Recently I had a friend tell me,"I am glad you are the kind of friend that doesn't make me hug." I smiled and waved goodbye, but that statement has lingered. I know so many people who are anti-hug and pro-personal space. I know people who visibly stiffen when forced into a friendly embrace. There are those who will hug, but only with one arm. The one arm hug is often just because the person is holding something or someone, but it also can be a way of not closing the circle. I know others who embrace fully, pulling you in and squeezing.
I am somewhere in between. I love a good hug form a person who is really hugging. An embrace to hold on to a friend and let them know that they are valued and cared for. I recently had a friend give me a great hug and I commented on the hug. It was the right length of time, pressure, etc. I felt like she was really in the moment. She thanked me and said that a friend had showed her how! She then showed me how to hug, the trick was one arm up over the shoulder as opposed to the constricting bear hug. Also a solid squeeze without being creepy; linger just a moment---not too long! A good hug is totally different than the strange forced hugs we Americans give. Why not just let go and connect for a moment? I do not like hugs that seem obligatory or forced, generally by the folks that just don't want to be hugged.
There are other areas too, the touchers. Folks who reach out and grab your shoulder or arm when you say something funny or share a personal detail. I like those people, they always makes me feel like they are actively engaged. There are also the close talkers. I personally feel uncomfortable about close talkers, mostly because people have seriously bad breath and I am sensitive to a stinky maw.
I just watched a segment on a snuggle party. People who get together to platonically snuggle. Initially I assumed it was something for creepy weird people. When I actual watched the video I saw lonely people longing for touch. I imagined a world without touch (as I write this Elise has been rubbing my arm, it is her thing) and I realized that touch has always been a huge part of my life. I was held and snuggled, and embraced by my parents. I shared a bed with my middle brother when we were very young, because I was scared to sleep in my own space. I held my youngest brother, toting him around. I have been holding hands with Eric for half of my life. Motherhood has meant that I spend much of my day holding, comforting, cuddling my girls. Touch has always been there. When I imagine a life without that I can kind of imagine the need for a snuggle party.
Most parents remember reading about the value of skin to skin contact with newborn babies. That power doesn't stop at infancy. I love the idea of being in a world where people could hug and offer a friendly touch without that electric tension one feels when hug is unwanted. I can't say why people are averse to physical contact; perhaps there is trauma or just introversion and I respect that need for space. We all feel that too. I am not planning to start forcing hugs on people who don't want them, because I hate to make people feel uncomfortable. I will be more aware of the power of physical touch and share a bit more freely, engaging when welcome and appropriate.