Take Me in Your Arms

It’s OK to Hug Me…

…when you are a puppy.
…when I am drunk. Not tipsy– good and drunk.
…when I say, “I could really use a hug from someone who smells the way a donut shop smells in the early morning” and you happen to be wearing your new scent, Eau de Early-Morning Patisserie.

A donut is basically a food hug.

A donut is basically a food hug.

It’s Not OK to Hug Me…

…when I’m angry.
…when I’m hungry. (Those two are usually the same thing for me.)
…when you are a boa constrictor.
…every other time.

Often, when I tell an affectionate person I’m not into hugs, they react like I’ve said I plan to strap a funnel to my head and spend the rest of my life pretending to be a unicorn.

“I don’t… I don’t understand,” they say. “Why? What sad childhood trauma made you into the aloof, coldhearted freak you are today?” (People can be cruel.)

Sometimes I mutter an excuse about having forgotten my deodorant, but normally I look guiltily at my feet and whisper, “Um… I just don’t like them. I’m so sorry. I don’t know why.”

But that’s a lie.

I know exactly why. I simply have too many reasons.

Hugs Make Me Question Nature vs. Nurture

1) I am Scottish, German, and Norwegian. My ancestors were not known for their hugging, so much as their ability to cook a haggis, shout orders, and pillage things. Genetically, I am not inclined towards the saccharine display of affection that is putting my arms around another human.

2) Again, I am Scottish, German, and Norwegian. White people are awkward. We can’t help it.

3) It’s been pointed out to me that my family is a little reserved. This isn’t to say we aren’t affectionate– I once hit my brother in the head with a shovel PURELY OUT OF LOVE.

Hugs Are Physically Unpleasant

4) There’s no comfortable way to hug because there’s no universal method. When you hug a new person, you have to figure out where to put your arms, and you have to do it in less than a second. Do you go above their arms? Under? Both, like you’re a human sash?

Aw. They love each other.

Is this a hug?

5) Even if you manage to decide where to put your arms with minimal levels of awkward, a rogue accessory can throw everything off. I once hugged a guy wearing a backpack, and decided to go in low. Did you know most people keep their butts directly under their backpacks? IT’S TRUE!

6) Once you get your arms situated, how close should your bodies be? Does it vary based on your relationship with the person? Should you get all up in their grill, or should you sort of bend forward at the waist to keep touching to a minimum and leave room for Jesus?

7) Sometimes when I hug someone, my ear gets briefly gets hooked on the other person’s ear. Horror ensues.

8) Many people don’t hug because they’re self-conscious about their bodies. I don’t really care how I feel to someone else– they initiated the hug, so if my body comes with any surprising shapes or scents, they asked for it– but now I’m self-conscious about other people being self-conscious about themselves.

Hugs Are Mentally Unpleasant

9) Hugs are a strange way to express affection. You don’t have to touch me to tell me you’re fond of me. You can shake my hand. You can salute me. You can say, “Gee, I think you’re swell.” If you must get physical, I think supportive, workplace-appropriate elbow-cupping is something we can all get behind.

10) Even when I make my opposition abundantly clear, people think I’m joking. I can look someone dead in the eye and say, “Please do not hug me” and it’s like my mouth is saying no, but my eyes are saying yes. I should have complete control over my personal space. Them’s the rules. When you hug me without permission, you violate my space and assume I’m going to like it. I do not like it. I do not. STOP TOUCHING ME.

11) Part of me feels like people insist on hugging me because of my stature. I recognize the impulse to want to hug small things with big eyes, but I am not one of those things. I am a human with boundaries, and I have hit someone with a shovel.

Sublist: Other Small Things You Should Not Hug, Even If You Think They’re Cute

– Koalas
– Hedgehogs
– Poison Dart Frogs
– Pikachus

He's warning you away-- that's not an invitation into his arms.

Ignore the invitation into his arms.

12) Last year, a bedbug presentation by the Orkin Man really messed me up.

Hugs Are Emotionally Unpleasant

13) I spent my teen years agonizing over certain hugs. I still wake up in a cold sweat remembering the hug my high school Spanish partner, Pepe, gave me before he walked out of my life forever.

14) People get really offended when you don’t want to hug them. Clearly if I can get over my hangups to hug someone, it means a lot. Hugs are a way to tell the people I care deeply about that I accept them, and will protect them, and feel connected to them. They’re pretty powerful. I’m not going to waste that on some lady I met on a bus tour while I was on vacation. I don’t know you, lady. Leave me alone.

15) When I tell a really passionate hugger all these things, it’s almost like I’ve presented them with a challenge: they can heal me with their loving embrace.

I have terrible news, though. You cannot change me with your love. You cannot hug the hatred out of me. You will only make me angrier. One of these days, you’re gonna hug me and I’m gonna hug you right back. With a shiv.


  1. strokevictor

    You are my hero. Not about hugs.. although being british/scandanavian I can relate. Especially since I married into an Italian family. Geez, they hug to celebrate your return from the bathroom. You are my “learn to blog damnit” hero. I want to get more humor into my writings so that people are more inclined to read the rest of the drivel… keep up the good work… Big Hugs!

  2. angelajardine

    Apologies for spelling mistake in last comment … we can’t edit comments once posted, can we?

    I’m a newb … (I suppose I’m lucky some spellchecker didn’t change that to ’newt’).

  3. breezyk

    I also hate hugs.. I did not grow up in a hugging family and now when someone tries to give me one I recoil like they themselves are funnel-wearing unicorns

  4. gabrielgarbowota

    I used to find hugs revolting, but I just stopped thinking about them as meaningful in any way, and now I’m fine. I’ve become the master of jaunty, but emotionless hugging.

    It’s good for the world to hear about people who don’t want to hug, though. You’ve done a real service with this post.

