This is not a new phenom for me. It’s been this way since… probably before middle school. Because, it was never just a hug. It was political. Or sexual. Or forced. Or unwanted. Or fake. But worse than that, for me, it pretty much always turned into being sick. And besides all that, I’m tall, so whoever is hugging me feels the need to reach up and get the crook of their arm around my neck and drag me down to their level! Or curl their shoulder cap up under my throat, strangling me.
Hugging, to me, is VERY INTIMATE. Yes, I needed to shout that. I don’t care for this “touchy, feely” part of society I’m apparently a part of. A lot of it seems so forced, so fake. Like it’s just what we do now. Even in primate packs, physical affection/grooming is reserved to members that are known to each other, comfortable with each other.
I say, “NO!”
As a member of a 12-step group, I would consistently sneak in through the kitchen at the meeting room, rather than endure the gauntlet of “Greeter” hugs that awaited me should I go through the front doors. And it always turned into a competition of who could grab me before I protested. “BUT WE LOVE YOU!” Like somehow if you just exposed me to the same uncomfortable behavior I would give up and accept. Capitulate. Just go with the flow. Resistance is futile.
My Western Civ teacher in college told us how he thought we shouldn’t say “I love you” too much. His belief was that by saying it over and over and over, at any time, for any reason, diminished its meaning. I kinda agree. On the flipside, I don’t think you should be stingy with saying “I love you” to those you really DO love. Especially children. They do need to hear it, and when you say it, you need to look in their eyes and mean it. I feel the same way about hugging.
And then there are the conversations that people had about my dislike of hugging.
“Oh, she’ll learn, one day.”
“It may take a long time, until she likes herself more.”
“When she sees what she’s missing.”
As an adult, I make sure that I get permission if by some crack in the cosmos I feel like hugging at that particular moment. Even I am struck by sentimental thoughts sometimes. At a party at our house one Christmas, my friend and her family were saying goodnight, and I leaned down to her oldest, to get on his level (who must have been 10 or 11 at the time), said how glad I was that he had come, and could I give him a hug? He immediately said “No!” and I said, “Fair enough! Would it be OK to shake your hand then?” And he gave a little smile, and we shook.
This is MY body. No one else’s. I have never had autonomy over it, never felt comfortable to say “no.” Didn’t feel I ever had the right to not let someone touch me, or put me on their knee, pick me up, stroke my hair, “you’re such a pretty little girl!”
As if that makes it OK. Oh, I’m pretty! OK, then, I guess I am just an object for you to do with as you wish.
Maybe then, pal. Now, it’s over my dead fucking body.
When I hug you, I really mean it. If I hug you, it’s real. Like my husband’s hugs. Pure magic. But they are borne out of trust, respect, love, consideration, and time. They are intimate.
Last week, someone hugged me (I couldn’t cut it off at the pass) and held on. It was nice, fine, they told me they missed me, etc., and then let go. Then ten seconds later, mentioned, “I’m not feeling great tonight.”
Fuck. Literally, just fuck. Cue up 36 hours later, my nose is stuffed, throat scratchy and coughing, headache.
FIVE DAYS OF THAT CRAP. For one ten-second hug.
I ask you, is it really worth it? To me, it is not. I know you like me. You care about me. Then hold out your hands. Chances are, I’ll let you take my hands. Squeeze them. Look into my eyes and tell me what you have to tell me, and I’ll return the sentiment. We can smile, maybe I can touch your upper arm gently, or you can touch mine.
And then, if it’s cold and flu season, I can go wash my hands. Please don’t take it personally.