Relationships

Do You Hug and Kiss Your Friends? (What About Arm Tickles?)

Issa and Molly

On this rainy Wednesday, I’d love to ask a question I’ve been curious about: Do you kiss or hug your friends? Or are you happy to not be so touchy? I probably land on one extreme…

My friends generally fall along a spectrum: some aren’t touchy at all, some will give the odd hug, and some are very physically affectionate. What about you? Other than with my husband, kids and mom, I’m not naturally that touchy with people — I don’t instigate it — but I really like when others are.

After all, it feels really good! Playing with each other’s hair, getting a quick shoulder rub, walking arm in arm on the way to dinner… It’s all so endearing and lovely when it feels right to both people.

Affection can be person-specific, too. Although my friend Susan isn’t physically demonstrative with many loved ones, she holds hands with her bestie while walking down the street. “We live 3,000 miles apart, and when we visit each other, I’m just so happy to see her.”

Of course, friendships — and their norms — can change through different life stages. “My touch-y peak was in high school,” says Lina, a mom of two in Westchester. “I was always linking arms and lying on the couch entwined with people, but I don’t have the same closeness with my current mom friends. I miss it.”

My friend Gemma, who considers herself a “toucher” at heart, agrees. “When I’m social these days, we’re usually at a restaurant, and we’re rushed we have kids to get home to — we don’t have these long luxuriating times together.” But she says she still loves putting her head on someone’s shoulder, or playing with someone’s hair, should the opportunity arise. “And fairy tickles!” she adds. “You put your arm out, and your friend tickles the inside, and maybe you watch Notting Hill.”

When you’re not getting as much physical affection, has your body ever noticed it? I remember craving a hug when I moved to a new city after college. I actually fantasized about the physical pressure of platonic arms around my shoulders. Edith Zimmerman wrote a recent story for The Cut about how she wants to reclaim sensual pleasure among friends, in part because she needs it. “My life has been pretty solitary lately, and it can be weird to go for so long without being touched,” she explained. “It’s also weird to realize I’m sort of keeping track. Does a handshake count? A one-armed hug? I hugged a few people lightly at that one party…”

Maybe touching — or not — is a cultural thing? I’m a mix of Midwestern and English and didn’t grow up hugging or kissing many people other than relatives. But others do. “In Brazil, you kiss everyone you meet, and Brazilian hugs are stronger and longer,” says my Brazilian friend Gisela. “When I moved to New York, I bumped into a fellow school mom and went to hug and kiss her and she almost leapt back.” But after 12 years in the States, Gisela has acclimated to less frequent social touch. “When I visit Brazil, I now find it weird that I have to kiss everybody. At a dinner party, I’m like, there goes my next half hour!”

A few years ago, I read a fascinating 1960s study, in which psychologist Sidney Jourard studied conversations around the world between friends in a café. Americans, he discovered, touched only twice during the interaction. The French made contact over 180 times. (!)

After four decades, I’m getting into it. Recently, my friend Gemma returned from a long work trip after we hadn’t seen each other in forever, and she texted to invite me over: “Let’s eat and drink and fall into each other’s arms.” Honestly, nothing sounded better.

So, I’m curious: How often do you touch your friends? Has it changed? Do you wish you had more? Less? Please weigh in, I’d love to hear…

P.S. Five ways to teach kids consent, and who gets the best kisses?

(Top photo from Insecure; bottom photo from Friends.)

  1. Madeleine says...

    Love the comment about how Brazilians hug. My best friend’s wife is Brazilian and we always joke about the contrast between British hugs (at arm’s length, lasting a nano-second) and Brazilian ones (full body contact, from head to toe, lasting waaaay beyond the point where gets uncomfortable). It’s entered the family vernacular: “sending you Brazilian hugs”.

  2. I love this conversation. I find that Americans (myself included!) are so unhealthy in so many ways. Although we are physically unhealthy (hello, obesity!), we are also so emotionally unhealthy. Physical touch and expression are such a healthy way to enforce connection. Research has shown that touching people can literally rewire the brain. I work with schools, and we intentionally use “connection rituals” from Conscious Discipline where the children are invited to engage with each other in a ritual that has four parts: eye contact, physical touch, and presence in a playful way. It reduces stress, builds executive function, and helps children feel connected. I wish we could move away from our Puritan core and touch each other more! Thanks–as always–for bringing important conversations forward, Joanna!

