I am 25 years old, and I am not a hugger.
I can't remember really being a hugger, except superficially. For years, I endured social gatherings filled with hugs and physical contact. I pretended to enjoy them so I wouldn’t seem strange. But I was lying.
You huggers typically struggle to understand me and my non-hugging comrades. It's kind of like trying to explain life as an introvert to an extrovert, or life as a woman to a man.
But I am a non-hugger, and that is perfectly OK. Did you read that, huggers?
Here's what goes through the mind of a non-hugger when she walks into a room and finds herself surrounded by six people wanting to hug her: "OHMIGOD OHMIGOD WHAT DO I DO? START COUGHING? DASH TO THE BATHROOM? SPILL WINE ALL OVER MYSELF? NO NO NO PLEASE DON'T TOUCH ME, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE.
From here, a non-hugger really has only two choices:
1) Find a happy place and hide in it while you endure hug after hug after hug.
2) Try to explain that you're really not a hugger.
Honestly, option #2 may actually be the most uncomfortable at times. When a non-hugger tries to explain that he or she is not a hugger to a group of huggers, the response will invariably be, "Oh, come on! Please? What, do you not like me? Do I smell bad? Come on, it's just a hug!"
1) Don't patronize me.
2) Thank you for remembering your manners, but the answer is still no.
3) How on Earth is it logical to say that my preference to maintain a personal bubble implies a dislike for you? Although I may start to dislike you if you continue pressuring me for a hug.
4) Maybe. Do you use Axe body spray instead of showering? Then yes.
5) Yes, it is "just a hug." And hugs are not enjoyable for me. Saying that it's "just a hug" is no more effective at dissipating my anxiety associated with hugs than telling a 5-year-old that it will "just hurt a little" dissipates the pain of cleaning an open wound. It sucks. Telling me that it's "just a hug" is a little insulting to my intelligence. I am aware that it is a hug. That doesn't mean I like it.
In an age where we talk about bodily autonomy and rape culture, shouldn’t we be respecting someone’s wishes not to be touched? I’m not trying to imply that persistent huggers are on the same level as rapists, but we should all respect other people’s bodily autonomy, no matter what the request.
Huggers, please consider this the next time somebody kindly declines a hug. You never know what kind of sensory processing disorder they may have, or what kind of trauma they may be recovering from, or even just a simple preference to maintain some physical distance.
You don’t need to know why they are declining your physical gesture; all you need to know is that they don’t want a hug.
My preference to keep my distance doesn't mean that I never like hugs. I just try not to be promiscuous with my hugs. My hugs are reserved for when they are needed.
For example, if a friend is crying over the loss of a parent or sibling, that is a time when a hug may be needed. If we are very close friends and I haven't seen you in a couple months, a hug may be warranted, or at least tolerated. If you are my sister or boyfriend, I'm probably going to hug you when I see you.
But if we were sorta-kinda friends in high school or I know your boyfriend's sister and run into you at the grocery store, I do NOT want a hug. That does not mean I don't like you. It means I am cautious hugs and don't think they should be given to just anybody.
Even if I would hug you in a one-on-one situation, that doesn't mean I will hug you when we are surrounded by people. If I give out one hug, I've suddenly opened Pandora's Box.
People somehow think it’s OK to hug someone who has been seen hugging. So, for those of us who get anxious when a bunch of people touch us, it's better to avoid such physical contact altogether.
It doesn't mean we're unhappy. It doesn't mean we don't want to be there. It doesn't mean we don't care about you. It just means we prefer to show affection in other ways.
What can you, the huggers of the world, do to be considerate? Well, you can first realize that there isn't anything wrong with being a non-hugger. You have your preferences. We have ours.
We compromise a lot with our anxiety with physical contact. People squeeze together on elevators and airplanes. We deal with the people that I call “tacklers,” the ones who don't stop to think that maybe we don't want a hug and throw their bodies on ours without any kind of consent.
We tolerate hugs from the persistent huggers rather than argue any longer. We even give them out if the other person seems to need it. So try to compromise a little bit with us.
You have all your hugging friends to hug. Go hug your friends who like hugs! If you really want to hug a non-hugger, ask first. If the person seems reluctant, please be respectful.
We get tackled a lot.