Side hugs are for the sexually oppressed. Oops! Did I just say that out loud? Actually, I am doing way more than saying it, I am writing it for the world to see.
OK, I don’t really believe that. However, the frustration behind this outburst has been brewing in my draft box since June 7, 2008 – and in my mind for much longer. So, before I’m labeled all sorts of colored letters, I will take an opportunity to explain.
There are two factors that affect this repulsion to side hugs. First, I grew up with brothers. Being a bit of a tom-boy, I rough-housed with my brothers and male cousins constantly. Respecting our physical differences didn’t equate to rejecting one another. Second, I’m from a Haitian culture where we greet each other with hugs and kisses. I am not naive enough to generalize these two factors. In fact, I tend to be very reserved with my personal space. But for ME, hugs were a sign of safe and friendly affection – regardless of sex. Even within the church – I attended Haitian congregations for most of my childhood and young adulthood. And beyond that, I became a member of a Messianic congregation. Although in both settings, sexual purity was always emphasized, it wasn’t until I became involved with the American church that I encountered the side-hug.
What is a side-hug? Well, to put it plainly, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A girl and a guy hug each other from the side in order to avoid any “frontal contact”. With my background, I was well into my twenties when I first received a side-hug. The concept was so foreign to me that I felt confused, ashamed and rejected. “What was that? Why would someone pretend to give me a hug and then stop halfway? Did I smell? Did I do something wrong?” Unfortunately, the answers to my questions only made me feel worse. How, I wondered, could anyone take something as warm and wonderful as a hug from a friend and pervert it? Hugs are like Oreo cookies and milk after school; a warm cup of chocolate on a cold night; a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day! What on earth has gone wrong the world, the Church, that a hug is something to be ashamed of?
This may sound harsh, but I genuinely just don’t understand. If I don’t feel comfortable with someone, or I don’t know them very well, I just don’t hug them. There are other options, i.e., a handshake, a general wave. I don’t half accept and half reject them from my personal bubble. That’s just weird, and I’m just plain tired of playing along like it’s OK. From now on, I will reserve my precious hugs for the precious few that appreciate it: Kens, Julie, Alex, Kris, Cathi, Jude, Paul, Pat, Brian, Klebert, Marie, Sasha, Jugi, Betsy, Ryan, Sara, Nydessa, Lauri, Joyce, Bethany, Michey, Wendy, Charles, etc., etc., etc.