Monday, May 03, 2010

The Hug Factor

In the early months of marriage I came back from grocery shopping and brought all the grocery bags into the kitchen and commenced to put them away in the appropriate cupboards. About 3 bags into this, Lee came in and started helping me. He put the cereal on top of the fridge, put the vanilla in the cup cupboard, cheese in the vegetable drawer, and found a spot between the canned corn and beans for a bag of chocolate chips. I stopped him and showed him how we had a baking cupboard for baking items, a deli drawer for cheese, and a whole cabinet for cereal. He nodded and then commenced to put the mustard on the shelf (not the door) of the fridge and the powdered sugar on top of the fridge where the cereal had been moments earlier. This was my KITCHEN, MY space, with all of MY things and I went just a little psycho wife. I told him to stop helping me, that he was messing it all up and that I would rather do it myself than spend ten minutes trying to find my paprika when I next made deviled eggs. He put up his hands in surrender and said "Fine, I won't help."

At the time I thanked him for this since I didn't want his help. Well, fast forward 17 years and four kids--unloading groceries is MY job. I now get 18 bags minimum when I go grocery shopping. Like many things that started out organized, putting stuff away is now a dash to the finish because I'm usually late for something. A few years ago as I'm 20 minutes into unloading groceries while Lee is on the couch I asked him to help me. He eyed me carefully. "You WANT me to help put away groceries? Are you sure?"

And thus here I am facing another lesson of stating ones opinions too strongly, without having adequate basis for having formed that opinion. Which brings me to hugs.

I will attempt to say the rest of this as non-creepy as possible. It won't be easy.

A couple years ago there was a debate on LDStorymakers about hugs. I don't remember who brought it up or why but I pulled out my soap box and stated my opinion loudly and with fervor. I didn't like hugs. I didn't like feeling obligated to have such a physical exchange. It made me uncomfortable, I worried there was a sexual connotation to it with certain men, and seemed insincere when everyone just hugs everyone for any reason. I waited for people to line up behind me agreeing with my stance "non-huggers unite!" A few people admitted that they could take hugs or leave them, others said some people overdid it, but none of them were as anti-hug as I was. I've no doubt I came across as rather neurotic and it got me wondering about that very thing. What was so difficult about a  hug? Why was it hard for me?

Ah, the romantic notion of going back in time and burning that soap box.

Following this debate some people from LDStorymakers no longer hugged me when we got together--well, except Julie Wright because she didn't buy my defense. There were a few times when every other person is hugging and I'm shaking hands. They weren't being mean, and I knew this, they were simply respecting my loudy-stated wishes. But it felt weird. I hadn't realized certain benefits of hugging until I was getting less and less of it. The most awkward moment was after I'd been with someone, maybe for lunch and we're saying goodbye. It becomes a weight shifting "Well, okay, I'll see you later." That just feels weird. There were times I was REALLY glad to see someone, or REALLY grateful for something hey did and found myself unsure of how to show that. I missed the power of a hug and didn't know how to get it any other way. And it made me look at myself in regard to all kinds of affection which takes us to some deep seated emotional issues I'll keep off the blog :-)

Anyway, I stood by my pronouncement, and I hugged people but didn't seek it out and wondered if I was really screwed up. Then, last fall, Julie Wright and I went on the book tour. Now, if you've spent any time with Julie you know she is a bundle of energy and just makes people feel good. I've had the chance to spend lots of time with Julie over the last several years, but never this much time all at once. From the get-go I was well aware of my hug issues. People go out of their way to come to signings, do I hug them? Have they heard I don't hug? Will they be offended if I don't hug them? If I do hug them will they assume I'm being insincere? There were people I hugged automatically, without thinking about it at all, but someone else would have me wondering what I should do. Julie, of course, had none of these thoughts. She hugged everyone. I had a moment or two in the beginning of thinking, what if people don't like being hugged? She's forcing them to hug against their wishes!

