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I’m Not a Hugger

Friends and adult family members will corroborate the above assertion. I’m not a huggy person. I’m not a touchy person. It sort of bothers me.

I do hug my kids, though. As much and as often as they will let me. Little Girl makes it easy for me. She is the hugging-est kid I have ever met. She greets me with hugs and kisses when she wakes up. If I leave the house for more than five minutes, she runs into my arms when I return, wrapping herself around me. If I am sad or angry, she rushes in to console me. It’s like living with a human sunlamp. The kid has so much warmth and love I get a tan — and a perpetual smile — whenever I am around her, and I’m not the only one. Big Girl gets about a million hugs every day from her sister. Her daddy, her grandma, her teachers, the stupid stuffed bear at her school are all recipients of Little Girl squeezes.

Big Girl takes after her Mommy to some extent. She’s not a natural hugger like the little one. She is much better at it than I am, but I still see her avoid hugs with other kids, and she’s doesn’t initiate hugs like the little one. It worries me. I don’t want her to be like me, and at the same time I wonder if I’m the cause of her hugging stinginess. Maybe she sees my hopefully imperceptible recoiling after being touched, and subconsciously follows suit? It can’t be because of a lack of affection. We certainly didn’t withhold hugs from Big Girl. From the time she was a few minutes old that kid was constantly in my arms or on my lap or her Daddy’s. And I can’t even explain how much love and hugging she got from the rest of her family including my mother.

Okay, so digressing again. Why don’t I hug? Good question. Could be the whole abuse thing. Or maybe I have sensory issues. Or maybe it’s because I went for about seven or eight years of my life — from five until 12 or 13 — without saying I loved anyone or wanting to be hugged or loved, so I lost some of the natural urge to hug. I know that losing my father completely messed me up. Because of that, I just stopped making emotional connections. For years I wouldn’t even tell someone I loved them much less show them I loved them.

It was so pronounced I can vividly remember the first time I said I loved someone after my dad died. My mom was standing in the kitchen making a salad. I walked up behind her, my heart beating really fast. She’s pretty tall — about six feet. I can see myself putting my arms around her, resting my head on the middle of her back, and saying I loved her. Those words unleashed years of tears. My mom turned around and asked me why I was crying. “Because I haven’t said that for so long,” I told her. And then she started crying, too.

Anyway, I’m not a hugger or a kisser, and it really bothers me and affects my life, too. Today, for example, I went to a client meeting. All the participants — at least four vice presidents, an editor-in-chief, a program director, a creative director — embraced each other when they met, giving kisses and pats on the back. Me, I only kissed the two people who leaned in first. I felt awkward and uncomfortable the rest of the day. Not because of the ones I kissed, but because of the ones I didn’t. I felt like a failure. A weirdo. A freak. And this plays out all the time. I have trouble giving kisses and hugs, and my anxiety and discomfort makes other people uncomfortable, I think. The ultimate cluster F. One of my worst self-fulfilling prophesies.

Natural as possible, right? How natural is a simple hug? A sweet kiss? Pretty natural. And yet I have trouble pulling either off with anyone except the two kids I grew inside myself, and my husband, who has helped me heal so much already. And even he gets the short end of the Karen kisses and hugs stick. I could go on and on about this topic but instead I’ll go kiss my sleeping girls and my sleeping husband…

3 Responses to “I’m Not a Hugger”

  1. Karen says:

    I am not a hugger either. The only people I feel comfortable hugging or kissing is my husband and my daughter, and I do so with both often. The only people that I can say “I love you” to without being uncomfortable is my husband and daughter too. I can’t even say it to my siblings or parents without feeling weird.
    And forget about people from non-US locals that have the custom of kissing on the cheek in greeting. That is so incredibly awkward, I feel sorry for the people who interact with me.

  2. kb says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one! Great blog, BTW. How did you find mine? (Thrilled that you did because I love finding new blogs to read!)

  3. susandelg says:

    The words “I love you” were not ones said in my house EVER. Period. I always felt awkward when I heard my friends exchange those simple 3 words with their families. The first I ever said those words to my parents was my wedding day. I was caught up in all the emotion and happiness, and the words just tumbled out. And hugs! Ugh, don’t get me started. Do you remember in junior high school meeting the cliches of girls who always greeted each other with a hug and a kiss? YUCK! It never seemed genuine to me, just an empty gesture.
    As an adult, I’m still stingy with my affections, but try to let my girl know how much she is loved and adored, through words and actions. My feeling is that it is better to demonstrate how I feel by being as good a friend/co-worker/parent/spouse/sibling/daughter as I can be, than by echoing hollow words that anyone can say.

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