  3. Katha says...

    „I’m not naturally that touchy with people — I don’t instigate it — but I really like when others are.“

    That‘s me!

  4. Pearl says...

    First, can we stop with all the shaking hands? Do you know where those hands have been? Why can’t we just say hello …

    About all the hugging and kissing. I live overseas and the culture is to kiss everyone you meet in a social setting, on each cheek, so two kisses for each person, hello and goodbye. I mean everyone. Your cousin’s daughter’s new boyfriend, two kisses … After I attend a social event, I wonder what germs are on my cheek, though I go with the air kiss myself.
    No wonder viruses spread so quickly.

    I don’t mind close contact with those with whom I am actually close to, , but for the rest, can’t we just stop it already. Just because you “act” like you are close with someone, doesn’t mean you really are. Also, what about all the casual “I love yous,” let’s put a stop to that also.

    But, maybe I’m just a hater.

  5. Jacy says...

    My best friend from childhood once picked up my daughter when she was a toddler and said, she smells just like you. That sign of our closeness (kids always know what everything smells like!) was so special to me. We aren’t close anymore, but I would love to fall into her arms!

  6. K Rez says...

    I don’t like being touched. Massages? Ugh! Please, no!

    I do hug my friends hello and good bye. I’m affectionate with my husband and children. Other than that, I’d prefer people keep their hands to themselves! Who knows where those hands have been.

  7. Megan says...

    I agree that it’s cultural! I’m from the US but my husband and I live in Brazil, and like Gisela described, people are very affectionate here! (I laughed out loud at “there goes my next half hour!” SO TRUE… a half hour to kiss everyone hello when you arrive… and another half hour when you leave!) I love how warm everyone is and think it’s made me more affectionate with my friends and family.

    • Ser says...

      My husband is Brazilian and we live in Australia . All his Brazilian friends are so huggy! It’s a bit much for me . I don’t like that kids are socialized to kiss everyone and I won’t be enforcing that on my daughter. I’ve watched Brazilian friends carry a toddler around at a party and get them to kiss everyone hello. That was so weird for me . My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I said so to him. That just made me remember another funny thing. When we were first dating we went to the beach with his sister and she wore a thong bikini. After I asked him if girls usually wore things around their family. ( I would NEVER wear a thong in front of my brother or dad) He looked at me like I had two heads and said “ what else does she gonna wear at the beach?!?!” Ahhh cross cultural relationships !

    • Raquel says...

      Ser, I am Brazilian and I think I can explain your husband’s surprise about your bikini comment. In Brazil, it’s common to see women of all shapes, sizes and ages wearing bikinis, VERY small ones compared to the Aussie bikinis. So, for us, a bikini that elsewhere would be something extra sexy and perhaps a bit (or too much!) over the top, is just a bikini. I wouldn’t change my bikini just because my dad or my brother would see me on it because I don’t think of it as something sexy. I just think of it as swimwear I wear it to the beach. Period. I don’t wear thongs but it sounds like that’s what your sister-in-law usually wears. So why would she change just because of her family? I hope that helps!

  8. Nicole says...

    I kiss my friend’s on the cheek! I also have a close friend whose family I have known for over 20 years, and her parents often kiss me on the cheek before I leave their house. Their family is Italian!

  9. Hannah says...

    I was never very touchy with friends in college (expect my best friend), until I moved to Tunisia to teach English. Here, women greet women and men greet men with kisses on both cheeks. It’s become routine to greet my co-workers this way daily. It’s interesting because touching/affection between men and women in public is not seen often as Tunisia is a more conservative, mostly Muslim country. But I find that physical affection within genders is much more common. While I’m not sure that I initiate touch more often with my friends now, I have come to appreciate how loved and accepted I feel being greeted in such an intentional way.

