Sometimes What I Miss Are The Hugs

I lost my mother in 1995.  I used to wonder why people said “lost”, as though we had misplaced her, but once it happened, I knew we had indeed lost something.  Oddly, or perhaps not, my sisters and I became much closer after my mother was gone, and we still are.   Close enough that I have friends who think it’s weird.

But about hugs.  I grew up in a big Greek family – while my “immediate” family was only my sisters, me and my mother – we had a plethora of aunts, uncles, and cousins, near and far, and we saw all of them.  A lot.  And my Greek family at least is very touchy.  We hug, we kiss (often on the lips), we stroke arms or backs or legs, we hold hands – you get the idea.

So I grew up thinking that touching everyone around you was normal.  That hugging and kissing on meeting and leaving are normal.  That taking someone’s hand, especially during a difficult conversation, is normal.

But wait, you say, you work in theater!  People in theater hug and kiss each other all the time!  They touch each other – a lot!  Sure.  That’s true.  But the hug and kiss (lately, the double cheek kiss) have basically replaced the handshake as a conventional greeting.  So it’s not the same thing at all.

Just a little human contact is all I ask, without someone reacting as though I’ve invited them to join me in uninhibited and riotous sexual exploits.  We’ve lost the art of the intimate, yet non-sexual, touch, and I, for one, miss it.  I’m tired of holding back, or being embarrassed by the reaction of a close friend when I unthinkingly touch them or take their hand.

True story – I was well into adulthood when my mother had the stroke that began her decline.  When she was in the ICU, luckily at a hospital where she had worked and they knew us, I would spend the night with her.  Once evening rounds were over, I would climb into her bed, carefully avoiding all the wires and tubes, so she could sleep with her good arm around me.  And no-one thought it was anything but normal.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anne Gaioni
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 08:18:15

    I am so glad that you could get in your mother’s hospital bed! It reminds me of a scene in CUTTING FOR STONE. I am enjoying your blog. xo


  2. travelswithslippers
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 09:28:57

    Thanks, Anne. I’m really enjoying writing it. I don’t know CUTTING FOR STONE?


    • Anne Gaioni
      Jan 21, 2012 @ 13:03:35

      It is a novel by a physician – Abraham Verghese. Frequently harsh, but I thought worth it. Quite karmic too.


  3. Alfred Fredel
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:03:04

    I know exactly how you feel. I have always been the same way and the concept of “personal space” was one I had to learn upon arrival to New York. Keep up the good work!


  4. Yvette
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 14:18:50

    I didn’t know that you’d lost your mum. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

    One of the really great things about being a naturally open and loving person is that everybody “feels” it in your interactions with them. It comes through on a visceral level that’s impossible to duplicate or “game,” and it resonates long after you’re gone from them. It’s a beautiful thing to be one of those people. I’d bet you $1.50 that some flippant comment you’ve uttered to a perfect stranger has (unknown to you) changed the way they thought of the world or their place in it.

    I don’t really understand why someone you actually know would be uncomfortable that you’ve touched or hugged them. This would reflect entirely on them, not you, and it’s OK. When my mum was in hospital and they found me asleep in her bed, I caught them tucking us both in and kissing us on the forehead. They’ll never know how grateful I’ll always be for those gestures and sweet “human-ness”. We need more of that, not less.


  5. Jim Chimes
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:58:59

    When I was 11, Mom, my brother and I went to Gulfport Mississippi to be with your mom when Joanna was born. My mom, your mom, and Aunt Flora and Aunt Lu taught me about love. I didn’t realize how much I’d learned from them until I was well into adulthood. I always felt special when I was around them, and when we went back home to Philly I would always feel sad and depressed. We have been truly blessed. Nobody could know your mom and not miss her.


  6. Trackback: What’s Wrong With That? | Travels With Slippers, or The Life of A Single Woman Who Prefers It That Way
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  8. Suzanne
    May 08, 2014 @ 21:35:16

    Flora, you are so blessed to have grown up in a touching family. My family was not particularly touching, and if someone touched me or reached for me in school, it meant that I was being tormented. When I met Brian, it took forever for me to “translate” him casually reaching out and touching as “I love you,” and to return it, rather than getting annoyed and defensive about having someone in my personal space. It’s one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned, and we raised the kids to touch and hug and cuddle. It’s the best feeling in the world when my son wraps me up in his arms, or one of the girls comes to cuddle after school or before bed. My son’s fiancee hugs me, and I feel so lucky.


  9. Trackback: Happy Father’s Day | Travels With Slippers, or The Life of A Single Woman Who Prefers It That Way

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