Hugging and cuddling are wonderful ways to connect with family and loved ones. But in all seriousness- stop forcing girls to hug and be cuddly when they don’t want to. Or any child for that matter. They only thing they learn is that the emotional comfort, which is usually not feeling the sadness of rejection, of the people around them is more important than their own. Shaming language for refusing to touch their body to another human doesn’t end when they grow up either.
At the age of 23, I had a boyfriend. My boyfriend had friends some of whom I got along well with and some that I did not. There was one friend in particular that made me very uncomfortable. I still could not say why, but he did. This friend started to want hugs. At first, I complied, keeping the peace and not making an awkward scene with friends around seemed like the easier option. I hated every moment of it. I eventually built up the nerve to tell my boyfriend that his friend made me very uncomfortable and I asked for support, some help with getting out of the situation.
He told me I was being too dramatic. His friend was a good guy and why make waves now? I did not have a good answer. My boyfriend didn’t understand that it had taken me ages to build up the courage to speak to him and ask for his help. He didn’t understand that the way he placed the comfort of his friend over mine would be hurtful.
I stopped giving his friend hugs.
This was noticed immediately by my boyfriend and his friend. I was told I was being rude. The friends’ feelings were hurt. Why would I want to make him feel like that?
At future gatherings, his friend decided that he would get his hug from me. Whether I wanted it or not was irrelevant. My boyfriend would laugh.
There is nothing original or uncommon to the story I have just shared. My comfort was never considered to be equal to that of my boyfriend or his friend. If touching my body would make them feel better then that was what I had to do. You and what you feel are secondary, is the lesson that we teach girls when we tell them they have to hug their brother, uncle, aunt, cousin. And the lesson continues well into adulthood for most women. It is never ‘just’ a hug.