I was recently surprised to realize that something I’ve always considered a minor problem has grown into a full blown pet peeve over which I tend to get kind of hostile.
I might be left out in the cold on this one. Shunned. Forever banned from the human race. The thing over which I am about to have a fit is widely recognized as a universally “good” thing, at least in the US of A.
It’s hugging. I am #NotAHugger.
Get the tar and feathers now, folks.
So, I recognize that if you’re a hugger, you most likely come at that from a good place…a loving, kind, connected, warm and fuzzy place. I get that – I really do. I do not view huggers as evil.
Seriously – some of my best friends are huggers.
Invasion Of The Body Huggers
Here’s the thing, though. I am NOT a hugger. I have lots of reasons, actually. At least one of them is very practical: Most people I meet who are huggers are female, and I am tall (5’11”) and bulky (aka fat with big boobs) and they are almost ALWAYS shorter than I am. I also have a bad back.
So to respond to a hug, I either have to let them plant their faces in my boobs (as that is the general height difference), or I have to bend to hug, which literally and in a very real way hurts me. It hurts my back, sometimes my neck, etc. Plus, if I want to maintain any kind of body separation during a hug, this ALSO requires some bending. So pretty much all “casual” hugs suck for me.
If I DO decide to just let them deal with being smothered by my boobs, they then have to get their teeny-tiny little arms around me, which makes me (and them, I’m pretty sure), painfully aware of just how fat I am. That is not fun for either of us.
Hugging Is Not For Everyone
So, hugging hurts me and makes me uncomfortable in that way, so I don’t like to do it. On the other hand, I didn’t like to hug when I was thin either, when my boobs were MUCH smaller, and my back didn’t hurt at all. So, it’s been a thing for most of my life, and it’s not really about being fat or in pain.
It is about trust, or the lack thereof. Unless I know someone very well and have developed a great deal of trust, I don’t like to be touched. I don’t really like holding hands with people I don’t know and love, either. Those circles where they make you hold hands and sing or hum or pray or … quack… yeah, I don’t like those, either.
I can tolerate a quick handshake if I have to, but I’d really rather not.
I don’t like any kind of physical touch with anyone I don’t know, or don’t trust, or haven’t known for a VERY long time. Don’t even get me started on people who think it’s perfectly OK to walk up behind you and just start rubbing your shoulders. OH my gawd, there is very little LESS relaxing than an unsolicited massage.
Sometimes It IS Worth It
I hug my daughter a LOT. Several times a day, every day…but she literally GREW in my body, so she’s an easy exception. That is all love and only love and never hurts and is never uncomfortable. I also have one friend that I love, that I have known for a long time, and that is a touchy-feely person. That is how she connects – and it gives her a great deal of comfort.
It’s how she FEELS love, as well as how she expresses it. For my one friend, I try my hardest to make an exception and set aside my own “stuff”. I hold hands with her, because I want to show her that I love her, and because I understand her need. I hug her as much as I can. To be totally honest, it is still a little uncomfortable for me – but because I love her and trust her and have known her for a long time, it’s worth stretching myself past my own comfort zone.
For pretty much everyone else, I don’t really even like standing too close – and my sense of personal space gets painfully invaded on a regular basis. I once had a VERY dear friend almost get himself killed because he thought it was funny to walk too close to me. He has, I think, learned his lesson.
Maybe not, though…but now I know to just punch him or push him out of the way. More subtle responses only seemed to make him laugh in the past. In his defense, he was actively trying to get me to deal with the discomfort, and recognize that the “invasion” of someone walking too close to me was not a real life danger.
OR he was just being a butt-head and I should have learned to just punch him if he got too close LONG ago.
I AM A Bit Of A Germophobe – But That’s Not Why
It’s not a germ thing. It’s a familiarity thing. If I don’t know you, I would genuinely rather hug a tree. In fact, I’m considering getting some t-shirts made up to that effect: “I’d rather hug a tree. #NotAHugger”.
I might just do that for myself. Let me know in the comments if you want one!
The thing that has sort of tipped it over the edge for me is hard to write about, because I do not intend it as a criticism of people who identify as “huggers”. This is really just a plea to take that love and compassion and empathy that makes you so eager to share your BODY and make a connection, and step into the shoes of the person you are approaching.
Consider that the person may not want to be hugged. Maybe you do that already – maybe you ask permission, and if it is not given, you accept that with grace and don’t get your feelings hurt. Maybe you realize how invaded and even panicked someone can feel, if being forced to receive a hug.
If that is true, then bless you and keep you and teach your fellow huggers to do the same.
