My boyfriend sent me a text message last week: "You hugged all my family last weekend."
I met them for the first time, and we hugged upon meeting and again when we said goodbye.
People in my life like to point out when I hug.
To my knowledge, I've never refused a hug, and I've never publicly declared "I don't hug," but, apparently, my body language says "I'm not a hugger."
My aunt says when I was a baby, I was anything but cuddly. When someone would hold me, I'd stiffen like a board.
In all fairness, my family is not comprised of big huggers. I don't remember ever giving my grandparents hugs, but I always kissed them on the cheeks when leaving their house. And my mom doled out hugs, but they were usually for Hallmark card-type moments. I grew up thinking - and, yes, I really thought this - that hugs were for relatives who live in other states, to make you feel better when you've been crying, for the person you were in a relationship with and for babies.
Then, I married into a family of huggers. Upon returning from my first visit to my now-ex's hometown in Michigan, my mom asked how it went, what they were like.
"They're huggers," I said.
All of them - his parents, grandparents, cousins, brothers and his brother's girlfriend. All huggers. When we'd arrive at their home, I'd brace myself as we walked through the door. "Incoming!" I'd think to myself.
Several years later, my then-husband and I moved to Michigan while he attended grad school.
Imagine my surprise when, after we'd gotten settled in our home in Holt, Michigan, visits to my in-laws still began and ended with hugs.
"I thought after we moved to Michigan, we wouldn't have to hug your parents every time we see them," I said, confused.
His return look said something like, "What's the MATTER with you?"
It wasn't that I didn't like them. I like them a lot.
Eight years later, and I thought I'd evolved. Then my boyfriend's text made me wonder if my reputation as a non-hugger would be impossible to shake. I love hugging him; I do it all the time, for absolutely NO reason, unprovoked, inspired merely by digging the sight of him. And his scent. Yet he still sees me as someone who doesn't freely hug.
My response to his text message: "Yes. I know. I'm a new woman. A hugger. Check me out."
Between you and me, I don't understand hugs, but I understand that we all have different needs, different ways of expressing friendship, love and affection. I've gone from being a conservative hugger to a moderate because I realize that some of you need hugs; you get something from them. And since relaxing my rules on hugs, I have to admit, they're not so bad.