I feel about hugs what some people feel about bugs. I don’t mind them but I don’t want to be surprised by one.
The coffee shop where I work is located next to a yoga studio. One of our regulars is a frequent practitioner of yoga. He comes over after class and reads the paper and has a cup. When he first introduced himself to me he stepped in for a ninja hug. I didn’t see it coming. I closed my eyes and waited, arms at my sides, for it to end. He didn’t seem to notice. From that point on I have made sure that there was always a counter between us. Months later, my coworker sketchy Jeff, made the comment that she is a toucher in a world of non-touchers. The hugger looked at me incredulously. “But but but…..the human touch is healing” he implored. “I’m good”, I assured him. “A 20 second hug releases endorphins”, he defended. “That’s 20 seconds too long for me. Besides I have sports and my animals to aid me in endorphin in release”, I rebuffed. Undeterred, he continued on about the health benefits of hugging. I stopped listening.
Yesterday I was offered a hug for saving his paper from coffee spilled at his table by another patron. I pushed the new girl toward him. Maybe a hug by proxy would suit both of our needs. He began the hug in a normal fashion (if hugging a stranger can be done normally). Then again touted the benefits of this embrace and went for a deeper hug. The new girl said, “oh, that’s nice.” My hair stood on end. My skin crawled. I backed away from the two of them lest I be pulled into their embrace while I wasn’t paying attention. When he came up later for a refill he shared that he was going to make me a hugger. Now maybe it’s just that I don’t like to be told what to do. Maybe it’s that he was so convinced that I was in need of healing. Perhaps it’s the violent reaction I had while witnessing what a 20 second hug looks like. I could only respond with ” nuh-uh!”
I’m pretty sure that he thought that he could soften me to his hugging ways. Here’s the thing. I’m plenty soft. I’ve gone 43 years being disinterested in touching a person I don’t know well. It works for me. I am not a broken vessel of fragility.
There are very clear examples of when I would be willing to hug a stranger. A lost child needing comfort. Any person crying. Someone one who has accomplished something they though insurmountable. I have seen this man spreading his hugging movement in the coffee shop. He is in no short supply of people who will tolerate his ways. How gratifying could it possibly be for him to “work his magic” on me as I’m stood granite still, panting like a nervous dog? He will have to settle for my patent response to a toucher, a chuff on the shoulder.