The End of Painful Hugs

The Washington Post recently ran a piece asking Is the era of the social hug over? Some people sure hope so. The author, Lavanya Ramanatan, wonders if this era of #MeToo is bringing an end to hugs not handshakes as first-line social greetings. She asks Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute (the authority on etiquette), who says, “A hug can feel too intimate to some people, especially now, in an era when we’re illuminating how women feel on a daily basis.”

Hooray! As a #MeToo survivor I do all I can to avoid oceanfront exposure people: you know, the ones who take hugging as license to maximize the amount of your beachfront body parts squashed against theirs. At large gatherings you can see them coming as they work the room so you can prepare, but some are sneaky. They glad-hand and back-slap their way around the party and then, suddenly they are cooing about how cute you are as they squeeze your sandy shores against their beach ball.


The end of mandatory hugs gets my endorsement not just to avoid groping. Truth is, hugs hurt. Thanks to fibromyalgia, surgical scarring, and celiac disease, even a gentle squeeze can be torture.

You would think hiding behind a gentle white lie would work. There’s “I am so sorry, I’m not feeling upMetal quills to a hug today,” or, “I’m under the weather and don’t want to pass on what I’ve got.” Kind and apologetic, not prickly, gives, the hugger plenty of room to save face, right? Alas, not so.

In response to the under-the-weather apology, a coworker responded, “Oh, that’s okay, I never get sick,” before yanking me into her ample bosom.

Another time, a guy said with a wink, “I’ll take my chances!”

After I apologized for feeling under the weather and not up to hugging, a friend once bristled. “Well!” she said with a step back and a scowl, “I was just trying to be nice!”

I don’t know why people feel the need to either shame or ignore someone who has gently expressed a need not to hug.

I get it in the case of harassers: their goal is to take what they want and to hell with you. Side HugThey may even want the victim to feel shame. After getting pawed repeatedly by a handsy guy in a support group of all places, I tried the side-hug: that one-armed move where your body remains perpendicular to the full-frontal hugger and all they get is your shoulder. He didn’t like it and snapped, “That’s not a real hug; I want a REAL hug!”

Instead of shooting him a brilliant retort, or slapping him, I mumbled, “Sorry,” before skittering away.

Why was I sorry?

What can we people who live with chronic pain do to protect ourselves? The good folks over at Spoonie Living, noting “it’s a freakin’ shame we even need stuff like this,”  posted a great video this week: How to Avoid Hugs Like a Pro!

Thank you, Spoonie Living! I’m using these self-defense moves the next time I leave the house.

In the meantime, how is hugging for you? What do you do to avoid painful hugs?

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