The Art of a Hug

hugs

Clench your fist, hard. Clench it and hold it until it is red and your palm is sweaty, your knuckles are white, your whole hand shaking; swallow that fist.

That is how anxiety feels to me.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately around people you might call huggers; huggers are people who put their arms around you–sometimes your waist, sometimes shoulders; it varies by height. They put their arms around you and they try to squeeze some emotion out of you. It started about a week ago at a summer camp I’ve been working at.

The horde of potential huggers had been doing one activity or another. It ends, they all stand up.

“So, what are we doing now?” I ask the camp leader beside me.

“Hugs” she says.

“what?”

“Hugs, you know,” she hugs me, around the arms. I don’t move. “Hugs,” she repeats.

“Oh…”

“Don’t you like hugs?”

I shake my head. She frowns.

“Who doesn’t like hugs?”

I shrug, “me.”

“Well, that’s a stupid thing to be.”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

She hugs me again. She looks up at my face. “Jesus,” she says, “you’d think I were made of fire.”

“Not fire–just, discomfort. I just have–like, a bubble.” I use my hands to show her where my bubble begins. She pokes at it, rudely.

Then, she looks around at all the huggers; like a game of bumper cars, they move around the room, crashing into each other.

“Are you too manly for hugs?” she asks, suspicious.

I look at my feet. “No, I just don’t feel comfortable with hugging, it’s weird.”

“Who doesn’t like hugs!” she exclaims. Then looks around for allies. She finds them. A group of waist high-huggers.

“Hug him!” she demands, pointing at me. They do, stepping right through my bubble as though it were made of air.

I clench my fists, try to breathe. They begin to laugh; one audacious hugger even lets out an “aw.”

The other huggers take notice, they advance–a mob. My arms are pinned. Time takes a step outside of eternity, I can’t move; trapped. I wait with red fists.

Then finally, I am set free. My legs are the only things that held onto their wits; they take me quickly to the door. I step out into the sunlight; it is cold. Taking a breath, I look back in through the window. The game of bumper cars is still going on.

I watch the game slowly dissipate until it becomes nothing but salty cheeks and tired arms.

I step back inside. My heart is still cowering in my stomach, sitting on a fist, having a cigarette. I stand awkwardly on the outskirts. Everyone is mulling about, chatting.

Then, across the room, one of the smallest huggers spots me. He makes his way over, a sinister look in his eyes.

When he is close enough, he opens his arms.

“How are you?” he says.

“I–” I try, but he’s already put his arms around me. He doesn’t let go.

Without realizing it, I find myself patting him on the back.

 

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60 comments

  1. OMG sounds like a cult initation meeting, that I have obviously never attended (looks around, quickly scared if anyone is looking over my shoulder).
    I believe in respecting others personal space, hugs should come naturally no force. And thanks for the fun post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve actual been to a cult meeting before. Now that was weird haha. And yes I agree, my biggest pet peeve isn’t hugging actually, its people putting their arm around my neck like we’re buddies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yh Ikr, when they put their arms around you when you’ve only just met. I feel like you need to earn my trust and familiarity before that. (I say this but I think I do that a lot when I meet someone I like- kinda hypocritical)

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  2. I like this post. It’s not one of your usual entertaining firecrackers (although it is indeed entertaining). Neither is it one of your oh-so-shrewdly observed slices of life that has me smirking like an idiot throughout, and leaves a warm glow afterwards, although it is shrewdly observed.
    But it goes deeper. It’s a tacit plea for individual differences to be respected. It could even be read as a political statement, a critique of where liberal values have been pressed on to people who are not ready to accept them fully, leading to the mess of Trump, Brexit etc. And, as always, you poke fun at yourself and say “Well, I can change…”
    Good stuff, Flash!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love reading your impression on my stories. I really try not to think of my stories as having one interpretation or another. I want them to mean to people whatever people take from them. But, you often say things about my them that I wish I knew how to say. Thank you.

