I am huggable.

Apparently.  I don’t know why it is or what it’s about, but it’s clearly true.  Twice in as many days, a man I find appealing who is patently off limits has made a point of hugging me.  Yesterday, I kind of got it.  That man and I had spent a little time together, knew each other some.  Today’s man is a different story.  I’d met him before but in a very formal setting, no note-passing, gossiping, secret -sharing, or joke-telling as with the first man.  But still the full-on-embrace of a real hug.

I don’t mind, actually.  I was perfectly happy to hug both of these men, and not because I find them attractive.  I like hugging, and they both have the kind of personalities that made it clear they would be real huggers — not the kind of people who give those anemic, may-as-well-just-wave-at-each-other air hugs.  And, too, I like them, feel comfortable with them, feel I can trust them.

But it’s not just these men.  Students, co-workers, a creepy program director at my old job …

And that’s the problem.  I’m glad the people I want to hug want to hug me, but I will be honest and say that I definitely don’t want to hug everyone.  This isn’t as silly a problem as it may sound.  It wasn’t at all amusing at my old job when that program director would come looking for me and ask if he could give me a hug.  It was something other than silly when a man I hired (same job) began to hug and kiss me at the start of each work day, against my explicitly expressed wishes.

My friend Grace once told me the rampant embracing was my own fault because I am “huggable.”  Am I?  I don’t know, but the evidence would seem to support Grace’s assessment.  It makes sense, of course.  I have a cushy body.  Who wouldn’t like to lean for a moment into something as warm, soft and giving as this body?¹  Still, “this body” is my body, and sometimes it’s just really strange to have people touching me.  I’m not sure I want to lose my “huggableness” entirely, but I do wish I could learn a way to turn it off at will.


I didn’t want to sully my “Affirmations” post with negative talk and bad poetry, hence the second post in a night.

If the speech I wrote about was one of the high points of my day, one of the low points was the strange, corporate trainer-man who did some training/motivational speaking to open the day.  The fact that he swore within three minutes of starting his “act” turned me right off.  Not because I’m so delicate and prudish, but because it really showed his lack of understanding (and lack of caring enough to take the time to understand) who his audience was and that we weren’t the kind of group that needed him to curse at us to get his point across.  He turned me off enough that I wrote today’s poem about him.

Behind my heart, my brain races in
reminding: “You have to listen
to the words he says. Don’t react
to his annoying, brusque presence.”
And my heart knows that that makes sense.
but my heart’s slow, likes grace and tact.
This man’s words could have real value.
I need to try to take a cue —
ignore the feel of being smacked.

¹  Well, fortunately, there are plenty of people who have no desire to hug me.   Otherwise, I’d have to keep indoors.  Or hire a body guard!

8 thoughts on “I am huggable.

  1. Wow, your huggableness does sound like it could be a problem! What to do? Find a sweater that’s scratchy on the outside, and wear it on nonhuggy days? 😉

    I have heard that some black women have the same problem with people wanting to touch their hair… and pregnant women with people wanting to touch their belly.


    1. Been thinking about this some more, especially since I’ve now twice hugged people and seen them startle. In both cases, they’re men I don’t know well, but who hugged me the previous time we met. I often feel really confused about the protocol of hugging when it comes to repeat hugs. If we’ve hugged once before, do we hug again forever after? With some people it’s so obvious, but with others (like these two) there is awkwardness. When I hug someone and it seems like they weren’t expecting hugs, I feel so awful afterward, since I made a gesture of love and it might have been interpreted as forcing myself into another’s space.


      1. I often feel really confused about the protocol of hugging when it comes to repeat hugs. If we’ve hugged once before, do we hug again forever after?” I struggle with this all the time! There’s a Seinfeld episode that always comes back to me when I think of this (although he was dealing with kissing people on the cheek … another endless struggle for me). I screw up a fair amount — hugging people I probably shouldn’t hug, thinking someone is going to hug me and hugging them only to realize mid-embrace that they were totally notabout to hug me!


    2. I like the idea of the scratchy-on-the-outside sweater. I’ll have to think about that one … As for hair, oh so true. My whole life people have been asking to touch my hair. It drives me more than a little crazy.


  2. I have a hugging problem too. I am physically opposite of you, and people want to touch me for it. Hugging, patting my cheek, examining my hands… as though such a tiny person is a mystery, and might not have all the same working parts.

    I find it interesting to know that you ARE huggable, because when I was first getting to know you I imagined you as such – someone to give me a cup of tea when I was having a bad day, hug me and talk to me, and make me feel all better.


    1. I love that we are such physical opposites, and yet people respond to our physical selves in the same way. Interesting. I also love that you assumed I was huggable without even knowing me! And of course, you would be someone I’d be happy to hug!


  3. molly

    People should really leave each other’s bodies alone unless they have very clear signals of “okay”. And they should stand off and step back when somebody is clear that they have been misunderstood and really DON’T want to hug. That’s what I think. I also think it’s good to push people away when they have misunderstood. Kindly, if they deserve kindness.
    In Italy people do a lot of air kissing, more than in the States, but really don’t hug. People here do touch pregnant bellies, but the polite ones ask first, extending a hand questioningly: may I? It is a way to say hello to the not-yet-born, which I found very loving when I was pregnant if it was done delicately, and often with the sweetest kind of nostalgia by older women.
    I have an uncle who kisses us on the lips. This used to be the thing in my extended family, but it has luckily waned. My adult reaction to this is negative, and I usually dive into an avoidance hug, although I do recall my grandfather’s paper-dry lips as a precious memory.
    It’s never your “fault” if you seem to be available for a hug. It’s the other person’s fault for not being polite enough to ask first before they touch you.


    1. On facebook, my friend Karen told me about a strategy called giving someone back their hands: “When they approach, arms in pre-hug position. Take the hands and gently press them to the chest of the would-be hugger, let go, and back it up with a gentle and firm explanation.” How cool is that? I’m definitely going to give it a try.


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