But guess what. I didn't see one person flinch, pull away, or seem the least bit ill at ease. And Julie hugged hundreds people on that tour. Instead of flinching and teeth gritting, I saw people literally melt when Julie embraced them. At least two women literally held on to her and it made me wonder when the last time was that someone had hugged them. After she greeted people this way, things were different. Pretenses dropped, we heard people's stories, they opened up about who they were, what they struggled with, and they bought Julie's books like crazy. To summarize it, I saw all these people connect to her. I hugged too, but it was watching Julie and the people she embraced that changed something in the way I viewed a good ol' hug. There was power in it and because Julie sincerely cared about these people, the hugs weren't weird, no one was uncomfortable and good things happened. Was my problem that I didn't care about people? No. Was I being arrogant or germ-o-phobic? No, I just didn't know how to do it very well. So, I started practicing and hugging in the right situation. Instead of telling myself my personal space was being invaded I just enjoyed the closeness (I know, quickly descending into creepy. I'm done)

At the LDStorymakers conference last week L.T. Elliot came up to me--for the record, she is one of the best huggers around, you know she's absolutely sincere in her regard and I swear she transfers energy through some cosmic force. She said "I know you're not a hugger, but..." And I felt so embarrassed. Not because she'd said it, but because I had told the world that I didn't want or need such basic affection. I made her give me a hug and told her I was converted. She laughed and said she was glad and she went on her way. The thing is, I don't remember telling her I wasn't a hugger. I don't know where she got it. Granted, I might have told her, but what if I didn't and it was just one of those things that spread. It could be a conspiracy that's might be all my fault!

So, now I find myself in a very weird position. I told people I didn't like hugs, I avoided them, and now I find that, like Julie said, people need to be touched in ways like that. People like me need it, even if we felt sure we didn't. And yet, hugging still doesn't come naturally for me. I way overthink it, worry that people won't want me to hug them, worry that they know I've stated my dislike and therefore won't know how to accept it from me. Will they think I'm faking it? Will they they pull away? After people read this I'll worry that they think I hug them so that they'll buy my books.

But either way, here I am, raw with confession, squirmy in my seat for both having stated my original opinions and now going back on them. I don't think I'll ever be Julie, but I'm growing in this one part of my life, I guess. And growth is uncomfortable sometimes.


Cheri Chesley said...

I noticed one of your tags on this post is Josi's a moron. :) But you're not. I have serious hugging issues, too. Sometimes I'll get a hug and be like, "What is this person doing?" Even with my kids I'm very into my own personal space. I'll cuddle with them and hug them and love on them, but I'm done way before they are.

But, like you, I'm growing. It's a process and it takes time. I am well aware of the reasons I am not a "hugger." I have been dealing with serious control issues since my childhood, when control over my own life was taken from me over and over.

We just moved into a new ward last month. Yesterday a very effervescent, Julie-esque woman welcomed me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. To my credit, I did not completely freak out in the RS room. But it surprised me, and after a few minutes I made my peace with it. It may not be how I am, but it is how she is.

We're a work in progress, Josi. And morons don't grow, so you're making some progress :)

Annette Lyon said...

I'd totally forgotten about the hugs discussion--and your stance on them. I've probably hugged you lots of times w/out worrying about it.

And you can be sure that won't be stopping. :)

Happy Mom said...

I love that one of your labels is Josie's a moron! We're all morons in one way or another. This one is so minor in the eternal scheme of things, that it only serves to make the rest of us feel less lonely in our personal moronic tendencies!

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

You are so stinkin' funny and I love you! You know what else is funny? The night Sydney and I got to the conference and found you guys stuffing binders, Julie immediately gave me a hug and she gave Syd a hug and was darling. I walked around the table to see you and you gave me a hug! It felt great, because we see each other a lot and I wasn't sure if people who see each other a lot are supposed to do the hugging thing. How funny that I overthink it, too.

Anyhoo, you've totally made my day with this post. So glad I'm not the only one to wonder if this person or that person wants a hug...what to do when you go in for the hug and they totally pull back... Somehow Julie makes it work like crazy. I love her for it, too, because you know she's totally sincere.

For the record, I've never heard the thing about you not being a hugger. It hasn't spread to the WHOLE world yet. ;-)

So funny, Josi. You're awesome.

