Some families are kissers. Others are huggers.
We’re serious about it, too.
So you can imagine my alarm when my youngest daughter proclaimed to me this week that she “…doesn’t like to be touched.”
My reaction was similar to when my oldest proclaimed she was allergic to chocolate. “Good gravy,” I thought. “How will she cope with that?” People with chocolate allergies should be in a protected class. Like people allergic to oxygen. Or butter.
Anyway, now I am being told one of my cuddle bunnies doesn’t like to be touched. “You’ve got to be kidding.” I told her. “You mean I can’t hug you anymore?”
I’m beginning to fear I’ve over-hugged somewhere along the way.
“No, Mom. That’s not what I’m talking about. Family hugs are great. We know what we’re doing. It’s the people who don’t know how to hug. They’re the problem. When you know what a hug’s supposed to feel like, a lot of hugs become disappointing.”
No. We’ve raised a hug snob?
“Mom, people are boney.” She grimaces and shudders.
OK. Now we’re getting somewhere. Our family is not “boney“. No one in our family. We are plump and cuddly. OK. She just requires cozy.
“When a boney person hugs you, it’s like hugging a skeleton. It’s strange.”
She went on to describe that she herself is self-conscious about the fact that she has a boney butt, and she worries that when she sits on someone’s lap, they can probably feel her boney butt bones on their lap. She hates that feeling herself, so she avoids exposing others to it.
“So they have to be fat?”
“No!” She’s losing patience with me. Clearly I haven’t thought about this enough. “You don’t have to be fat, but you have to know how to hug so that I can’t feel your actual bone structure. With some people I can feel their actual tibia and fibula. That shouldn’t happen. A lot of people just don’t know how to hug right.”
This is beginning to get amusing. I realize I’m about to get a description of the science of hugs. Techniques, even. Clearly she’s developed a point of view here. Like she’s some undercover Hug Judge, searching the world for the perfect hug.
“First of all, people don’t know where to put their faces.” I’m already chuckling. She’s right, of course. “They come at you – kind of awkward-like – and at the last minute, they juke from side to side trying to decide where to put their head. To the left? To the right? Then I have to do the same thing ’cause I don’t wanna crash, so we’re doing this weird hesitating thing that makes the whole hug bizarre.”
“OK. Yeah. I hate when that happens.”
“Yeah.” Pause. Thought. “And then there’s temperature.”
Oh, geez. A hug scientist.
“People are either hot and sweaty – gross – or worse yet: cool and clammy. Ewwww. I’m thinkin’, ‘Why are you trying to change my body temperature to your body temperature? If I wanted to be clammy, I’d get myself a fever! And if I wanted to be hot and sweaty….’ You get the picture, right, Mom? Am I makin’ sense here?”
“Yes, I get your meaning. And I do hate being hugged when I’m sweaty. I try to warn people.”
“Right? Sweaty and clammy people should refrain.”
“Right. What about hugging your brother after his football games? I mean, that’s the sweatiest hug ever. But you do it. We all do.”
“NO, Mom. I said ‘Family is different.’ It’s not the same when you’re hugging family. It’s like family sweat. That’s OK. It’s a little gross, but it’s OK.”
“OK. So family clammy is OK, too.”
“Yeah. No problem.”
I find myself looking forward to my next hug so I can apply this analysis.
“OK. So what about ‘half hugs’? I see kids your age doing that a lot. A kind-of half-hearted, ‘Ew I-don’t-really-want-to-touch-you’ hug that makes me think you’re worried about your hair and makeup. Like a Hollywood hug.”
“I don’t like those, but they’re tolerable. I’d rather have a full hug. IF the hug’s done right. Really, it’s situational.”
There’s a pause as I’m digesting this wisdom. And suddenly she erupts with another observation. “And people who try to pick you up when they’re hugging you…”
“Oh, you hate that?”
“No! I love that. If they’re actually able to pick you up! If you can’t pick me up, for Pete’s sake don’t try. You’ll look like a weak wimp and I’ll look like a fat cow. Just don’t do it. And if you have to grunt audibly to pull it off, it’s worse than not being able to do it at all. It’s as though I was unexpectedly heavy. How embarrassing for both of us. Just back off. But if you’re a huge guy then swinging me around in a giant bear hug with my legs flying is totally fun and it makes us both look good. You’re strong and I’m light as a feather. Everybody wins. That’s how that works.”
“So family hugs are OK?” I need affirmation. She’s being so specific that I’m starting to panic. I need hugs. I’m such a big hugger that it’s bordering on a trademark for me. I like to wrap my arms around people and make them feel hugged. Not crushed. But more than acknowledged. Hugged. Something that stops time for just a moment. It’s not a gesture in passing for me. It’s an expression of a person’s value to me. This is big.
“Yeah, Mom. I love family hugs. We know what we’re doing.”