I am not going to work clear through until I go to bed tonight. This is such a delightful change of pace, I’m going to waste a bit of time blogging. And since it’s come up in three different directions in the last week, let’s talk about hugging.
There are huggers out there. These people treat a casual embrace like a hand shake, hugging anybody with whom they have a smidgen of familiarity. They’re highly eusocial and find the physical contact pleasant and, because they’re nice people, want to share that pleasantness with others. How many villains would have reconsidered installing those earth-destroying lasers on their moon bases if only they’d gotten a hug at some critical point in their development? Huggers are out to make sure it never happens again. Their intentions are benign, their affect cuddly. Huggers are decent people.
I am not one of them.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m the opposite of a Hugger. I am, in fact, rather fond of cuddling and physical contact, but, and this is a giant caveat, with friends. Strangers in my space make me twitchy and, under the right circumstances, fill me with a need to punch things. I have not yet punched somebody for hugging me, but it’s been a close call a couple times.
This isn’t exactly a secret. On the contrary, it’s far more likely for friends to be surprised when they find out they’re eligible for hugs than for somebody to be surprised when I dodge their full-body handshake. The thing is, there’s a big, thick, relatively impermeable circle running through the world. Inside of it, you’re a friend and can have all the hugs you want. Outside of it you aren’t, and you should just back off. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad person, or that I don’t like you, or anything like that. But you are not a friend.
If we’ve worked together, you are a colleague, not a friend.
If we just met, you’re an acquaintance, not a friend.
If we’ve been at the same event for several days and spent time hanging out, you are probably somewhere on the acquaintance-buddy spectrum, but you’re probably still not a friend.
I love my friends. I’ll do murder for my friends. More impressive, I’ll refrain from murder for my friends. I will, if the situation requires, pretend like I have sympathetic bones in my body and hand friends tissues when they cry. I’ll also call them excruciatingly cruel things to their faces and go on at length about how they’re a) ruining my life or b) a despicable waste of space as my preferred means of expressing affection.
If you’ve not been subjected to vehement verbal abuse by me, you probably shouldn’t try hugging me.
Anybody who isn’t sure where they stand should feel free to ask, “Can I hug you?” I’ll probably say yes. Asking puts the interaction in my control which makes it significantly more tolerable. This point is nullified if you work for the TSA.
Look, I know I’m touchy about boundaries in weird ways. Not many people will avoid doing business with an entire company because one of their employees once insisted on calling them “Annie” after being reminded that their name is “Anaea”. My baseline for people is utter indifference with a hair trigger to instant dislike. That’s not normal and I get that. We’re living in times when false familiarity is what everybody from furniture sales people to IT recruiters are getting trained in. I can accept that. I’m not going to punch anybody for screwing up my name. And I’m probably not going to punch anybody for not noticing that I began backing away when the hugging started.
“I know you’re not a hugger, but this occasion deserves it.” That, right there, that’s when the punching gets earned. I don’t care if you’re twice my age and being congratulatory. I don’t care if you thought I “looked like you needed it.” Or if you’ve decided you’re the motherly type. Or if you believe that deep down inside everybody needs more hugs. That’s a premeditated violation of my space when you knew better. And next time my response won’t stop at a smile and comment about how you look like you need your arms broken.