Martha said...

HA HA HA! I loved this post. Maybe because I am semi neurotic like you are. The whole time I am thinking the exact same thing as you are in my mind. Then I think back to meeting you to drop off that hugged me then. Hmm, did you do it because you thought you had to. I would have been just fine without it, but I did enjoy it. Then I thought on about how I was over analyzing it and just to forget the whole thing. I really would miss it if people stopped hugging, so I am not going to voice my opinion, but I am fine if someone doesn't. It just made my day and made me laugh.

Carolyn V. said...

AWWW! L.T. is awesome (and a great hugger). I, myself, have a hard time being a hugger. I'm still a novice at it. =)

Kristina P. said...

I am a hugger. Not a creepy, lingerer hugger, but I think it feels warm and personal.

I have met people that you can tell are not. I have leaned in for the hug, and then just did a pat on the back. Talk about awkward.

Susan said...

This is too funny because I had the chance to meet both you and Julie and Storymakers. I reached my hand out to meet Julie and she bypassed it going straight for the hug. I remember laughing awkwardly at that. You shook my hand. Guess what? They were both perfectly fine greetings.

Curtis Moser said...

If it makes you feel any better, I'm not a natural hugger either. My wife comes from a family of huggers (at least on her father's side) and I dread the beginning and ending of our visits there because of the prospect of hugging all of those people. I'm getting better, but it will probably always be awkward. I turn sideways and offer a half-hug, or the always popular butt-out hug. =)

Krista said...

Josi, I can relate a bit. My dad's family are NOT huggers. My mom's family is ripe with it. I took after my dad's side, in that I shied away from that expression, yet, I fiercely craved and loved the warmth and affection my mom's family "forced" on me after I came out from behind my parents' legs. I had friends in high school that hugged. I felt like I learned it, instead of it coming naturally. So, someone offers, I take it gladly. And sometimes I even offer my own. Sometimes it doesn't even cross my mind.
Even now, my dad's reunions are not huggy, and when my mom's family gets together, my kids run and squeal as my aunts chase them down for hugs and kisses. Everyone is different, and comes from different backgrounds. And most of us grow and learn for all different kinds of reasons and different paces.

Oh, and with our first child, I made the mistake of telling my husband that maybe he shouldn't change her diaper anymore (he went through about twenty wipes and then put the diaper on backwards). BIG MISTAKE.

SO, breathe, and understand that people like LT and Julie simply don't judge. If they think you look like you need a hug, or they want to offer you one, most likely, no matter what you've said in the past, you'll end up hugged, and you'll love it. And there are those who respect your desire for space.
And that's fine, too. People change. My husband was finally changing diapers again by the fourth child. ;p

LisAway said...

I am EXACTLY like you. Now I don't always hate it, but I pretty much never initiate it.

I just relate to your situation perfectly. Except for some of it. For example, sometimes I'm glad I'm not a published author. :)

Cindy Beck, author said...

Nice post, Josi. And you're not a moron! :)

Just look at a hug like this ... it's a way to say, "Hi,I'm glad to see you."

amberargyle said...

Ha Ha! I TOTALLY hugged you at Storymakers. Granted it was an arm around the shoulder, hip bump, and squeeze. But it counts.

BTW, it was a good hug. You're way overthinking it. If the feeling comes over you, you must hug.

Although, I'll admit I get a little wierd about it with guys that are friends (seein' as how I'm married and all). I don't want them to think I'm flirting, and I've put up big walls around myself so I don't even come close to crossing "those" lines.

But I hug girls. I hug 'em lots.


Stephanie Black said...

I come from a family that isn't very huggy. We might hug each other when first getting together after a long time apart, and then when leaving, but that's it. When my sister-in-law first married into the family, it took her a while to adjust since she came from a family that, as my brother put it, hugged each other if they were just separating to go to the bathroom. A lot of hug-comfort-level is just what you're used to.

I'm fine with hugging and I'm fine with not hugging.

And like Annette, I didn't even remember you'd said you were anti-hug, so no worries :)

Marion Jensen said...

