Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hugging, Boundaries, and The Platinum Rule

The first thing I read this morning was this new-to-me Slate article "I Don't Need a Hug."  I posted it on Facebook with a quick comment about being on the low middle end of general hug appreciation. Not so low as the author of the article, but I found myself agreeing with several of the points.

Over the course of the day there were likes and shares and many comments. I promised that I would blog on the topic this evening. So here goes.

I'm told that many pregnant women have problems with strangers walking up to them and rubbing their bellies. When I was pregnant with twins, not one stranger touched my belly. I broadcast a pretty strong Don't Go There vibe. 

My body is mine, and I like to keep some space around it. When someone I do not much know is touching me more than incidentally, or wrapping around me, I can deal but I get a little twitchy. It wears me out. 

A good friend? Sure, we'll do a hug. Maybe two. I do not need to do the orbit of hugs when I arrive or before I leave a party.

How well do I need to know a person? I tried to come up with some sort of criteria. Someone I've met and gotten to know for X period of time? Well, there are people I know online, and I feel like I know them enough that I'll hug the first time we meet. The best I can figure--I need to know you enough that I'd offer to make you soup when you fall ill.

Have I mentioned that I work for a church? In the South? In a nurturing field? All of these things make for a more huggy (huggier?) atmosphere. 

I spend a lot of time with children. If a child wants a hug, no problem--I can do that. As long as it is their choice. 

It's important for all of us to recognize that power dynamics and consent are a part of hugging, too. Different people have different concerns and conditions they need to feel safe(r). 

The Golden Rule (treat others as you want to be treated) can be trumped by the Platinum Rule (treat others as they want to be treated.) Yes, the Platinum Rule requires communication, and I believe that is worthwhile, especially when we are getting into another's space.

The intertubes are full of articles about the blessings of hugs. How hugs are good for emotional release. But here's the thing--not everyone can just release right where they are. Sometimes a person is barely holding it together, and while yes, a cry or a scream might be in order, they might choose to wait until they are in the comfort of their own home. As much as you might want to help, who is getting their needs met in that situation? Back to the Platinum Rule.

And besides--it's flu season. Get your shots, wash your hands, and practice your favorite parade float wave.

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