Hugs

I found Margaret so charismatic that I was prepared to believe her claims of psychic powers. She told me that when she did not keep them under control, light bulbs would fuse in her presence. Just starting to explore new age wisdom, I found her particularly grounded, level-headed and wise, gentle, empathetic and generous hearted, and found it hard to believe she would lie or be mistaken about such a thing. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but she would know that.

I never found out one way or the other. After the week Community Building, where I presented male but wore women’s slippers and one day expressed myself female, we hugged goodbye, and then she asked for a hug “from Clare”. I softened and relaxed. It was a particularly memorable hug, perhaps my first which was properly woman to woman.

I do not like A-frame hugs. Chins touch shoulders, hands pat backs, and it is barely more intimate than a handshake. In a proper hug, thighs touch thighs. An A-frame is a routine gesture, a proper hug is heartfelt with time for appreciation. An A-frame is a greeting, a proper hug a blessing.

Worse is that embarrassing moment where in a group of people men greet women, and kiss their cheeks, but shake other men’s hands. I look at them nervously. They look at me nervously. Shall I insist on cheek-kissing? You will not physically misgender me. I have insisted, and made a man dreadfully embarrassed, and at other times I have held out my hand to shake and hated myself for it. And I have shaken hands with a man who kissed every other woman’s cheek, and been miserable, then wondered whether he created that situation, or I did.

I softened and relaxed, and now like soft hugs. It is slightly side on: chin over shoulder, so crotch to thigh- crotch to crotch is too close to a cuddle, too much for anyone who is not a partner. We hold each other. It is important to be in the moment, present and aware of the other, not just do a gesture for form’s sake, while thinking of something else. Eye contact- hello- moving together, clasp, breathe, appreciate, disengage, eye-contact again. It is a friendship hug, not sexual but intimate. We are animals together, enjoying each other.

A trans woman should hug like a woman, gently and openly.

Probably Margaret did not make light bulbs fuse through psychic energy. I am not sure whether she claimed that without believing it, or believed it, and have no idea why she would do either. Her claim is a fact I know about her which does not easily fit into my understanding of her. It is an outlier. I could say I know her, but there is this fact which does not fit. Everyone is essentially unknowable, but with Margaret I have a clear reminder of that.

6 thoughts on “Hugs

  1. It is interesting that because of the risk of being mis-gendered, you are almost required to over-compensate: I like shaking hands, sometimes, it establishes something concrete but not invasive. Whereas, I imagine you would shiver to shake hands – except in the way that all Quakers do, so that’s all right then – because that social /visual clue risks being misread.

    Oh for a day when we can simply do as we please. 🙂 Hugs! xxxx

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  2. I find hugs of any kind unpleasant and hand shaking only slightly less so. It use to be that “proper kiwi men” never hugged but these days it seems that all men greet friends and family in a kind of shoulder to shoulder embrace while clasping right hands and using the left to slap the other person on the back. The three second handshake of the 1960s seems to be home for good. How I miss that!

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    • It is difficult for lots of people- if expectations are different, or if people compete like Mr Trump does, pulling on the hand or squeezing too hard. When the culture is in favour of touching, people like you have difficulty, when it is against, people like me starve. We need to be able to state our needs!

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      • I guess you’d absolutely starve in a place like Japan where touching is discouraged, whereas I found it liberating.

        You’re right that we need to be able to state our needs and I often wonder why we don’t. Is it because we don’t want to offend the sensibilities of others or is it because we’re afraid our own needs will be devalued? In my own case it’s more the latter. I would like to think that our needs are respected, but this is too often not the case.

        I’m trying to think what would happen if you and I met in real life how would we greet and farewell knowing the preference of the other? And would it be any different if we didn’t know? From my perspective, I’m not going to initiate contact because (a) it’s unpleasant, and (b) I involuntarily go very tense on contact and the other person makes usually makes an incorrect assumption why I reacted that way. Yet I’m only too well aware that some people really need a hug. My mother for example needed a hug from me when we met. So we hugged, I’d go rigid, and she’d let go long before she wanted to. Not entirely satisfactory for either party, but we never did work out a better compromise.

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        • I tend to feel that for friends, wanting not to touch trumps wanting contact. You don’t want it, I can’t insist. It is different for parents. My father surprised me in his mid-eighties by starting to kiss me on the lips, which I found intimate, but did not object to.

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