I ❤ McSweeney’s: Open Letter to People I Hardly Know But Who Hug Me Anyway

Hugs are hard. I’m on the fence about hugs. Don’t get me wrong, coming from the right hugger, a hug is a magical form of human interaction. We don’t really touch skin; we don’t necessarily exchange germs; but your tense, squeezing arm muscles across my shoulders and back feels good. If you’re doing it right. For a moment I can feel what it’s like to live in your space. That brief break in the atmosphere where your existence meets it. And then we crush it out and we exist together. That’s humanity, isn’t it? I like hugs from my dad–always too long, too tight, too public. He always does that grunt hum thing when he does it too. Like ‘mmmmeeeeeeemmmmm’ you know? And we kind of jostle back and forth. Like we’ve never danced before, but we imagine it’s something like this.

I got a new friend hug last Thursday from a massage therapist who has like, the strongest most capable hands known to man. She gave me a hug that was firm and longer than I expected but also like clearly saying to me, she’s someone who knows how to use her body. You know? I could feel the muscles in her arms that obviously strung down to her hands and I could just imagine how capable she would be working out the stress in my neck. It was the best advertisement for a massage therapist I can fathom.

But then there was a random hug on Saturday I wasn’t very fond of. Those hugs where people stick their arms out to their sides and kind of chest bump you and then think that really passes off as a hug, as a form of mutual acknowledgement and connection. I spent an entire day with a friend of a friend, cracking jokes and walking around and eating/drinking. He handed me my coat when I asked, he passed me a glass at the table, he held a door open for me. Cool, but we’re not bffs. But then when he departed the group, he leaned in for a hug, stuck his arms out to his sides and got right up in front of me. What do you do? I chest bumped him with my boobs (how did that feel on his end? Like a nice squish?) and kinda patted his back and then moved away. That was a bit of human interaction I could have done without. Sometimes, if I am paying enough attention and there are bodies/space to use as avoidance tactics, I can miss the hug with plenty of time to spare. If I hug you it’s because like, your soul is shining through. Your soul has spoken to me. No, nothing that deep, but…it’s because I believe you’re perfectly capable of using your body for good and we can share in that. But I’ll still probably pat you on the back as you’re squeezing mine. pat-pat-pat, makes the seconds tick by quicker. I gotta do something to throw some rhythm in there. Break up the silence. I wouldn’t qualify myself as a hugger, that’s all.


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