Are You A Hugger Or A Lugger?


Yeah, I’m talking to you over there. You look like a lugger. Front of the room with the rest of us luggers. There’s safety in numbers, you know.

As for the rest of you, I can tell you’re all huggers by the hugfest in the corner. Well, you’re making us luggers twitchy and nervous, so if you could keep your arms to yourself and have a seat, we’ll get started. I’ll wait.

Okay, everyone settled?

My childhood was filled with Sunday family gatherings on the farm. I remember handshakes and ruffles of the hair and chasing after my brother and my four older male cousins. I have no memory of family hugfests or lack of them. In fact, I have no memory of hugs at all.

Sprint forward a few years to my dating years where hugs were a natural part of the dating game. He hugged. I hugged. Maybe we did more but we’re not here to discuss those activities today.

Then I met my future husband. There was nothing unusual about his dating practices, no forewarning that things were about to get very ugly, very fast. We dated, got engaged and even on our wedding day, a happy occasion with everyone hugging everyone else, I failed to foresee the torture about to be inflicted on me.  

Alas, I was such a naive young bride. Didn’t know how to separate the white laundry from the red or how to cook a roast. But I digress….

After the wedding, things really started to spiral out of control. We’d visit my husband’s family and friends and they’d greet us with hugs on arrival, hugs on departure, and it seemed, hugs every spare moment in-between.

Yeah, by now you can clearly see that I’m a lugger, not a hugger. I’d rather lug in suitcases or groceries and avoid all the huggy-touchy-feely stuff. Over the years, I’ve learned to plan ahead, coming though the door last, making sure I’m busy with kids or shoes or maybe just checking out a corner of the entryway till the hugs are past and people have moved on. Of course, there are more hugs on departure but I’m ready for that, too. If I can beat my husband to the door, I can be halfway to the car before the hugs start.

But life has a funny way of showing us the important things we’re missing out on. When my parents revealed a past secret and expected a backlash of condemnation, we headed to see them to give them our support. My husband, with his hugfest tendencies, insisted they needed a hug to let them know everything was going to be okay. His suggestion seemed kind of crazy. Just because his family got so much joy out of hugging didn’t mean it would have the same affect on my family. Nevertheless, desperate times call for desperate measures and I decided to heed his advice.

We walked in the door of my parents’ house and I held out my arms. My mom clung to me. My dad clung even harder. Suddenly I understood. The act of the hug didn’t really have anything to do with me. It was all about what I could give in that single moment of physical connection. It was all about showing someone else affection and how much they meant to me.

I admit I’m still a lugger for about fifty percent of the time. But the other fifty percent, I join in and become part of the hugfest, whether it be family or friends or co-workers. Today I can hug them all.

So, are you a hugger or a lugger? What about the other people in your life and how do you deal with those on the opposite side of the fence?

About Sheila Seabrook

Author of contemporary romance and women's fiction.

Posted on August 24, 2011, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. Depending on the situation, I could be a hugger or a lugger. With family, I’m a hugger. With friends, unless we’ve somehow established the hugging, I will always be a lugger.

    That being said, I will never hug any of my co-workers, because it’s just not within my comfort zone.

    • Alyssa, we need a slogan: Luggers Unite! 🙂

      I’ve been fortunate to work in a close-knit environments where several of my co-workers have become lifelong friends. For me, those close ties totally make the difference between whether I hug a co-worker or shake their hand.

      Thanks for sharing!

      • At RWA I was hugged by several people, a couple of whom were those I consider close friends. That was fine, though with a few others I was slightly startled because I didn’t expect that our acquaintance was close enough to merit hugs (e.g. my friend’s really lovely agent, who I have chatted to on twitter, etc.) Hopefully she didn’t think I was standoffish when I was a bit stiff.

        I actually don’t mind the cheek kiss (bise, en francais), but I like to know what the expectations are ahead of time. 🙂

        Also, any CaRWAckians have advance permission to hug me. That’s cool.

        • You know, I was just thinking that it must be as hard for huggers to deal with us luggers. So it probably goes both ways. It’s always a question of what’s appropriate and each person’s appropriateness is different, right? So I’ve learned that if someone wants to hug me, I can deal with it … unless I’m deliberately staring at the corner. LOL!

          And CaRWAckians can hug me anytime, too. 🙂

  2. Oh, Sheila! Let me give you a hug and being from Texas, we give a kissaroo too! LOL

    I pretty much hug everyone. Just my way. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

    • Ah, so you’ll be the one to instigate the hugfest. And kisses, too? Why does that not surprise me? LOL!