  10. Jenny says...

    Koreans have “skinship”. Google it. Might as well throw in a search for Korean “fan death” while you’re on the webs!

    • carrie says...

      Googled both. Interesting! Especially the fans…

  11. Iris says...

    Gosh I feel so torn on this one – we were very loving and happy growing up but we never were very physically affectionate. I know that we hugged and kissed our parents when we were little, but as I grew up it just never really occurred to me to hug anyone other than my mom when coming home to visit from college. Now, I’m very affectionate with my son and my husband and I hold hands occasionally, but it still hardly ever occurs to me to show physical affection to any of my friends. We have ONE friend couple who always hug us goodbye when we part ways that now feels totally natural, but never with anyone else. I don’t really feel like I’m missing out, but I just can’t decide!

  12. Emily says...

    I know this feeling well.

    When I first got out of college I worked with two Venezuelans (both named Hernan) and they would make sure to hug me almost every day. It really made for a much better day, and job. It was completely platonic, but being in a new city, with not a ton of friends and single – it meant so much to me.

  13. Jessica says...

    I love this article and the kinds of things it makes me think about: do I like physical expressions of affection? when? how? with whom? in what season or setting? I am a midwestern-raised, White & Latinx woman in the U.S. My instinct is to be pretty hands-off outside of my husband, daughter, and parents. There are a few high school and college friends – my coming-of-age friends – with whom I maintain gestures of love through linking arms, giant hugs, sitting closely. I remember seeing a newer friend in my life being so sweetly intimate with her close friends, and I thought “what a loving space this is for everyone…not just those who are exchanging physical affection.” I have a brand new friend who brings to our relationship her culture’s ritual of kissing multiple times on the cheek, STRONG hugs, and linking arms whenever possible. It definitely gives me a deep sense of belonging in her home, and I imagine it shows solidarity when we’re out and about in a culture where that isn’t the norm. These and SO MANY OTHER THOUGHTS! Friendship is such a lovely thing to ponder.

  14. MRP says...

    I remember, back in college, I went to a foreign country to get my Master’s degree. My roommates and I weren’t close, I didn’t date, didn’t really know anybody there. Once, my roommate kind of bumped into me and sort of went into an apologetic half hug and a ‘sorry, didn’t see you there’; it felt so odd and soul-crushing to be touched again, even if it was accidental. That’s when I realized it had been months, if not close to a year, since anybody’s touched me, and it made my insights ache and cry out for affection and physical touch. It hit me then, how lonely and starved of human contact I was. I know what it’s like not having anybody touch you in a caring and affectionate way for a long period of time. You shrivel up like a forgotten houseplant.

  15. Bekah says...

    While in college I developed this weird habit of grabbing my best friends hand at random and would simply say “affection.” She would let me hold her hand for as long as I needed. She never told me it was weird or questioned it, but instead just understood that for whatever reason I needed a little boost of connectivity in that moment. We don’t get to see each other as often now, but almost always when I see her I will grab her hand and say affection. I guess it has become our unspoken way of saying I still need you, you’re still my best friend.

    • Megan says...

      I love this, Bekah!

  16. Such an interesting post! I’ve been described as “not afraid to touch people” hahaha. I kiss everybody on both cheeks when meeting them (this is a cultural thing – my mom is French-Canadian and my father is Cuban), and then with close friends and family I will hold their face in my hands while doing the cheek kisses and then wrap them in my arms. I love physical contact – but! I think it’s extremely important to respect people’s limits and not touch people who don’t like being touched.

  17. Lele says...

    Growing up in an asian family, there were never hugs, kisses or “i love you”. We didn’t talk about our feelings and affection was never displayed.

    Now as an adult, I have two daughters (9 and 10 yrs), whom I couldn’t imagine not kissing and hugging every single day. We start our mornings off with a kiss and a hug and do the same when we part ways. Often my younger daughter will hold me for a while until she is ready to start her day.

    We often request time together, intertwined on the sofa, by asking “cuddle?”, both them to me and me to them, when we feel the need or want. We will hop on the sofa and I’ll hold my daughters close and stroke their hair, nuzzle them while looking into their faces. It’s in these moments that we have conversations about what is going on in their lives.

