It’s OK to Hug Me…
…when you are a puppy.
…when I am drunk. Not tipsy– good and drunk.
…when I say, “I could really use a hug from someone who smells the way a donut shop smells in the early morning” and you happen to be wearing your new scent, Eau de Early-Morning Patisserie.
It’s Not OK to Hug Me…
…when I’m angry.
…when I’m hungry. (Those two are usually the same thing for me.)
…when you are a boa constrictor.
…every other time.
Often, when I tell an affectionate person I’m not into hugs, they react like I’ve said I plan to strap a funnel to my head and spend the rest of my life pretending to be a unicorn.
“I don’t… I don’t understand,” they say. “Why? What sad childhood trauma made you into the aloof, coldhearted freak you are today?” (People can be cruel.)
Sometimes I mutter an excuse about having forgotten my deodorant, but normally I look guiltily at my feet and whisper, “Um… I just don’t like them. I’m so sorry. I don’t know why.”
But that’s a lie.
I know exactly why. I simply have too many reasons.
Hugs Make Me Question Nature vs. Nurture
1) I am Scottish, German, and Norwegian. My ancestors were not known for their hugging, so much as their ability to cook a haggis, shout orders, and pillage things. Genetically, I am not inclined towards the saccharine display of affection that is putting my arms around another human.
2) Again, I am Scottish, German, and Norwegian. White people are awkward. We can’t help it.
3) It’s been pointed out to me that my family is a little reserved. This isn’t to say we aren’t affectionate– I once hit my brother in the head with a shovel PURELY OUT OF LOVE.
Hugs Are Physically Unpleasant
4) There’s no comfortable way to hug because there’s no universal method. When you hug a new person, you have to figure out where to put your arms, and you have to do it in less than a second. Do you go above their arms? Under? Both, like you’re a human sash?
5) Even if you manage to decide where to put your arms with minimal levels of awkward, a rogue accessory can throw everything off. I once hugged a guy wearing a backpack, and decided to go in low. Did you know most people keep their butts directly under their backpacks? IT’S TRUE!
6) Once you get your arms situated, how close should your bodies be? Does it vary based on your relationship with the person? Should you get all up in their grill, or should you sort of bend forward at the waist to keep touching to a minimum and leave room for Jesus?
7) Sometimes when I hug someone, my ear gets briefly gets hooked on the other person’s ear. Horror ensues.
8) Many people don’t hug because they’re self-conscious about their bodies. I don’t really care how I feel to someone else– they initiated the hug, so if my body comes with any surprising shapes or scents, they asked for it– but now I’m self-conscious about other people being self-conscious about themselves.
Hugs Are Mentally Unpleasant
9) Hugs are a strange way to express affection. You don’t have to touch me to tell me you’re fond of me. You can shake my hand. You can salute me. You can say, “Gee, I think you’re swell.” If you must get physical, I think supportive, workplace-appropriate elbow-cupping is something we can all get behind.
10) Even when I make my opposition abundantly clear, people think I’m joking. I can look someone dead in the eye and say, “Please do not hug me” and it’s like my mouth is saying no, but my eyes are saying yes. I should have complete control over my personal space. Them’s the rules. When you hug me without permission, you violate my space and assume I’m going to like it. I do not like it. I do not. STOP TOUCHING ME.
11) Part of me feels like people insist on hugging me because of my stature. I recognize the impulse to want to hug small things with big eyes, but I am not one of those things. I am a human with boundaries, and I have hit someone with a shovel.
Sublist: Other Small Things You Should Not Hug, Even If You Think They’re Cute
– Poison Dart Frogs
12) Last year, a bedbug presentation by the Orkin Man really messed me up.
Hugs Are Emotionally Unpleasant
13) I spent my teen years agonizing over certain hugs. I still wake up in a cold sweat remembering the hug my high school Spanish partner, Pepe, gave me before he walked out of my life forever.
14) People get really offended when you don’t want to hug them. Clearly if I can get over my hangups to hug someone, it means a lot. Hugs are a way to tell the people I care deeply about that I accept them, and will protect them, and feel connected to them. They’re pretty powerful. I’m not going to waste that on some lady I met on a bus tour while I was on vacation. I don’t know you, lady. Leave me alone.
15) When I tell a really passionate hugger all these things, it’s almost like I’ve presented them with a challenge: they can heal me with their loving embrace.
I have terrible news, though. You cannot change me with your love. You cannot hug the hatred out of me. You will only make me angrier. One of these days, you’re gonna hug me and I’m gonna hug you right back. With a shiv.