      When we finally meet in person, will I need to bring my body armour? 🙂

  3. Like you Sheila, when I was growing up, I have no memory of hugs OR lack of them. But then something awful happened, the death of a close family member, and we turned into huggers. Today I’m a hugger, mostly. I wish I could be an all-out hugger, and hug an editor for asking for a partial, but you know . . . decorum :o)

    • Isn’t it strange how we can’t remember hugs and yet I know I got them as a kid. Obviously back then, a hug was something to squiggle out of, as in hands off, don’t touch me, I’m too busy for this lovey-dovey mush. 🙂

      Like you, Suzanne, it took a family event to change me from a lugger into a hugger. Sometimes, though, I wonder if it also comes with aging. As we grow, do we need the comfort of physical touch more?

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. I’m a hugger. I guess my habit stems from growing up in a multicultural environment–my dad worked with military officers from around the world and giving someone a hug, even it if was the first time you met them, wasn’t unusual. I did hug my agent when we she agreed to represent me, but I think she’s a hugger, too!

    • Oh, this is interesting, Tracy. It actually surprises me to hear hugs are common in the military. With no military experience other than what I see in the movies or on TV, I always picture salutes and firm handshakes. Now I’m going to have to revise my whole way of thinking, military style, that is. 🙂

      Getting a hug from your agent must be amazing. Of course, getting an agent would be amazing!

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. Robert Forseth

    I think that the whole conversation about hugging and lugging is hilarious! Never thought about it much but then again… I’m a hugger! I love to hug! However – being a guy, I usually get to do the lugging too.

    I have a mother inlaw who I sadly feel is lost somehwere inbetween the two worlds. It truely is a sad situation as when we meet and depart, we get the cursory hug but then are thrown away when she is done with you! Talk about being flipped for a loop when I first met my new mother inlaw to be!

    Keep on lugg’n Sheila! Lol. Now that I know this, I may just have to sneak up on you at the next workshop and give you a hug-attack!

    • I’m here just to entertain you, Rob. 🙂

      My husband and oldest son are both huggers but our youngest son is a lugger like me. While the oldest throws himself full-body into a hug, the youngest stands back, waits to see if the other person makes a move and if they do, he steps into the hug and does the deed. I love to watch them both because the oldest is so free and affectionate and the youngest makes me realize I probably appear as hesitant as he looks.

      I feel for your MIL, Rob, and this reminds me I always need to be honest with my hugs so no one ever goes away thinking they’re not important to me. Although, I’m bringing body armour to the next CaRWA workshop just in case you form a hug-the-lugger greeting lineup …

  6. Sheila, Sheila … I’m Italian! That should be answer enough and like it or not I am sending you a virtual HUG. There, didn’t that feel good?

    • Hi Florence … I actually love hugs now, although I rarely initiate them because I am, afterall, deep down a true lugger. So I’m smiling at your virtual HUG and sending you a very affectionate one back. HUGS! 🙂

  7. In my personal life, I’m a hugger, though I try to respect other people’s body language and not force them into an uncomfortable situation. I find people are more apt to enjoy or initiate hugs when they are optional.

    I do NOT care for kisses, especially the cheek-smacking kind.

    • Body language is a really good inclination as to whether someone’s a hugger or lugger. I’m glad you brought that up, Jan. I’ve noticed huggers have a tendency to automatically lean forward just the slightest bit. I wonder what us luggers do? Lean back? 🙂

      I love your comment about kisses. LOL!

      Thanks for sharing.

  8. Too funny, Sheila! I always thought hugging was a southern thing. It’s nice to hear it goes on all over the country and in Canada, too!

    I’m more the lugger than the hugger, but being married to an enthusiastic hugger, I have had to change my ways.

    In my early twenties, a male co-worker went through “hug therapy” and would knock on everyone’s office doors for his daily hug. One day he asked why I seemed so uncomfortable giving hugs. I had to tell him that I might not appreciate walking into my husband’s office to find him in a full body hug with a co-worker. He never asked me for a hug again. Frankly, I just thought it was weird!

    I hadn’t thought of that in years–thanks for stirring the memory!

  9. Sheila, I can so relate to this. I’m not touchy feely either, so we’re luggers together. I never thought about this before that much so I truly appreciate your philosophy on the matter.
    Sending you virtual hugs (the kind I can handle),

    • Virtual hugs will do for now, until we meet again in person. Then I know neither of us will be able to resist the “welcome friend” hug. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Susan!

  10. Love this post, you made me laugh on a not-so-laughable day. LOL! I grew up with lots of hugs, but once we were grown ups it kind of “lugged”. Like it was only allowed on holidays or something…I don’t know. When I met my now husband, I found out quickly that they are out to tackle from the moment there is eye contact. Even my dad was like, “my god, they are a huggy bunch, aren’t they?” LOL.

