I’ve been thinking a lot on the concept of Personal Space. That bubble of ionized air we cushion ourselves with in order to feel more secure. An invisible force field that expands and contracts around us, flowing with us, as required.
I suspect I have a larger personal space bubble than the average girl. It’s not that my life has been so traumatic I need the extra buffer, I’m just one of those people. When I spread my substantial wingspan and twist for effect, I expect you to be outside the perimeter, if not even farther! However, there are moments when I must let that shield down and allow another soul to enter my personal kingdom and embrace them. I’m not a total cold-hearted beatch.
Immediate family are always much easier to embrace. I love them. With my whole heart. And I would do anything for them. These souls enjoy the full range of intentional hugging. Sometimes, I hug because they need it and sometimes, though much less often, because I do.
Different hugs send different messages:
The Barrel Squeeze: I missed you!
The Waistline: I’m completely content to just be here with you in this moment.
The Strong Arm Wrap: I’m here for you. Lean on me.
The Crumple Into Your Chest: Be there for me, I’m vulnerable and need to feel safe.
The Clasping, Clutcher: Thank god you’re alive!
The Cradling, Rocker: You’re my baby and I love you as big as the universe.
The Spoon and Lean: I just love you with everything I have.
The Quick Squeeze: I love you and have the best day!
The Sneak Attack: I saw you there and had to touch you.
There are lots of times when an embrace is made out of expectation too. Family get togethers, funerals, weddings. Those obligatory aunt and uncle hugs. In my family, those are the ones you squirm to get away from or out of, simply to stop being overwhelmed by the smell of scotch and expensive perfume that seems to be seeping from their pores. For some reason, all the grown ups in my childhood smelled like scotch and water. Hmm.
Hugging is an emotional, often social, reaction…that’s just not something I’m great with. So, I’ve developed a bit of a system to maintain niceties, but also to maintain my personal space.
When I groomed myself for success in the corporate world, being a people-person was a character trait I identified that needed improvement. In the process, I unintentionally did a great job fooling everyone into thinking that a) I’m an extrovert, b) I’m always happy to see you and c) I give a shit about what’s happening in your life even though I barely know you and I’m super busy right now.
For some unknown reason, this has mislead a lot of acquaintances to think I want a hug when we run into each other randomly. How they got that idea is one of the great unsolved mysteries.
The hugs you don’t want to give but feel obligated to give. Ugh. Those are the hard ones. Ensuring you put enough enthusiasm into it to not hurt someone’s feelings, but reserved enough to make me happy too. A delicate balance. Random encounters with acquaintances can be classified into three hug categories:
The Back Clapper:
Loose armed, space between bodies, (the actual physical closeness will vary depending on the other person’s sense or lack of personal space), arms gently clapping the other person on the back. The more I genuinely like the person, the longer I will clap their back.
Translation: It’s nice to see you and I’m sorry this hug is so awkward. It’s social etiquette, not my personal preference. But it is nice to see you.
The Arms Reach:
A lean toward the person, possible cheek press if they’re going for a more intimate embrace, forced smile and brief!
Translation: Hmm. I could have done without running into you.
The Gentle Shoulder Lean:
This one is reserved for persons of the opposite sex who are not my husband. It intends to convey a platonic sympathy. Period. I only use this at funerals and weddings.
And finally, I count my friends on one hand. For those select few, I do have a couple of other hugs I can pull out if the situation fits.
The Lean on Me:
A hug that cocoons with strong, warmth. Often, a stroking of the hair or back accompanies this one and the duration is longer.
Translation: I’m sorry you’re going through this and I would take the pain for you if I could, but I’m here for you. Apparently, this is the best hug I give.
Arms flailing, hips wiggling, legs jumping. This one is often done in tandem with another person and the mutual jumping makes the embrace part physically awkward, though emotionally very uplifting.
Translation: It is SOOO GREAT to see you!
Alternate translation: You lucky sonofabitch, I just got the best, most exciting news EVER! (My husband has received this type of hug once or twice)
I think embracing is an art. I’m certainly no Michelangelo, but in my disjointed way, I am a Picasso!
Are you a hugger? What’s your favourite type of hug to give or receive?