Tuesday, January 20, 2015


A hug from my dad on my wedding day.
My dad. Oh, my, could that man hug! It's as if it were his calling: hug the shit out everyone you love. And he loved a lot of people, especially his daughters. And nieces. And daughters-in-law. And grandchildren.

The hug shown in that picture is actually one of the gentler ones he ever gave me. I really liked that hug, and am forever grateful that my about-to-be-sister-in-law took the picture.

Usually, he would use his substantial belly to lever my feet off the ground. Then he would give me a beard-scrape along one cheek.

To be honest, I don't think anyone particularly enjoyed those overwhelming hugs. I was always happy to see him and would dash to him with open arms wanting his love, but dreading the crush. It was just too much, verging on painful. (Especially the beard-burn.)

We also played a little game in church, when things were a little dull. He would hold my hand and start a thumb war. At first, I lost every time, but I got better at it, partly because when he crushed my thumb, he really crushed it. When I pressed his, I'm pretty sure it probably felt like a kitten's paw landing on his working-man's thumb.

I'm sure he never considered that these things might be hurting us. He was just like a big old Saint Bernard just wanting to show his love.

This comes to mind just now because I've been trying to figure out why some men seem to see it as a badge of honour to crush as hard as they can when they shake my hand.

I used to shrug it off, just grin and bear it, but then I developed arthritis in my hands. And, let me tell you, it hurts to have those tender joints compressed.

So I started yelping when it happened, being honest about how painful the greeting was. I'd look the offender right in the eye and say, "Wow! That hurt!"

To a man, they smiled. No apologies. No: "Oh, I didn't realize."

It was as if I had affirmed their manliness.

So I need a new strategy for dealing with this.

I met a woman once who, when introduced to new people, demurred a handshake, saying, "I'm sorry, I can't shake your hand; I have arthritis."

At the time, I was a little affronted that she would assume I would man-handle her (perfect use of that word, don't you think?), but understood then, and know now, that there is no way to predict who will pulverize and who will gently, but firmly, press. And her arthritis was far more progressed than mine.

What can I do? I don't want to be rude, but I don't want my hands to hurt either.

What if, as I offer my hand, I paused a little and said, "Gently, please; I have arthritis."

What do you think?

I wish I'd thought to tell my dad that his beard-rubs really hurt and that I would hesitate to hug him if I thought he would scrape me. I could never have threatened to withhold hugs -- I loved him too much -- but would he have changed his behaviour if I had said something? I'll never know.

1 comment:

  1. personally, I get ticked when people expect me to have ANY physical contact with them against my wishes. wow - that sounds cold. What I mean is, of course I hug my friends and families when I see them or when I leave -- but with people I don't know that well, I am not so touchie feelie right away and further they should absolutely Not get offended by that. I should have say about who or what touches my body, even in situations normally deemed socially acceptable. So I say go ahead and speak up - it's your right to say something and not suffer in silence just to make someone else feel better.


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