    I know when I am older and they have moved out, I will think back to these moments and cherish them.

    After a couple of days of not seeing my partner, there is nothing I want more than to give him a hug and be close to him. It’s where I feel safe and comforted. Touch is so important with those you love.

    This whole topic has me thinking of how I can incorporate more touch with my parents. Maybe an arm around my mom at the kitchen counter or my head on my dad’s shoulder at the dinner table when we are chatting. Baby steps!

    This is such an interesting topic to touch on, Joanna!

  18. Lindsey says...

    I used to be very affectionate in my teens and early 20s. My best friend and I would often snuggle up for a movie and walk arm in arm. Honestly, in the past 5 years my body has changed due to some medical issues and I’ve gained a lot of weight. I’m extremely self conscious of it and assume people don’t want to touch me. It makes me pretty sad and when I hear of friends who are affectionate I assume they are all slender, tall and beautiful. Not at all like me, short and overweight. But I do look back on those times with my friends fondly.

    • Hugging you from Montreal xxxx

    • Lauren says...

      Aw Lindsey, I really doubt people would want to be less cuddly because you gained weight! If anything it’s extra nice to hug someone ‘softer’–I’ve always secretly wished for a motherly hug from Oprah!–but hugs are so nice with anybody. . Feeling self-conscious is the absolute worst though, and so so frustrating and tiring; I know from being a skin picker :(

    • Lindsey says...

      Thanks for your kind words friends. I know my thinking is warped but it’s hard to pull myself out of those feelings. Also, this is not something I have ever before expressed but it is amazing how this post resonated with my current state of mind and so these thoughts came tumbling out before I realized I had typed and submitted. Thank you again.

    • Raquel says...

      Lindsey, sending you a really big-over-the-top-Brazilian hug!!!!

  19. Chelsea says...

    I’m so here for this post. “Tikki” in my family is a multi-generational ‘touch language” and it’s got the power to relax and calm like nothing else. Imagine fingers gently tracing your skin, not scratching. When getting her chemo treatment, my Baba (grandma) asked my mom for “tikki.” In labor, I had an epidural but felt all of the contractions in my right hip. My husband was power massaging my leg, but my mom was “tikki-ing” my back. Now, at bedtime, my 4-year-old son will turn his back or stretch out his arm and ask, “please mama, tikki, two fingers.” It’s the sweetest request and I never tire of it. It’s connection and love and history all rolled into one lovely act.

    • Michelle says...

      We call this a froogle in my family.

  20. LJ says...

    Love this, a great gift!

  21. Lisa says...

    When I was at university my best friends (girls) and I were very affectionate – we would share beds and cuddle constantly. It was lovely. A couple of months after I graduated, a male “friend” sexually assaulted me and since then I’ve been creeped out by people touching me, unless they’re very close friends or family.
    With my friends now, we don’t really touch apart from one who is VERY huffy and it’s so comforting. I have small kids and I can’t resist them. They’re both very affectionate. They’ll put their heads on my shoulder or chest, come and sit with me for a cuddle and my baby girl throws her arms around my neck and kisses me on the mouth (which is slightly less pleasant when she’s very snotty). I’m glad they’re (so far) so physically affectionate

  22. Stacey says...

    I used to not be a toucher, and then I lived in China for a while about 15 years ago. Apart from having to get used to being poked (yes, literally poked) by old ladies on the bus (I was a novelty there), I learned that people there love to hold hands with their friends. It was surprising at first to see grown men platonically holding hands as they walked down the street, but by the end of my time there I loved it and was holding hands with all my friends whenever we would go out.

  23. Jessica says...

    Touch is so uplifting to me, I crave it. Sometimes when my sister and I are hanging out together, she will lazily pet me, like you would a beloved pet. It feels so good, it’s pure endorphins.

  24. I live in a French town near Geneva, Switzerland. So in France one kisses people once on each cheek for hello and goodbye. But in Geneva it is three times total. This means arriving and leaving parties you kiss hundreds of times. When I go running w my trail group, you have to kiss each new arrival three times. Fine w me but not sure I will ever get 100 percent used to it! Many men do a sort of handshake highly thing to each other instead, but women are always kissed.

