20 November 2013

Hugging For Dummies

I never used to be a hugger. In fact, I never really liked being touched.

But it’s no reflection on my parents.  I got as much warmth and love as any little child could ask for. It’s just that I couldn’t give it back.  I found the moments of hellos and good-byes very awkward, and the looks of expectation made me unable to perform. Basically, I froze, with my arms at my sides like a Ken Doll.

However I got hugged a lot. Either the adults in my life were oblivious to my awkwardness, or I was irresistibly cute, because they would frequently wrap themselves around me, smothering me with the scent of perfume and cigarettes.

When I grew up, my boyfriends would complain that I wasn’t affectionate enough.  I tried to be touchier – but it didn’t come easily and I couldn’t pretend I was someone I was not.  Maybe I just didn’t like them enough. Or maybe I just didn’t want to touch them in the places they wanted to be touched.

But something changed after my diagnosis. I became more affectionate, and reached out to bring people closer to me. Not only was I good at receiving affection but I started to dish it as well. Suddenly I started hugging. And once I learned to give a hug I was like Helen Keller discovering her first word. I ran around with my arms wide open, and gleefully wrapped them around anyone who came my way. I was in danger of becoming one of those drunken aunty ‘c'mere you….’ - kind of huggers.

C' mere you.....

But just as I was enjoying the hugging I got my new boobs. For the first three months after surgery I couldn’t hug for obvious reasons. And when I was ready to resume, I found my boobs had very little sensation.  Though they are pert and firm, they are almost numb, and I can’t feel the person against me. Essentially, I feel as though I’m hugging through a snowsuit.

Recently I heard on the radio that the average hug should last about three second, no less. It takes that long to make a connection with another being. Three second is quite long time when you think about it – but I think I can safely safe that I can fully embrace it, because I am somewhat of a hugger.

But another study said that a real hug should last 20 seconds. That is the ‘magic’ length needed to release oxcytocin in the body. Often referred to as the 'love' molecule, oxytocin is associated with helping couples establish a greater sense of intimacy and attatchment. This 'happy hormone' is also linked to reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart diesease.  And 20 minute hug also reduces cortisol, the ‘stress’ hormone that does bad things too your body.

So really, there’s no argument against a 20 minutes hug. Except that it goes on for an eternity. A whole third of a minute wrapped around someone else. Without any concept of whether or not my boobs are pressed against them. And it’s just long enough to have to shift a bit, and feel just a tiny bit awkward. And I spent the first 20 years of my life feeling awkward. So unless I’m hugging my Wingman, or someone I really like, (or a tree) I’m only a 3 second hugger. So for now, it’s back to square one for me.