ST. CLOUD, MNAccording to friends and coworkers, Krista Stoddard, 33, a St. Cloud-area paralegal, doesn't have a single photo of herself where she's not hugging someone.
"It takes a while to pick up on the pattern, but once you do, it's really freaky," said Rebecca Donohue, a graphic designer and longtime friend who recently went through Stoddard's photo collection to assemble a collage for her. "If you go through all her pictures from grade school to the present, you won't find a non-huggy shot. With every photo, it's 'Here's me and Janine,' or 'Here's me and my friend Robbieisn't he a hottie?' or 'Here's me and a statue of Michael Jackson at Madame Tussaud'sI did this one on a dare.'"
"I started seeing the pattern with the pictures she took in Greece with her friend Susan [Ortiz]," Donohue continued. "She's in a foreign country, so you'd think there would be at least one shot of Krista not hugging somebody, right? Wrong. In every picture, she's hugging a guy selling sunglasses on the beach or people in a bar or just some poor sap walking by that got suckered into the picture. It's like a compulsion with her."
More disturbingly, Donohue noted that even in the photos where Stoddard is alone, she is depicted in the act of hugging.
"She has a lot of photos where she's hugging her favorite stuffed rabbit, Señor Nose," Donohue said. "There are pictures of her with her arms around a statue of Abe Lincoln, and even one of her squeezing a yield sign. Maybe she doesn't know what else to do with her arms."
Jon Bergtraum, a coworker of Stoddard's, said he witnessed her hugging-compulsion firsthand last month at a company picnic.
"Everyone was having a nice time, and then someone broke out a camera," Bergtraum said. "Every time someone pointed it at Krista, she'd say, 'Ooh, get a picture of me and Marta!' or 'Hey, Jon, get in here!' I don't think she even knows she's doing it."
Dr. Andrew Pulsipher, author of True Exposure: The Psychology Of Photos, said a hug-intensive photo collection is not uncommon.
"Many people find posing for a hugless photograph unnerving, like an awkward silence," Pulsipher said. "By not physically embracing another, we are forced to confront what frightens us most: ourselves. Another explanation is that hugging, as Krista puts it, is simply 'more fun!'"
Donohue said she has four more photo albums to analyze before she has seen all of Stoddard's photos. The media will be notified should she find a picture of her not physically embracing something or someone.