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Hugs are Evil.

September 30, 2013

I’ll tolerate them. If we’re talking family members (although most of mine aren’t huggers–the root of the disorder?) or really, really good friends, I will sally forth with the second or two in which I thrust a shoulder into an armpit and give a couple awkward pats on the back before bouncing sharply back into my personal bubble like a bobo doll subjected to a particularly wrathful “therapy” session.

But I will not like it. If I were to discard majority American societal conventions and go for my absolute preference, I’d greet people, intimate and strangers alike, with either a short bow or a Vulcan salute. Anything that involved no exchange of dead skin cells.

Alas, I’m an American, goldurnit, and ’round these parts, we greet people we don’t know with a handshake! I am, at least, marginally okay with this, though. Yes, there is still enough contact that I’m left to wonder things like, “Does this fellow wash his hands when he uses the bathroom? For that matter, does he even use toilet paper? If not, does he still wipe?!?” and stare in horror at my hand, imagining I can now see the ickies (yes, I did just verb an adjective–so report me to the Modern Language Association) cavorting thereabouts.

But it is the one time where I thank instead of curse the genetic sleight of hand (har-de-har) that made me a lefty. If food or drink is to be consumed within a short enough time of the handshake that a trip to the bathroom would seem suspicious, I can shunt the offending appendage out of sight whilst my left hand takes care of the business of making me look truly socially unacceptable by showing off eating habits that appear to have been instilled by a pack of feral wolf hounds.

Alas, the hug seems to be gaining social acceptance as a means of greeting EVERYONE. Especially women. I’ve yet to have this happen during a business interaction of any form, thankfully, but I’ve had to do the awkward magic trick of trying to turn a hug into a handshake on several occasions in which I was meeting, FOR THE FIRST TIME, people who were only in the same space as I was because of a mutual ACQUAINTANCE.

And before anyone reminds me that caps are the inter-webz equivalent of SCREAMING IN SOMEONE’S FACE, I’ll remind them pre-emptively that there are sometimes things worth yelling from a (virtual) soapbox. Because seriously, why is it suddenly okay to inflict yourself on a total stranger?

Maybe it’s the possible Asperger’s. I can’t even have tags or certain types of clothing touching my body, so being touched by something with a larger surface area and greater overall pressure really sends my neurons firing in all directions with no regard for friendly fire.

Or it could be an over(under?)developed lizard-brain. Maybe my hindbrain sees an incoming hug and overreacts, automatically overriding millennia of intervening group-mentality conditioning to see the hugger as, like, some kind of saber-tooth tiger hellbent on jumping me and clawing me into submission before eating me for dinner.

Either way, I realize my “ohmyfuckinggodI’mbeingSMOTHERED” reaction to a hug makes me a wee bit abnormal. But even if I don’t fully agree with Slate’s overreacting read of the greeting as being an oppressive imposition, a way of showing just who the hell is in charge here, I do think there’s something to the notion that a hug isn’t always a sign of intimacy, of compassion, of recognizing a fundamental human need to be touched (of course, if it’s so fundamental, does that actually make me a Vulcan?). After all, as hinted (okay, screamed) in the above paragraph about acquaintances of acquaintances, why exactly would one feel the need to demonstrate an intimate connection with a total stranger?

So maybe there are power dynamics at work (a possible explanation for why hugs make me feel like I’m being attacked), or maybe it is a simple situation of social awkwardness resulting in the hugger doing the first thing that comes to mind. Either way, as Slate shows, I am not alone in my aversion, and as this blog post demonstrates, I might read too much into and avoid the fuck out of you forever just in case you are as creepy as I’ve paranoidly made you out to be.

So my (non-)apologies for any confusion you may experience when you greet me. Unless you’ve read this, in which case you’ll know that “Peace and long life” is a perfectly fine response to “Live long and prosper.”


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  1. Actually, you’d be surprised how many people feel this way. I don’t like being touched by most people in general, leave alone hugged. I think some of it stems from an abusive childhood, and the rest stems from just plain not liking people in my personal space unless I really, really know them. I’m not the touchy-feely type at all. This is probably why people end up wounded when they sneak up on me and are all hands.

    • Oh, yes, I’ve inflicted the gut-reaction elbow to the solar plexus a few times myself! With that, it doesn’t help that I hate being surprised, and if the surprise includes any kind of groping…well, let’s just say you might join the ranks of the childless, although it might not be by choice.

      • I wholeheartedly concur. I get told I’m violent when I react, but some people have no boundaries whatsoever. I have no problem taking care of a guy’s family planning for him if he’s going to grab me like I’m at a strip club. I don’t like that behavior, mentality, or attitude. Where the hell are all the good men?!

      • The truly saddening fact is that strip clubs have rules about touching the employees…you try it, you’re out on your ass. Which now makes me think there’s a troubling dynamic afoot–as long as there’s no nudity involved, apparently touching is okay, but at least with nudity, the dude gets to look at the goods. Either way, something’s getting sacrificed for the sake of appeasing the almighty male sex drive, a line of inquiry I hope is resulting more from me being hopped up on pain meds from my bum foot than from another example of the patriarchy still being alive and kicking. But with hugging as sole form of unwelcome physical intrustion, at least I can console myself that, in my own personal experience, women have been worse perpetrators by number than men have, so hopefully I can just keep nodding, smiling, and popping ibuprofen/acetaminophen cocktails.

  2. Yeah, I’m not much of a hugger either, especially when I first meet someone. I think I have some sensory processing issues — tags in clothes bother me, food textures, the list goes on and on.

    • Sensory processing issues are the worst. I always have a hell of a time explaining to people that the reason I don’t like bread is because to me, it has the texture of what I imagine a wet sponge’s would be. But they get all hung up on the not liking bread part, and it doesn’t matter what I say, because I’m clearly some kind of freak. I hear you on the tags, too. If there’s an ill-placed or otherwise noticeable tag in any of the garments touching my skin, I will not be able to stop scratching furiously at the afflicted area all day. This is also why I can’t wear clothes with zippers–metal on my skin is a giant no-no.

      So no worries. If I ever meet you in person, I’ll stick out my hand for a shake and will be totally not offended if you decline.

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