DEAR MISS MANNERS: I enjoy personal space and do not like being touched, other than by my husband. I am a friendly, outgoing person who simply doesn’t like to hug.
It shouldn’t be a big deal, except to my mother-in-law, it is. She insists on hugging me upon her arrival and departure -- of every visit. Her boyfriend does the same to me.
I dread it. I try to avoid it, then submit to it stiffly. This has gone on for 10 years. I have told her I don’t like to hug. She says, “Well, I do!” and hugs me. At the end of her visits, I walk them politely to the door and say “bye,” but it just isn’t enough for her.
Why do people feel the need to force themselves upon others in this manner? I finally had enough at a family event when she walked up to where I was seated, announced she was leaving and demanded I stand and hug her. I told her in front of the whole family I do not like to hug and that she shouldn’t demand hugs.
Now she is quite offended and makes many angry passive-aggressive comments.
Certainly it cannot be polite to demand hugs, can it? Is this really a social convention I must accept? My friends and I do not hug, nor do I hug my sisters, though I love them dearly. Is this a generational thing? I am so uncomfortable now that I don’t know what to do.
GENTLE READER: You are in luck. It is not often one can say something positive in regard to the pandemic, but it certainly has cut down on unwanted hugging.
You can now say sweetly, as you hastily back away, “I think we’d better maintain social distancing. I certainly wouldn’t want to endanger you.” For that matter, you don’t need the virus to do this, as if alluding to some ordinary indisposition.
Miss Manners has been hoping that the pandemic has taught all kinds of people who go in for unwanted touching to keep their hands to themselves. Hugs should not be some sort of benefit that the arrogant can bestow on the unwilling, but a matter of mutual consent, if not mutual affection.