It started way back when, we were both skittish, best friends in an all girls school. In our fierce pretense, I'm-tougher-than-that denial, we pretended that we would never want to be hugged for comfort. We were stronger, no pale girlie stuff. We didn't need each other to tell us how smart we were, how pretty. We were scornful, prickly, and defensive.

By now, I am lying when I confess an unease to being hugged. Often I will call her up and talk. I spout things I never meant to tell, jabber on about inconsequential happenings just to have some human contact; times when all i need is a hug, and there's noone nearby to give it.

She is still the bundle of nerves she was back then: shying away from touch, denying something she needs. I would never tell her this truth I see, because that would be to risk losing her. Antsy, and private nerves askitter, she'd fade out of my life in that obscure way she has. Now you see her now you dont.

We do not hug. I do not touch her other than to poke her playfully in her side. If, god forbid, she lost someone/thing she loved, I wouldn't know how to comfort her. I wouldn't be able to hug her through all her barriers, across her denial.

I would never be able to admit to it myself, have a hard time thinking that I could turn to a friend and say, in response to a caring offer of help: I just need a hug. However true it may be. Maybe she has come to this stage too, and just has the words stuck behind her smile.

Why are we scared to admit that all we want is human contact? I hated being touched, because I so craved it. I wanted an acceptance. If I couldn't get it on an intellectual level did physical acceptance then seem cheap? No. It was that the casual touch gives me that much more to worry about. I was scared of it, fearing I would set off a scent, radiating a neediness I wanted hidden. Why is it so hard to admit to weakness?

As a child I shied away from touches, I avoided intimacy. It was even a joke in my family, that I gave such timid hugs, had to be forced into giving them while my sister gave these great huge hugs that would force the air out of the receiver's lungs. I didn't understand the importance, I preferred to live isolated and in my world of dreams, thoughts, and books. I was strange when expected to display physical intimacy. The father of a good friend of mine passed away when we were in that awkward adolescent phase when one feels disconnected from their body anyway. At the memorial service, everyone else was giving hugs to each other. My friend and I smiled nervously at each other, aware that we were supposed to hug. I knew that a hug would dissolve the tension, would transfer love and support to another human being in the way that words never could but I was insecure. My heart wanted to reach out to her, it welled up in my chest like it does when you have to cry, but there was a wall there. To touch would be too raw, too intimate, too vulnerable.

The current iteration of myself looks back on that day and can't imagine being shy to hug another person. It took church retreats to get over this...say what you want about organized religion and Bible thumpers, but many of them are very supporting, very loving people. The first few hugs took me by surprise, made me feel strange, but I adapted to this sudden immersion and truly learned for the first time how to hug and be hugged. I remember the moment too. The group took each person individually and everyone told that person what they liked about them. When it was your turn, everyone in the room said a positive thing about you. Kleenexes were passed around, but my eyes remained dry. After this was completed came the obligatory exchange of hugs. One of the guys in the group gave me my hug and whispered something so sweet, so kind in my ear. I burst into tears and he held me while I cried, this person who was a stranger 48 hours beforehand who I wouldn't recognize on the street today.

That is what I'd been afraid of all that time, the power of touch and the ability that it had to unleash a torrent of emotions I'd kept back behind that wall. But it had happened, and it felt damn good. I later outgrew religion, but I found raves and their characteristic unabashed hugging and displays of emotion. I hug my friends in greeting at a party, good night when they drop me home. Every time I see the boy that I love, the first thing we do is crawl into each other's arms, not for a kiss (which will come later), but for a hug. There are still times today when the feel of another person's arms around me will make me cry for no particularly good reason--just knowing that someone cares enough about me to devote time out of their one and only life to focus on and share love with me completely floors me.

I could tell she wanted me to show I cared. And I cared, so much, but I didn't know how to show her.

She didn't do the whole physical contact thing. We even started an "air hug" system, where we air-embraced.

But it's not the same thing. It's not like having someone wrap their arms around you and silently say "it's okay, you can cry, you can complain, you can just sit here in silence. I'll be your rock, I'll be here all day if you need me."

When she looked at me with her eyes so full of nothingness, so hurt and lost, it broke my heart.

Comfort is hard to give when you only have a spoken link. I wanted to hug her, I wanted to hold her to me, I wanted to at least hold her hand or stroke it softly to show her that it would all be okay.

She looked down, she looked away, she rubbed fiercely at her eyes and tried to pretend nothing was happening. We silently stood to leave, we were about to walk apart, and I gently put my hand on her shoulder, trying to convey in a soft touch everything that I had wanted to say, and everything that she wanted to hear.

She hesitated, then tentatively opened her arms. "I think I need a hug."

We stood there for a good ten minutes, before I finally let go of her.

(she doesn't mind the occasional hug now.)

"Touch is the most fundamental sense. A baby experiences it, all over, before he is born and long before he learns to use sight, hearing, or taste, and no human ever ceases to need it. Keep your children short on pocket money — but long on hugs."
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein

Touch is the most important sense. Some people might be tempted to say that sight is, but no matter how much you can see it doesn't matter if you can't touch it. If you can't feel physically, how are you supposed to feel emotionally and psychologically? Touch is the most important sense.

I don't need to hold hands and talk about our plans. I don't want to kiss you, make out with you, or spoon. I don't need you to talk me down or whisper reassurances in my ear. I just need a hug, is all. That's all I really need. That's all I really want.

I want you to hold me so tight that it hurts. I don't care about the pain. With you in my arms there could be no pain. When I hold you in my arms all the pain seems to go away. I treasure our hugs more than just about anything else.

I feel safe and warm in your arms. Nothing else makes me feel as warm as you do. You provide a warmth that a blanket, a space heater, kind words never could. I've heard that shaking hands started as a way for two people to check each other for weapons up their sleeves. Hugs have something in the same way too. When you hug someone you are trusting them with your back. Maybe this isn't hundreds of years ago and maybe it's absurd to imagine someone coming up behind another person being hugged and stabbing them in the back. But when you hug me I feel safe nonetheless. I know that you love me and will protect me, just as I will love and protect you. I will always have your back and will never betray you.

When I start to shake I need you to hold me so I can be steady. I need to put my arms around something solid to help calm me. Let me lean my head on your shoulder and rest for a moment. If you'll let me do this, I'll be forever grateful.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.