I Hate To Hurt Their Feelings…So Why Don’t THEY Hate To Hurt MINE???
It is extremely difficult to deal compassionately with someone coming at you with wide open arms and a hopeful and loving look on their face, expressing “I’m a hugger”. They can make it really hard to bow out gently, and often express hurt and sometimes even anger. I’ve had people literally storm off and refuse to talk to me again, because they didn’t take “No” for an answer the first time, and I had to get more direct and forceful.
Apparently their desire to hug does not allow them to realize that what’s about to come is an assault on my senses.
Make no mistake – it feels like an assault to me. I think it might to some other people as well – maybe more than you realize…maybe more than THEY realize. Is the aggressor’s preference to hug more important than the victim’s discomfort with that level of intimacy?
I Get To CHOOSE
Is my right to choose what happens to my body completely invalidated by the statement “I’m a hugger”? Because the most well meaning people have often acted as if it does. I guarantee you there are people that will read this (not YOU, of course…other people), that will think I am overreacting and making a big deal out of nothing.
As if their desire to hug not only invalidates my desire to NOT hug, but they are going to force me, and teach me how great hugging IS, and I need to just “get over it”. I watched an episode of “Queer Eye”, a show I love very much…and I watched them assault a guy who didn’t want to be hugged. All laughing and joking and disregarding his discomfort.
I get it – it was TV. But I’ll bet most people watched that and thought it was cute, or funny, or totally OK because it was “The Fab Five”. I watched it horrified for the poor guy who didn’t even KNOW them yet. At the end, when HE chose to hug…that’s a different thing. Mutual consent, people – it’s a thing!!!
Hugging IS intimate. Perhaps a hugger doesn’t feel the same way – perhaps for them, it does not register as intimacy. But…for me and MANY others, bodies touching IS intimate. I am not able, nor do I desire, to turn off my sense of touch and the sort of “download” of information I receive when touched or touching someone.
The Other Side Of It
So here’s the counter point – the sort of sad part. There IS a part of me that would love to hug, and be able to hug everyone. I feel the lack, sometimes. The desire to overcome my own discomfort and just be able to feel that connection and comfort that so many other people seem to get out of hugging. I’ve only allowed myself that level of comfort with a very, VERY few people who I know I can totally trust, and therefore let down my guard in that way.
So I have no judgement, and possibly a little envy, for those who ARE huggers, as long as they are respectful of the rest of us. I wish I could be someone who can and does enjoy the connection and comfort of a hug with practically anyone…but I’m not. No matter how much I see it and even want it, it is just not for me.
Power Over One’s Own Body
Perhaps it is one way in which I have taken back power over my own body.
I remember teaching my daughter from the very beginning of her life that she was NOT required to hug ANYONE unless she wanted to. Not Grandpa, not weird Aunt Lucy…and not that stranger that says “awww” and thinks she’s cute and asks for a hug because…why, exactly??? I pissed a few family members off when I would not force her to go forth and HUG, despite her emphatic “NO”.
She got to say “No”, and she was heard and respected – or you WOULD deal with me – and probably not like it very much. Yeah. I have it in me to be a bit …ummm… “Fierce Mama Bear”, and usually before I have a chance to stop myself and couch things in polite language. Go at my kid and all filters and social norms completely disintegrate and I WILL cut you if I have to.
Some poor guy in the grocery store thought he recognized my kidlet. She must have been at least 17 or 18 at the time – so definitely NOT a child. He started walking toward her, and put his hand out…and I almost laid him flat. I was in front of her and aggressively challenging him before he had a chance to blink.
I think he might have pee’d his pants a little. He claimed to have thought she was someone else…and was just reaching out to shake hands. I’ll never know the truth – but he scurried away with his tail between his legs. I turned and my daughter was caught between trying to pretend nothing had happened and laughing uproariously at me.
I mean, seriously – he might have been trying to HUG her, and I was NOT going to let THAT happen. (LOL – see what I did there – trying to bring it back around to my point when I got too caught up in the “don’t mess with my kid” stuff?)
Even hugs from friends leave me feeling invaded and panicky, most of the time…and just uncomfortable and awkward the rest of the time. Is this a sign of mental health issues? Is it PTSD? Do I have a LOT past trauma I’m still working through? Maybe – or maybe I just don’t like to hug. It doesn’t matter, though. Regardless of the cause, I GET to say “No”.
P.S. If you are someone I know and love and CHOOSE to hug, and you are short…I might need to start hugging you without protecting you from my boobs. You know who you are, and you have been warned. 😉