I am not a hugger, and when I say this, I am not over exaggerating. Let me provide a little insight on just how much I hate hugs — my best friend and I have only hugged seven times in the span of five years.
I just fail to see the appeal of hugs. Invading someone’s personal space is just not something that I find to be appealing. Not only that, think of the germs — don’t even get me started on the germs.
In the last six months or so, this hasn’t been much of an issue given social distancing guidelines. You’d think this would be a hug hater’s dream, right? It turns out, it’s not. As much as it pains me to admit this, I miss hugs.
If you didn’t already pick up on it, I am a bit of an introvert. My dislike of hugs has to do with my timidness in large social settings just as much as it has to do with the physical aspect of it.
When quarantine first began, I was ecstatic. The act of calling friends or FaceTiming them was initially much more appealing than spending time together in person. Social interaction virtually seemed to be much less exhausting — you could “hang out” with your friends from the comfort of your bed and “leave” whenever you wanted. It was an introvert’s dream, and I was a fan of it.
The appeal quickly faded. I think we can all agree that seeing the faces of our loved ones on screens cannot even begin to compare to seeing them in person. Watching movies on Netflix Party and using Zoom to participate in book clubs gets old quickly.
Thus, I began to make plans with friends to have socially-distanced picnics or go on walks together, keeping a safe distance of six feet. Whether it was in the parking lot of Panera Bread or the trails of my childhood park, it felt good to see them — to see more than just their head on camera.
This may have combated the virtual disconnect, but there was still another barrier in place. I had not seen many of my hometown friends since winter break because of the distances between our colleges. Yet despite us all being home, we couldn’t truly see each other — at least not in the way we were used to. While I was thankful to spend time with them in a safe way, I found myself missing the little interactions — leaning on each other laughing, posing for fun pics and giving each other hand hugs.
I remember visiting my cousin in early June to congratulate her on her high school graduation. We both took the necessary precautions to sit across from each other in her backyard and reflect on the past. A year ago, she was the one hugging me as I graduated and that was all I wanted to do for her — hug her.
That afternoon, I had a bit of an epiphany. For once, I actually wanted to hug people. Aside from the effects of social distancing, the uncertainty of our current world left me wanting to express my love for the people in my life more than usual. I began to recognize the appeals of hugs and almost appreciate them.
Suddenly, the phrase “hug the people you love a little tighter today” hits differently. Not many good things have risen out of the global pandemic, but my newfound appreciation for hugs is one of the few I can’t complain about. As long as it may have taken me to realize it, hugs can be more than an invasion of personal space — if you let them be.
Hugs do a great job of releasing oxytocin — the happy or love hormone — and they also provide a sense of safety. I think we all have that one person that can give us a hug and make us think everything in the world will be okay. With social distancing, we aren’t able to hug those people, and that is a difficult reality. If I — as a hug hater — think that, I can’t imagine how people who are huggers are feeling.
Would I go as far as to say that I am a fan of hugs? Probably not. What I will say is that the next time I can safely be within six feet of my friends, I know I won’t be faking a cough to get out of a hug. Instead — I’ll be the one asking for a hug for once.
Zoya Zahid is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.