Embrace for impact
Two or three months ago, I was in the middle of a family crisis which was wearing me and my siblings down. I was stressed and exhausted. I was at church and spoke briefly to one of my fellow church members, a retired teacher, about the situation. She consoled me.
“I know you’re not a hugger,” she said.
“I don’t know where you got that idea,” I said. “I would not turn down a hug tonight.”
I got my hug.
Yesterday, I was at a joyful family event — the wedding of my oldest nephew. It was a beautiful day at a beautiful setting, and everyone was in a good mood. I was chatting with my youngest brother and sister-in-law; I forget the context, but it had something to do with family togetherness and the joy of being there at the wedding.
“I know you’re not a hugger, John,” said Lisa.
There it was, pretty much exactly the same phrase, from a different person, in a different situation. I asked her why she thought I wasn’t a hugger.
“Because you don’t hug people,” she said.
That’s a fair answer. But it’s not that I don’t like being hugged. I don’t often initiate hugs because I’m a sweaty fat man and I would be self-conscious about giving a hug to someone who didn’t want one.
Does that mean I don’t like to hug or be hugged? No. No, it does not. I certainly wanted a hug the night I was worried about my father. I was certainly happy to get a hug from my preschool grand-niece at yesterday’s wedding.
My life, for a number of reasons, has been a solitary one, and at age 61 I’m probably too set in my ways to change. I take full responsibility for this; it’s my fault. I have my regrets, of course. As happy as I am, and was yesterday, for my family, events like weddings make me play the “what-if” game and imagine a life where I was a father or a grandfather or a groom on the dance floor with his blushing bride.
The “what-if” game is almost always counter-productive.
Anyway, you shouldn’t usually assume that anyone wants a hug. Consent is important whenever physical contact is on the table. But you also shouldn’t assume they don’t want one.