What would I include among the best experiences of life? Hugging would have to be right up there. I mean a real hug, not one of the reasonable facsimiles that have come my way. In fact, there’s nothing reasonable about a true hug. The mind stops chattering. I stop. I get to “be with” another human being.
I remember long ago being hugged by Hal, a fellow participant in a leadership course I was taking. Hal hugged hard. He squeezed the air out of me and held on. It was just about an act of violence, rather than the touch of love I always yearn for. The vice grip was like a closed fist, not an open hand. I didn’t think much of hugging that day.
Then there are the quickies, where the other person pounds my back rhythmically. Percussive seems like an apt word. It’s like the tenderness is only there for a millisecond and then withdrawn. And it hurts to see it go, over and over again. Then the contact is gone, leaving both of us anxious, and at least me sad.
Some folks are so tight when they hug, it’s as if they’re wearing armour. Some of them seem to twist their bodies to avoid full-on contact. Some practice long distance hugging, where it’s just our arms touching. None of these ways meet my need for intimacy.
And a bona fide hug is intimate. Although I’ve often felt sexual urges while hugging, the touch provides an opening beyond that, into a sense of union with the other, into a realm where we merge, rendering the skin barrier meaningless.
The hugs that Jody and I share are quiet ones, just holding, letting our loves mingle and caress. Nothing to be added. Just here and just now. Jodiette and me.
Once I hugged a woman named Gayle for over two minutes, feeling the same sort of interweaving that Jody and I experience. With Gayle, neither one of us wanted to end the hug, so we didn’t, for the longest time. We weren’t needy. Rather, it seemed like a mutual expression of abundance.
Rosie is a woman who decided to hug anyone who would accept the offer. Here’s a snippet from her story:
The best hug so far came when Rosie approached an elderly man. “He just looked so sad. I went up to him and asked if he needed a hug. For a split second, he looked bewildered and then his arms rose up and he actually gave me a mighty hug. As he pulled away from the embrace, I could see his eyes welling up in tears. He told me, ‘I’m 92 years old and I haven’t had a hug since my wife passed, 30 years ago. You have no idea how much this has meant to me.’”
And from a Tim Hortons coffee poster:
Not so much held as embraced