    • Mari says...

      Leigh, same thing in Brazil. The amount of kisses depend on which part of the country you live, from 1 to 3. Women are always kissed, but men do the handshake. I’m so used to it, though I honestly think it makes no sense in formal situations like business meetings… Like, why am I kissing my business partner on the cheek? But whatever

  25. Stefanie says...

    I really am not touchy feely towards anyone but my husband and kids, who I am very touchy feely with! But anyone else I really don’t enjoy a hug or kiss from. I’m not sure why!
    I tolerate hugs from my family. My husband’s family is very huggy and I do not like it! How can I train them to back off?

    • E says...

      I don’t like hugs from most people, especially people I don’t like! My boyfriend told his parents that I don’t care for hugs, and that helped a lot. His mom will sometimes ask if she can give me a hug.

  26. jenny says...

    I feel so lucky that I’ve been friends with my core group of girls for 20 years (i’m in my mid-30s!), and touch is a huge part of our relationship. We cuddle when we’re all smooshed on the couch watching a movie, and one of us sitting on the floor in front of the other is the wordless signal for ‘shoulder rub please!’. I don’t have this relationship with the other friends in my life, and I don’t know if I ever would with anyone else but I treasure it.

  27. Raquel says...

    HAHAHA- me too! I was reading the post thinking ” I wonder what Gisela said” and it is exactly how I feel too! I live in California and I have another Brazilian co-worker and we always kiss and hug after lunch and we have gotten a few looks from others co-workers lol.
    I will add that I HATE the half-hug-I-am-not-really-hugging-you-this-is-awkward-hug. I much rather to wave or shake hands. Drives me nuts! Thanks for reading, I’ve always wanted to say that lol

    • Lara says...

      Hahaha the half hug drives me crazy! There is the handshake version of that too, the wobbly hands. Brazilian hugs are so much better :)

  28. Chantel says...

    I have always been a hugger. I’m also extremely tactile. Some of my friends are huggers like me and others are not. I had a close friend, a beautiful person with a megawatt smile who exuded so much warmth but wasn’t a hugger. A few years back we met for breakfast and I remember being SO excited to see her. My natural instinct was to grab her and tell her how happy I was to see her but her arms remained by her side and so I clammed up and refrained. Little did I know that was the last time I would ever see her. She died a few weeks later. Ever since that day I stand firmly behind my love of hugs and if I love you too you sure bet I’m coming in for a squeeze!

  29. Grace says...

    I have been thinking more lately about the importance of physical touch, particularly for the elderly. My husband’s grandfather died several years ago, and I am close with his surviving grandmother. She and her husband were always very physically affectionate, and I recently noticed how much she enjoys certain appointments, like getting her nails done, or going to the hairdresser, and realized that these routines are not only about her appearance and self-esteem, but many weeks, they are also the only times she experiences physical touch from somebody – a hand massage or a nice long shampoo probably feels especially good. Now I make sure to give her extra long hugs when I see her, and make an effort to touch her arm or gently rub her shoulder while we’re talking. I’m also trying to talk her into adopting a pet :)

    • Ann-Marie says...

      Yes, I noticed this in my grandmother too. She was alone for the last 15 years of her life after my grandpa died, and I’m sure many of her self-care appointments were also the only times she received physical touch. It’s so important!

    • At a nursing home I worked at , the occupational therapist would push around a little cart of oils and give hand massages to the residents while chatting. This was the only non clinical touch most of them got.

  30. Linda says...

    In my family/extended family on my mom’s side we hug and double-kiss (on the cheeks, like the French) hello and goodbye – they’re of European and South American decent. On my dad’s side (Anglo-Saxon) not-so-much…
    With my friends we usually hug hello and goodbye as well, especially since we don’t get to see each other as often as we used to.
    My boyfriend and I are constantly touching each other – hugs from behind while the other is doing the dishes; cuddles on the couch when watching a movie; resting a hand on the other person’s leg or back when we’re both sleeping in bed.
    I think the dog even gets a little jealous and wants to join in on action, haha

  31. karen says...

