“Do you need a hug?” Was something I told my new roommate when she had a moment to talk. It caught me off guard that my casual conversation made her cry a bit but with COVID reaching a year anniversary, it was something I had not needed to consider offering in a while. She took my offer awkwardly. Not something I am concerned about in some capacity. She is a new addition to my rental and I will soon be accosted by her bathroom habits. But it was the first hug of 2021 so it was nice to be rewarded touch even if it was shallow.

I take humble pride in being the recipient of her first return hug from a return to her country of origin. It is nice to know that our hugs have grown from an awkward pat between a co-worker caught in a moment of weakness to a life-affirming full-body contact dance that makes me long for actual playdates. I miss hugging. It is clinically proven that homo sapiens benefit from physical contact on a regular basis. Yet, our embracing of Victorian standards of interaction suggests that all touch upon entering puberty now has some level of sexual intent. At least that is the common interpretation of the rules that still influence the ideals of Western practices.

I want to say the influx of contact restrictions came with the religious takeover in each space but for our hypersexual society in America, it has more nuance than this essay can tackle in a six-minute read. For me, the lack of hugging is sexual adjacent and reconfirmed with a low-touch family dynamic. In the two weeks I have entertained guests from the East Coast, I exchanged two hugs with my visitors- one upon greeting and one upon leaving. It is not my practice to count my hugs but with COVID restrictions making me aware of the kinds of touch that are now off the table, my human contact quota is no longer being augmented.

I have had ten successful hugs in 2021. That is one a month. If it were not for COVID isolation, I may not even have time to count these encounters. I may have reflected in another essay that one’s access to human contact that offers some level of familial comfort tends to be regulated to friends, lovers and family. One element of my ascension demanded that I acknowledge my relationships outside my family dynamics are work related. Despite being attached to sex work advocacy, or heightened by it, my access to intamcy in my informal work spaces has kept my lust for touch softly simmering under a candlewick. I once prided myself on knowing the last time I shed a tear in my teens that did not include allergies and that admission was met with a level of disbelief. Even now, when adding to the number may double that teen count held until the completion of my undergraduate degree, the idea of crying is nice in theory.

I enjoy a good hug. I admire cuddling. I look forward to it being a common occurrence over a long term experience that I carry in my mind with my stolen memories of teaching in South Korea. There have been times during my awakening that being able to subcomb to a full extreme of hysterics attributed to crying in bed, I would have enjoyed being comfortable enough to indulge in that for a moment. Being held with the freedom to talk about my wellness concerns would not hurt either. I openly pine for a point in my life where the opportunity for a cuddle pile among friends will happen. I hope I don’t need to birth the family for that to occur. Having to manufacture the experience that happened among friends would eliminate the comfort of all parties needed simple closeness over my family sharing something I plan on making standard for our family to exist.

It’s nice to have done a starfish hug. It has been a few years I think.

Taking my words out to ‘lunch’.