I can sometimes tolerate a side hug. But I still hate them. I hate the idea of letting you wrap your arms around me and put your face close to mine. I hate the tangibility of my awkwardness when we’re close.
But mostly…I hate knowing that for a few seconds, I have no choice but to let you tell me what I already suspected: I am important, worthy, loved. In an embrace, I haven’t any room, physically or emotionally to argue my way back to the way I see myself. I will have to believe you love me, and this will change everything. I will want to hug you back.
When you hug me, I have to question my own notion of what it means to love. I must acknowledge an uncomfortable truth: love is not a feeling. Feeling affection is easy, but so cheap. This is the kind of “love” that compels me to write you letters or send “I love you” texts. Eventually I do this so much that I begin to excuse myself from the other implication of love: proof. I could say, “I love you” all day and really mean it. But it’s all a load of shit if I can’t show you. Sometimes I have to ask you, “Is a side-hug okay?”
Love has become disgustingly abstract in our culture. I could make it mean just about anything, good or bad. But the kind of love I’m talking about here is physical without the creepiness. Admiration and affection embodied. This is the kind of love I cannot say. This is the love that confesses my need for you and the kind when you decide you probably need me, too. This is the love that has no conditions. You don’t have to meet my criteria, and I’m begging you to not make me meet yours. We both know we’re only human. This is the part when I’m awkward and you feel uncomfortable. This is a special love—nestled in the art of side-hugs.