    This morning as I was taking my 7 year old to camp, I totally paused the moment in my mind. His small hand in mine as we crossed the street. Pure bliss. Often, I’ll announce, “We’re hugging” when people come to visit or I bump into friends on the street. Or I do a quick, “Are we hugging?” while walking towards someone I know. Growing up, my family was not very touchy- feely. After I started working with kids, who hug and touch you all the time as a pre-K teacher, I realized what I had missed when young. When I stopped teaching my body totally went through touch withdrawal!

  32. M says...

    I think I generally have a touchy personality…but I live in North America where most people are pretty distant. I hate going in for a greeting and not knowing whether to hug, kiss, shake hands, or (*cringe*) wave. I find people here don’t really commit to it either, leaving the touching interaction really unsatisfying so I’ve noticed myself trying to avoid any touching at all with this crowd. Like, why even bother hugging if you’re not going to do it properly?

    However, when I lived in South America, I LOVED all the touching! First of all, one kiss on the left cheek for (literally) everyone takes all of the awkward confusion away. But also I loved how friends would touch my arm while we’re talking and it was so casual and endearing. But also I found people leaned into those interactions and it was delightful. I wanted to re-create it in North America when I moved back, but it really only works with my Latinx friends and girlfriends who are originally from other parts of the world (not North America or Europe). Physical affection in friendships seems to come naturally to most of the world…but it seems to be something that my culture is sadly missing out on.

  33. I had a friend several years ago that I don’t see often, but for some reason her hugs are something I still think about! She always hugs people for five whole seconds. At first I felt weirded out by it, but then I felt so comforted. I want to be the kind of person who is remembered for hugs, so I am actively trying to give less rushed hugs. Just count to five before you let go.

  34. Rusty says...

    I commented about holding my Mother’s hand as she died, in a reply to someone above.
    Another telling ‘touch’ moment was when I’d made friends with a Japanese woman (a coupleof decades older than I and quite traditional in hed wsys-no overt touching) who walked past our front garden every afternoon as I was tending the roses, She would bow and quietly say hello.
    Finally, I asked her name and did the normal Australian thing of asking her over for a cuppa (tea or coffee).
    The day she arrived, she wanted to leave her shoes outside the front door. I insisted it was okay to leave them on, so she did, although looking very awkward about it.
    As she came inside, I went to give her a hug (as I do) and she resisted a bit. I laughed and said “Australian custom” and we hugged briefly. Then, she looked me in the eye as she removed her shoes and said “Japanese custom.” Touche!
    After that, I was invited to her house (she and her husband were spending a few years here as part of their retirement) and I swapped my shoes for woven “guest slippers” just inside their front door and was honoured with the full tea service as her husband and I watched her intricate dance of swapping slippers berween the living room and kitchen, sooo many times.
    A week later, I realized we were friends when she invited me to a Japanese cultural event and as we walked there, she linked arms with me! Breakthrough! Solid friendship culture. :)

    My best friend from uni and I link arms when we walk in public and a new friend (Indian) linked her arm in mine the very first time we walked side by side!
    A German male friend always does the double cheek kisses and a brother-in-law goes for the lips at hello/goodbye and I find that repulsive so I turn my head so he has to connect with my cheek. Ha!

    Friendship culture is so global now, it’s become a situation of whatever feels comfortable…do that!

  35. Becca says...

    I was wondering about this the other day when I saw a story about Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams — they were cuddling together in a bunch of photos. I’m not cuddly with friends, but I was totally jealous of that! I don’t think it would have been an option for me growing up in the type of Midwestern community I did, though. During the early days of Facebook when I was in high school, I changed my profile picture to one of me and my best friend and my mom told me people would take it “the wrong way.” UGHHHHH HOMOPHOBIA WHYYYY

  36. Tracie M. says...

    I grew up in a pretty touchy family so to me physical touch is a way to express love and closeness. I hug and kiss my immediate family and definitely hug my closest friends. My best friend recently came home after TWO YEARS away and that hug was the sweetest ever!