Ha! I remember that discussion. I was pretty new and didn't really remember names and faces. I knew there were a few people in the Storymakers that didn't like hugs, so I played it safe and didn't initiate any hugs.

However this has led to YEARS of awkward situations for me. Since I never went for a hug I have had numerous incidences where I do the whole 'hold out my hand and poke them in the belly as they move in for a hug' thing.

But now I know it was you that didn't like the hugs, and not Rob Wells, I can go back to giving him manly bear hugs.

Julie Wright said...

Josi, You make me laugh. You are awesome whether you hug, shake hands, or flip people off :) Oh wait, no that's me who flips people off (But I'm reforming).

Don't think there hasn't been a time or two where my hugging hasn't become an issue. Some peple don't like em and it's awkward. On occasion I'm actually paying attention and can tell someone would rather eat rat poison than hug me and so I stand back and do the hand shake, though I am a germophobe and think hand shakes are icky. How is that for hilarity? We should have a label that says Julie's a moron. :) Love you! (in a totally non creepy way)

Melanie Jacobson said...

OH, MY GOSH. I just had this discussion with my sister. She and my brother and I DON'T hug each other. We hug everybody else, but not each other. They hug Kenny, I hug my bro's girlfriend, but not each other. But my sister has been trying to force the issue for the last few years and turn us all into huggers. I hated it. It felt weird and I resisted. So she quit a while ago.

And I missed it. So when she was here for the baby blessing last weekend, I watched her hug everyone except for me. I finally burst out, "You don't hug me anymore!" I had no idea I would miss it. But I did. So we hugged to a room full of chants, "HUG! HUG! HUG!"

Man, do I relate to your post. Well done!

Melissa Cunningham said...

I LOVED this post! Wonderful! I never knew you weren't a hugger. I'm wracking my brain trying to remember if I've ever hugged you. I probably have because I am a hugger and I just assume EVERYONE wants to be in my arms! =)

Next time I see you, you may find yourself there again . . . with a big wet kiss on the cheek ta-boot!

I sure love you, girl. I think you're wonderful and I'll have you know, you were the catalyst in my writing career. I should probably cut you a check! (If I ever get one!)

Jen said...

I enjoyed this post very much. If I ever come to one of your signings, I'll be sure to just listen to my heart on that.

The Damsel In Dis Dress said...

Great post! I've been thinking about this because my daughter recently married a Mexican guy...and another daughter is also married to a Mexican (I know! The odds!) and they are so loving, so demonstrative. My family was never like that. Very loving in our hearts but not huggy-kissy. My roots are Swiss-German so I guess that's where I get my repression. So it's been interesting adding this aspect to our family.

Hadley Family said...

Okay Josi, you are so getting a hug from me next time I see you (although I'm sure at some time I HAVE hugged you, because I'm like that). Okay, so I won't force a hug on you (and it won't hurt my feelings if you don't want one). But I am a hugger, I crave hugs, I hug almost everyone (boys included). Maybe it's because I have never had any personal space (I shared a womb...), but I love to hug. I hug all the time. I decided it was a good thing that I went into a profession where it was okay and even expected at times to hold a hand or give a hug. I loved your post though, it made me laugh. Isn't it funny what we find ourselves backpeddling on sometimes?

Anonymous said...

I've been absent from bloglandia so I totally didn't see this post earlier. I'm sorry--especially if something I said in passing embarrassed you in any way. I think you're amazing, Josi, hugs or no, and I would never take it amiss. It probably doesn't help that I'm a compulsive-hugger, either. ;)

I'm glad you're cool with the hugs 'cause between how much I love ya and my swiss-cheese-memory, I'm a hopeless case. ;P

Seriously, just know that I love ya, Josi--just as you are.

Meholio said...

Drugs not hugs... I'd rather medicate myself!

I am SO NOT A HUGGER (which often leaves me feeling like a total freak of nature) and this post made me laugh! Ever since I let it be known that I am not so much into hugging, it's become a running joke among my friends. My sister who is an avid hugger/space invader, likes to give me crap about it too! Just leave me alone people... go hug yourselves!