affection. This is not true of all people, of course. My sister and mother and brother are all pretty successfully affectionate. But I have other family members whose affections have always been conditional, and I've been involved with people at various times in my romantic life who've had difficulty showing affection.
And I myself am no wizard at warmth either. I'm bad at consoling people who've had a misfortune. I can never figure out what to write when a coworker loses a family member and the sympathy card goes around for signatures. I get very nervous when saying goodbyes to people who are on that boundary between "friend" and "just an acquaintance." Do I hug them? Do I shake hands? A friend expecting a hug might find a handshake disappointing. An acquaintance expecting a handshake (or just a "see you later") might find a hug overfamiliar. This should not really be a dilemma, and yet I find it vexing on a regular basis.
Still, it seems to me that the most important thing about affection is that we try.
There is a certain good that is done to the world when a friend receives a hug at a moment when he or she really needs it, and I think that creating such a good outweighs the occasional discomfort of an acquaintance who expected only a wave and a farewell.
Yes, affection is a signal, and people can misread it, and all sorts of confusion and disarray can sometimes result. But it makes the world a warmer place, and the world could really use that.
Thank you, goddess of love, for the bravery that it sometimes takes to be affectionate, and for the glow we feel when that bravery brings light into another person's day.