  5. luciustheninja

    Ugh the whole saying no means yes thing is totally true. I hate being tickled and I tell people not to, but they think that means they should. Not my fault if you get punched by my uncontrollable limbs buddy

  6. doberhauser

    I came from an extraordinarily huggy family, and I only realized a few years ago that some people just don’t like to hug. It makes sense to me, though I hadn’t considered it before.

    The need for personal space and boundaries rings loud and clear to me, so I just try to make myself known as a hugger, and let people come in if they choose.

    Also, I don’t understand people who are offended when they discover you don’t like hugging. That’s strange.

  7. shenanitim

    You forgot one important aspect: Hugs are unnatural. Without hugs, I never would’ve known a human can survive with a snapped neck. But, sure as rain on a Sunday morning, every time my father’s wife traps me in a corner and moves in for a hug, my head whips itself into some inhuman position as physically far from her as possible, while still being attached to my torso. That’s the Exorcist-power of hugs.

    Also the “ambush hug.” Where one emotionally wrecked co-worker, whom you’ve refused to hug before, grabs you from behind and hugs your back. Desperation hugs, where the hugger doesn’t even care anymore, the equivalent of a junkie robbing their own mother.

  8. Jorie

    Bahahaha. I am British, German, and Norwegian, and I come from a family of non-huggers. I getcha girl. To me, there is a hugging hierarchy.

    On the top tier is my immediate family and my boyfriend. I’ll freely hug them (not every time I see them, good lord, no!) but you know, at momentous occasions. Like family parties or after returning home from six months studying abroad, etc.

    The second tier are my closest friends. They do not get a hug unless it’s really momentous, or we’re hammered. In high school, my girl friends started doing this thing where they’d hug every. single. person. in the room or at a party when they were about to leave. So I’d dart to the door, give a crisp wave, and duck out.

    Then, it became popular to do the kiss on the cheek as a greeting, whilst clasped in a hug, which only served to heighten my hugging anxiety. I would make the air kiss noise out of politeness after they did…but C’MON PEOPLE. This isn’t 1950s France. Do we need to air kiss at this Outback Steakhouse?!

    The third tier is everyone else in the entire world, including co-workers. I do not want to hug you. I barely want to shake your hand. Just a friendly wave.

  9. brokenbelladonna

    You know how in movies some women lift a foot up in there air and hold it at a 90 degree angle to their body when they hug? I do this. I don’t do it on purpose, it just happens, and it’s weird.

    I come from a family of DON’T-TOUCH-PEOPLE-MIGHT-THINK-WE-ACTUALLY-LIKE-EACH-OTHER, English based people.

  10. sarahbux

    this was beautiful. absolutely beautiful. may i add the unpleasant experience of hugging lines? as if bracing yourself for one hug isn’t difficult enough, every person at the party lines up to hug you at the door! and if you happen to be comfortable hugging one person (by some strange chance) there is that automatic expectation from the five people behind him that you will also enjoy hugging them… *sigh*

  11. piracetam

    This is a really good point that you are making here. It might not be offensive to receive a letter with kyss og klem in it from someone who was learning Norwegian who was also from a culture where it is more common to use expressions such as “kiss & hug,” but I’m guessing that you probably wouldn’t respond in kind. As a Norwegian-American male I usually let my norsk venninne (Norwegian female friends) determine what expression is appropriate to use for concluding our correspondence. I recall a few times when I have used vennlig hilsen, but was then very pleasantly surprised when klem fra was used in the reply that I received.

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  13. hollybernabe

    I used to be a hug hater. Ugh. Talk about awkward. Made for very strange social situations. But I think I started liking them more about 15 years ago or so when a guy at work who was famous for his hugs (he gave them out freely to anybody that wanted one) gave me one when I was having a bad day. I figured, “why not. my day can’t be any worse.” It was magical. It’s like I had a hug awakening. Dude could hug you in this warm embrace that felt so…comforting and safe. Since then, I do hug people, but it can still be really awkward at times.

  14. saradraws

    My stepson is now at the age where his head hits me directly in the boobs if I hug him. So, I have two options: crouch-hug or fist pound.
    I don’t care much for crouching, so the kid and I “pound”. Not only is it cooler, but I am saving him thousands of dollars at therapy trying to explain why he fetishizes other people’s much-older-than-him wives.

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  16. NightOwl

    Totally with you on the hugging. Once had a hug forced upon me by a lady wearing enormous earrings. She squeezed me so hard against her face/ear, my cheek got a giant scratch across it and she pretended not to notice the blood beading across my face. Seriously. All I could think was, ‘What did I do to deserve this?! I just met you ten minutes ago and I didn’t want to hug you then either!’
    …the shiv suggestion is a good one ;)

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  18. Marissa Q

    I think this post may be your best work to date.

    “Part of me feels like people insist on hugging me because of my stature. I recognize the impulse to want to hug small things with big eyes, but I am not one of those things.”

    As a fellow small thing with big eyes, I have to say you nailed it! I laughed until there were tears in my eyes. Thanks for this.

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  21. anamateurlife

    And there I was thinking I was the only one. I am exactly the same. It’s just so awkward and cringey. My Mum recently asked why I don’t like any type of physical affection, my reply was that if you like someone you can just smile at them, there’s no need for touching…

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  23. carbonkitten

    Yeah, I get a little creeped by hugs from people I have not emotionally bonded with, but I can usually endure them. But every so often, some of those experiences are so unpleasant they’re painfully seared into my memory. Like the time my elementary school principal hugged me, and when she let me go, I had a 4″x 3″ streak of cake makeup on my shoulder, with bits of it on my ear. Or all the times when I was little that older women would hug me, and my head would land smack dab in their bosoms. (Is it any wonder I hate those things now?) *shudder*

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