My mum distrusted anyone who gave her a hug on first meeting.
I remember an interaction she had with one of my besties at Uni. It was 1992 and Mum was visiting me from the sprawling metropolis of Hervey Bay. At the time I was staying with some dear friends in their place along Sir Fred Schonell Drive. Mum knocked on the door, my friend opened it and gave her a gigantic hug. This friend was simply stoked to be meeting my mum (although some “loving” substances may have been involved).
From that day forward, my mum has always maintained that she didn’t trust this friend, and didn’t “get” why she would want to embrace someone she’d never met.
I thought the reaction was extreme (particularly the longevity of it) but I understand the sentiment. It was the umbrella that I was brought up under. My mum and dad weren’t undemonstrative within the family unit but I remember being young and having a hard time with showing affection. I probably came off as cold and standoffish. Not because I had an undiagnosed superiority complex (no, that came much later), but because I was raised to respect boundaries, almost to the exclusion of demonstrating love at the risk of putting someone off or, GASP, being rejected.
I don’t know at what point my attitude changed. The soft pillow of booze and recreational substances in my 20s may have triggered something special. If I’ve met you once and like you I’ll hug you the second time (look out, DPCon Artists!). But the Ghost of Awkwardness Past is still a lingering presence. If one of my friends is having a rough time, my instinct is to hug the life out of them. I want my dudes to know I’m there for them whatever the circumstances, but once my brain has had a chance to analyse the situation, the embrace comes out as some kind of bizarre and diluted arm around the shoulders. Some days I wish I could be the kind of person that throws affection into the wind and expects people to catch it. I watch strangers, female friends walking down the street hand in hand and wonder if I could ever do that and not feel uncomfortable.
I am all over my kids like a red hot rash with hugs, kisses, love. I still struggle with it outside the home. Where love is not necessarily unconditional. It’s a tough message to teach kids. Be demonstrative, but value others’ personal space. Respect boundaries.
Keep warm. But don’t get burnt.