Day 8: Who needs a hug?

When my son was in middle school, the school implemented a “no touch” policy. Students and teachers were specifically prohibited from touching one another in any way.

“Mom, this is so stupid!” he said, asking me to switch him to a different school ASAP. “You really want me to go to a school that won’t let me hug a friend who’s upset? Really?!”

A. No, of course I did not want that.

B. It delighted me that my middle-school-aged boy understood the value of a good hug between friends for whom that kind of contact was comfortable.

C. Middle school was a terrific time to talk about touch, consent, and the dos and don’ts of hugging, because some people are huggers and others are not, for all kinds of reasons.

(For the record, he stayed in that school, and it worked out fine.)

Related story: Ages and ages ago, I worked with a woman (who became a good friend) who joked about getting a tattoo on her forehead that read: DO NOT HUG ME. We joked about it, because we worked with a very hug-focused crew, every single day. You would have marveled at the strategies she devised to get around a hug without seeming aloof or unfriendly.

For the hug-averse, like my friend, the pandemic surely felt, at first, like a huge relief in that particular way. For the hug-inclined, like my son, the pandemic has long felt isolating and restrictive.

For all of us, now that we’re 22 months in, wondering about new variants, wading into holiday gatherings of friends and family, the hug is in sharp focus. And the ongoing lack of human touch is taking a toll on everyone, even the formerly hug-averse. (If you want to read more on the negative consequences of losing human touch, here’s a sampling of articles from Vogue, Psychology Today, and The Guardian.)

Touch is the first of the five senses to be developed in utero. To deem touch “essential” is a gross understatement. As my non-hugging friend put it: “I didn’t want hugs from everyone, but I also didn’t want no one to hug me, ever again.”

An option to consider, for your own mental wellbeing? Self hug.

No, not kidding.

Yes, I know. The first time I heard a suggestion to give myself a hug (from a yoga teacher, in a virtual class a few months ago), my immediate reaction was: That’s the stupidest damned thing I have ever heard. You can’t give yourself a hug.

But I did it anyway, three times, just like she said to do. And it was awesome.

Yes, you can, in fact, give yourself a big hug.

And maybe your experience will differ from mine, and you’ll end up still thinking it was the stupidest damned thing you ever heard of (or tried). But it’s a low-stakes, low-risk experiment so there’s really no reason for you not to give it a go.

Because, who needs a hug? I’d bet that we all do.

(Extra credit for trying this one right before you hop in the shower or bath. Yep; that’s right. Give your marvelous naked self a hug. You deserve it.)

See you tomorrow.

P.S. If you thought you didn’t want to download the full December Sanity Journal but now think maybe you do, here’s the link.

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