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  3. I feel horrible for you. I could literally feel your anxiety at the situation and being hugged like that. It is so very disrespectful of others to go out of their way to make another feel like their own personal view and feelings do not matter. Shame on your fellow camp worker. She should have known better. Thank you for your sharing your story. I hope it makes a difference to bring awareness to the subject of respecting others and their wishes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha yeah, it happens. Sometimes it turns out to be not so bad. Like in this case it is meant to be rather silly and innocent. If it were a bunch of grown adults forcing their hugs on the character, that would be a different story entirely.

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  4. much more serious this time…well I read it the first time, at the moment …surely I need to read a second time these days. For the first impression,,well I feel bad and guilty…I love big hugs, to people who I love….the last two sentences look like a rape…well yes curioushart, you are right, a “no” must be accepted….so I think I´ve lost

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Are you being serious for a change? ‘Cos I hate hugs. When my sister comes down from Queensland she rings up beforehand and says, “I don’t care what you think but when I get there you better give me a hug. Or else.”
    Usually I answer by saying, “Or else you’ll go back to Queensland. I’d like to see that.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha well, hm, I am always somewhat serious in a way. I can’t focus on all of the different things I am feeling or thinking in situations. Often I pick one and shine a light on it to make a point. Especially since all of my stories are so short, I don’t want to go into all of the different things I may be thinking or feeling. I try to leave a lot to be filled in. For me, I really get uncomfortable being touched by strangers and uncomfortable around a lot of emotion. When people are being very emotional I get really uncomfortable. And when people I don’t know touch me, doubly so. But, this story isn’t about adults. If adults were trying to hug me, I would have been very annoyed and frustrated. But kids don’t have all of these emotional hang-ups. It wasn’t fair of the character to not be supportive of the kids because of their own anxieties and in the end a kid sees he is uncomfortable and wants to make him feel better in the only way the kid knows how, with a hug. So, there is a bit of a resigned empathy at the end. Basically it’s not just about hugging. As an adult, if I say no to another adult, that is important. But sometimes kids need a hug and we should give them a hug before they have to grow up and think they no longer need them–or worse, find hugs uncomfortable, like me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • hahaha…you are very hard paul! But maybe your sister is the same ( or has the same humor?)….otherwise she would not come and try, or? But if you really feel incomoded, you have to tell her, that she should leave you alone. Some people can be very tenacious, if they want something!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Huggers. Give them a tree and leave me alone. This story really resonated with us non-huggers. I have developed a backward, side step “I forgot to do something” manoeuvre to avoid these moments but your horde of huggers is the stuff of nightmares. No where to run!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on How I Learned to Dance in The Rain and commented:
    I’m also a sufferer of anxiety – PTSD – and can relate to these emotions well. I know a lot of people who are “non-huggers,” many have Asperger’s Disorder and, for them, touching will stimulate them and drive them crazy. I believe that sensitivity to where people are, especially children, is crucial. You destroy their sense of self, their souls when you violate their boundaries.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I reblogged your post as this brought back memories for not just me, as I have PTSD and can relate to this, but of my son, who has Aspberger’s Disorder. You invaded his space and he bit you. Touching him and he’d go crazy. He was non-verbal and he could not communicate his emotions to anyone. He was in massive therapy to be able to tell you to “back off.” Oh, how I remember those days clearly.

    By the way, because of those massive supports, he’s now a fully functioning, Private First Class Marine stationed in California in service to his country. You’d never know he had Aspberger’s Disorder. But, he still withdraws when he needs his space. You talking about this is a great thing.

    Thank you for following MY blog. I most certainly appreciate it. We can help each other grow as writers. I’m working on writing daily as well. We’ll see if I can make it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much for sharing. I am glad that something I wrong could be so relatable and impactful. I’m sure you are very proud of your son. I hope to connect further in the future.

      Like

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