    I’ve gotten used to it, in fact if I try to skip out like you mentioned…which I love your pre-planning by the way…my mother in law will actually call me on the phone to tell me I didn’t hug her goodbye and what was the matter?

    Yeah…it’s not worth all that drama. Better to just get the hugging done. And my daughter is like me. Very huggy with us, and with best friends, but not comfortable with just mauling everyone or being mauled by strangers.

  11. Sheila — hugger here! But, like you, there were no childhood hugs. Norwegians are very stoic people. The old joke, “Ole loved Lena so much, he almost told her” is very true.

    I hug most of my co-workers (hey, they’re all writers), and family and friends. Strangers, people I’ve just met…not so much. Sending a virtual hug to you, too!


  12. Hi everyone! Back from vacation and reading your post, Sheila. I grew up in a family of 5 sisters and my parents and we kissed on the cheek if we were going to the grocery store and kissed hello when we returned! I didn’t think anything about it. I still hug people hello since my husband’s family also hugs. No more kissing, though. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that unless it was my mom and dad and they’re both gone. My father-in-law, who you all know just passed away, used to kiss me on the cheek or blow me kisses. I’m comfortable with affection and will even acquiesce to hugging people I don’t know well. It doesn’t bother me. But I don’t initiate a hug unless I know for sure it will be reciprocated.

    • Welcome back from vacation, Patti. I hope you’ll fill us in on some of the details soon.

      Wow, I’ve seen families on TV who greeted each other affectionately on leaving AND returning but I don’t think I know anyone in real life who does so … or at least not that I’ve seen. It’s wonderful that your family showed each other how much they meant to one another. 🙂

  13. Hey there,
    I am a respectful hugger. I’m a massage therapist and I always ask clients (after looking at body language) if they feel comfortable if I give them a hug.
    I love hugs, but am very self-aware due to an incident with a no-so-nice lugger. One girl at at university asked me if I was gay because I was so touchy feely with my friends.
    I didn’t mind her thinking me a lesbian, but it was her tone of voice and venom when she asked me. She wanted to shame me in some way. Now I realize that she just didn’t like me for some reason and was trying to make me self-conscious.
    That was when I was in uni for computers – and a lot of comp ppl are not huggers, or are shy.
    It made me question my hugging after that. And for a long time only hugged people I trusted.
    Now that I see people in varying states of undress, I have learned a lot about body language and am more comfortable again.

    • It makes sense that a massage therapist would be comfortable with hugging. You touch people all day so you’re used to being up close and intimate. It’s too bad about the person from your university and I suggest that she reacted so strongly because she’s a hardcore lugger. 🙂

      You know what, Jill? I envy people who are so comfortable with the act of giving and receiving a hug. You’re special, comfortable in your own skin and comfortable with other people.

  14. Sheila – I grew up in a family just like yours, and was late to convert to hugging (unless he was tall, dark, and handsome).
    When my best friend gave her grandma a hug followed by a kiss on the mouth, I must have looked shocked.
    Best Friend: “Well, how do you greet your grandma?”
    Me: “I say ‘Hi, Grandma'”.
    We looked at each other with the same horrified expression.

    • Tall, dark, and handsome can hug me anytime, too! 🙂

      Carley, I loved your story about grandma and the kiss on the mouth. It’s all about what we’ve been exposed to since childhood and what’s familiar in our family. I guess it becomes like a family tradition and some families express their love very freely while other are more reserved.

      Thanks for sharing!

  15. Definitely a hugger here! I’ve become even more of one since I’ve had my boys too. But it’s interesting how many people hug, but don’t “heart hug.” Heart hugging is very special because you go in with your left, or heart side, instead. If you try it you’ll feel immediately how intimate it is. I save the heart hugs for family and loved ones.

    And before I used to be weirded out with family kissing kids on the mouth (never done when I grew up!) but now that’s almost the only way me and the boys kiss! Love all the touchy feely!

    • Hi Shanna … I’ve never heard of a heart hug. My first thought is that I’m right handed, so my natural instinct is to lead with my right side. But now that I’ve thought about it for a while, there are times when I’ve leaned in to hug someone and there’s that awkward moment when you’re both trying to figure out which side to connect on. I’ll be those are people who “heart hug”. I’ll have to test this out. 🙂

      Kissing your boys on the mouth is so sweet. I remember doing that with my boys, too, when they were small.

      Thanks for sharing!

  16. A hug makes all things better. Great post, Sheila.

  17. Excellent dialog…really enjoyable. I am a hugger…through and through. I almost get secret thrill throwing someone off their game by a sneak attack. Promise to grow a little respect for the luggers of the world…never saw it that way! thanks!

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