So something you should know about me is that I’m not a hugger. I mean, outside of my children - who I smother with hugs and kisses until they literally push me away or yell “mommy, no smooches! ” - I will not come near you. You’re welcome.
But this is simply because I don’t like being touched, specifically hugged, by strangers, acquaintances, or people I’m really close to. I find it sometimes forced, often unnecessary, and ALWAYS purely uncomfortable for me and, by extension, the person who thought this gesture of good will or intimacy or whatever would be well-received. Because, while the other person is focusing (I guess?) on the bond between us, or how they’re helping by pressing their body up against mine for 5-10 seconds, I’m wondering how much longer this will last and whether I’ve done a good enough job conveying that this is really meaningful to me, too.
And then there’s my poor husband. Among our friends and family he’s known as a no-joke great hugger. Like, people seek him out in times of need because he gives these tremendous, genuine hugs that just make everything better. Unless you’re me and you stand there as he hugs you, feeling loved but also kind of wondering how long hugs typically last? Because you’re good with it ending now but also don’t want to be rude. And you love him! And he’s so tall and smells so good and sometimes you can genuinely just sort of collapse into his arms and it is the greatest. But mainly I’m just counting down from 10.
Anyway, this weekend a song came on the radio that reminded me of earlier in the week when I was with a co-worker. This same song came on while we were talking and she started crying which, thankfully, isn’t normal. So I was like “are you ok?” and she said yes, but that the song reminded her of her deceased mom. So, you know, not ok.
And so I stood there for a few seconds as she cried and realized that I was probably supposed to do or say something? Because typically when people emotion at me, I freeze. I’m a pretty empathetic and compassionate person, don’t get me wrong, but it takes me a second to process what’s happening. Weren’t we just talking about work?
So then we had this exchange:
Me: “Are you a hugger?”
Her, looking at me while crying: “What?”
Me: “Are you a hugger? Do you want me to hug you?”
Her, nodding yes.
Me, awkwardly hugging her, counting down from 10, and then continuing with the conversation as her deceased mother’s music played in the background.
It wasn’t awkward at all!
And so then I conveyed that story to CB and he started laughing and said “you’re like an automaton. ‘Are you a hugger?’ Nobody asks that! They just hug!”
Me: “But what if she’s like me?”
CB: “The odds are very slim. Most people are normal and like to know that you care that they’re crying and so you hug them.”
Me: “I thought I was being courteous by gauging her feelings on the situation first. But you’re saying that she may have thought that was weird?”
CB: “Everybody thinks that’s weird.”
My argument was ill-received by him, but totally logical, you guys. Maybe I was lucky enough to meet another me who doesn’t like being hugged and, when crying, does not feel comforted by your touch! But I was wrong, apparently. And so I acted totally appropriately! Just as a good human robot would.