Dr. Hug loves Valentine’s Day
To talk to Glenbrook resident Leo Buscaglia about Valentine’s Day is to learn the meaning of something more than mere candy hearts and greeting cards.
“This is one of my favorite holidays,” he said. “We should really be loving each other all year long, but if it takes this one time of year to make us say ‘I love you’ to each other, then I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Buscaglia, 73, is a well-known author of 15 books, including “Love,” “Bus 9 to Paradise,” “Living, Loving and Learning,” and many other books on love.
Often called Dr. Love or Dr. Hug, he is known for embracing people following his popular lectures, where audience members would form long lines for a “Dr. Leo hug.”
“One time I gave a lecture to 14,000 people and when it was all over, the estimates were that I had hugged at least half of them,” he said. “My arms were numb!”
Buscaglia was a professor of counseling and special education at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, receiving his doctorate in psycholinguistics in 1963. After teaching for nearly three decades, including his popular “love class” for six years, he retired to Lake Tahoe 11 years ago.
“When I decided to leave USC, I wanted to find a place that was radically different from L.A., and Lake Tahoe came to mind,” he said. “The irony is that I remembered the summer vacations I spent as a child at Kings Beach. Every summer, our parents would rent a place there and drag us kids kicking and screaming.”
But as an adult, Buscaglia said, the memories of those trips became ever fonder, and after only two days of visiting Lake Tahoe, he decided to move here. Now the Douglas County resident says he has no regrets.
“I love it here – on a glorious, snowy day like today, I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” he said Tuesday.
As one of nine children in a loving home, Buscaglia said learning to share and especially to share love came naturally, largely due to the personalities of his Italian parents, Rosina and Tulio.
“So much of loving is learned through modeling, and I learned a great deal from my parents,” he said. “We are all born with the capacity to love, but one of the things I learned in teaching my class on love at USC is that no one is an expert. Love is such a flexible, glowing, dynamic concept – and if you really are sincere, you can learn it at any time in your life.”
In his book “Loving Each Other,” Buscaglia said he interviewed 1,000 couples and asked them what it is that makes their love work or not work.
“What I found out was surprising,” he said. “What people valued the most in loving, successful relationships was not what you’d expect. The number one thing these people valued was the ability to communicate.”
Buscaglia said the order of the other nine factors was also illuminating:
3. Compassion and forgiveness.
7. Sense of humor.
Buscaglia said that so often the sexual aspect of love is stressed and discussed, but his study found that in reality it was actually down the list for successful couples.
“You can go to the library and punch in ‘love,’ and find shelves of books on sexuality, but not love – how to love your family, your children, your wife,” he said. “The great thing is, one of the most positive things about love is that it is such a positive reinforcer, provided it is the right type of love.”
As for Valentine’s Day 1998, Buscaglia said he will be having friends in from out of town and will be doing one of the most loving things he knows how to do for them – to cook. He co-authored a 1994 cookbook – the “Love Cookbook,” with chef Biba Caggiano.
“I’m a mad cook,” Buscaglia said with a laugh. “When I need to center myself, I cook. I think it is one of the most wonderful ways we can tell people ‘I love you.’ To plan the meal, go to the store and buy the freshest ingredients, come home and prepare the meal and set the table – it is the most loving thing.”
Buscaglia said he always begins a special meal, such as the one he will be preparing tonight, by saying “I love you all.”
“My father insisted that all of us eat dinner together,” he said. “As kids, maybe we wanted to run out and play, but now I know it was one of the most important things we did as a family.”
In this modern, complicated world, Buscaglia said expressions of love from one person to another needn’t be elaborate or expensive.
“A little worded note of love on the fridge or under the pillow – it’s so easy to do and can mean so much,” he said. “There are a zillion ways to express love.”
Buscaglia said he thinks Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to tell people around you that they are loved.
“We hesitate during the year to say ‘I love you,’ maybe because we’re embarrassed,” he said. “But the day comes when it’s too late and you can’t tell them in person. Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity.
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