I have this little Snoopy figurine-type thing sitting up on my desk in my apartment bedroom. I found it at Hallmark as I was shopping for apartment decorations; and even though it wasn't technically Disney-oriented, I knew that I had to have it. It says "Happiness...is a little hug." I honestly cannot think of anything that is more true, at least for me and in terms of who I am as a person.
It has taken me awhile to fully understand why I take such a liking to physical touch. In one way, it started when I was about thirteen or fourteen; I had just started attending a church on a regular basis, and every Sunday I was always greeted and bid goodbye with an embrace, and the same was true whenever I went to the youth group during the week. Truth be told, during that time and for about three and a half years afterward, it was a sense of validation for me. Whether anyone was trying to communicate this with me or not, I often perceived as a sign of genuine acceptance and understanding. If that wasn't the case, my insecurities would come out like an ambush.
Yet, I now believe that it started all the way back when I was a tiny baby, lying in an incubator in the NICU. Due to my premature birth, I wasn't quite developed yet and still had a bit of growing to do; so for the first couple months of life, I had to stay in this infant hospital bed, where my parents were not allowed to hold me for awhile. Instead of holding me, people had to stick their hands through the side holes in the incubator and could touch me or try to wrap their hands around my doll-sized head (from what I've been told, my Dad and both of my Grandfathers actually could).
So it is not so much hugging that I'm sort of attached to, but rather physical touch in general. No, I'm not talking about anything relating to sex, but rather things like randomly leaning against somebody when I'm with my friends or family members. I can be a bit of a cuddle bug, so if that happens, try not to be too surprised.
In all actuality, physical touch is often described as a "love language" (Although I would prefer to call it a "personal language" because the word "Love" does not always pertain to romance). As of today, it is how I personally like to give and receive affection. For instance, when I give a person a hug, most of the time it is my way of telling someone that I care about them. Again, it doesn't have to be this huge romantic gesture or made into a big deal at all; sometimes I do it because I simply want to, or because it's just second nature. Most importantly, it is how I communicate and connect with people when I either don't have or can't come up with the words to say out loud.
And yet, I am aware that not everyone has those preferences; if I'm not sure, I will usually ask. My sister is somewhat anti-touch, and even though it's difficult for me to do, I have to be respectful of it.
I am also aware of the fact that some people (mostly guys) may or may not try to take advantage of me because of that factor. This is where I can appreciate being an observer, because I tend to pick up on the tiniest of details and/or signals. Thus far, nothing hurtful or dangerous has happened, aside from the occasional drunk creeper try to pick me up when I go out dancing.
There was a time when I thought being affectionate (or asking for it) was a bad thing; Last year I rarely ever asked any of my friends to just hold me for a minute, thinking that I might come across as "needy" or childish. Most of the time, whenever I am having a problem or struggling with something, I don't want to talk about it a whole lot; I would prefer to just be held, if only for a moment or two. Emotionally, it was one of the toughest periods I've gone through during this phase of my life; It was as if I was almost cut off from the people that I cherished the most.
In time, I realized that regardless of how anyone else viewed it, wanting to be close to people is just a part of who I am. I don't do it or ask for it every single day, but I do need to have close relationships in my life and to connect with others somehow, otherwise I don't function real well. There are those that understand it, and some that don't. Some, no matter how many times I try to explain it, never will.
Hugging, physical touch, whatever you want to call it; not only is it a language, but it is a gift. It is a gift that should be given without any sort of hesitation or expectation to be given something in return. It is one of those ordinary things that I see as sacred, and something that should never go without appreciation.