  37. lindsay says...

    I am so surprised at this. I do have best friends who love to squeeze me tight when they see me and even though I love them and have missed them, I still don’t really love the hugs. my husband has been trying to get us hugging and cuddling more lately and its nice but I much prefer just looking at each other and paying attention to each other, listening, talking, doing things together. I hate holding hands! Gosh I kind of want to see a therapist now, ha. I guess I am just not a touchy feely person! I am an introvert. My family wasn’t touchy. I can hug my 3 kids forever though! I also never feeling lonely. I can be alone for long periods, I just never feel lonely. I don’t have a sister and my mom was closer to my brothers. Digging deeper here…..ha

    • Jamie says...

      You’re exactly how you’re supposed to be! Sounds like you just have a different “love language”. Yours is quality time not physical touch :)

  38. Denise says...

    Interesting topic! I like reading about so many various ways in this regard. I tend to be a touch-me-not, especially when I don’t know it’s about to happen. Nothing makes me recoil faster than a sneak attack no matter how kindly meant. However, I do like a quiet calm squeeze from a loved one or even a new acquaintance if it’s announced or it’s super clear that both of us know it’s about to happen before it happens. “I’m going to hug you now” does not ruin the magic, it enhances it by allowing me to open up and let it in – or say no thank you.

  39. Ginger says...

    I read Brett Trapp’s entire blog (https://www.bluebabiespink.com/) about struggling with his sexuality for over a decade before finally admitting to himself and others that he was gay. He grew up Southern Baptist and felt such shame that he hid his struggle from everyone. What stood out to me the most from the story was that, although he didn’t have a lot of expendable income, he would get a professional massage regularly – like, every 2 weeks- because he craved human touch so badly. It broke my heart to read that. He felt he had to pay someone to rub his back because he couldn’t seek out the affection he really desired, and his straight guy friends would offer a clap on the back, at best. Made me want to wrap him up in a big old hug when I read that!

  40. Emily R says...

    I’ve been single for a decade and I don’t see it changing anytime in the near future. Friends and family are my only options for touch. I love love love hugging kissing and cuddling with friends. It doesn’t happen nearly enough so I savor all of it.

  41. Lucy says...

    My touching is extremely relationship-specific, but in a non-linear way. I am very touchy freely with my children and my college friends and to some extent my husband (!), but not in a spooning in bed way :-) I am very close with my mom but not very touchy-feely with her and definitely not my dad. For later-in-life friends, I mostly cheek kiss, but am not huge on hugging. And for work colleagues, I’d prefer not to touch them at all (yuck). The one exception is an arm touch or hold. I do that a lot when I’m taking and I don’t care who you are (work settings excepted).

  42. Jean says...

    I remember getting my first professional massage and realizing that YOU CAN PAY SOMEONE TO TOUCH YOU :) It was an eye-opener and has really made a difference during those times I crave physical touch.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s really sweet, jean. i agree :)

  43. Emily says...

    i hate HATE being touched by strangers or acquaintances, but once we cross that invisible friendship barrier, i am all-in. big hugs, arm squeezes, head cradling – all of it. i actually didn’t realize HOW intensely i hug until my rehearsal dinner, when my brother-in-law included something about my giant hugs in his toast. turns out, it’s a whole thing.

  44. Capucine says...

    Kissing, agh! My husband is French and good god, after twenty years I STILL have to stop myself from flinching when people lean in for a kiss every time we see them on the street.

    On the other hand, they would tell you the same about my hugs! That is not done in France; it is considered very intimate and makes everyone uncomfortable. So, basically, it’s awkward and awkward when I’m there!

    Back in the US, I’m a hugger – when I see sadness in people I know, or even don’t know, sometimes it rises up by instinct and I want to hold out my arms. I ask them if they want a hug. Often just asking brings tears. After a brutal year of loss and grieving when I didn’t want to fall apart in public daily and started dodging hugs, I got to be on the other side of that fence.

    With the greatest respect and gratitude for the depths of all your hearts, and your willingness to live open-hearted, with kisses or hugs or nods from a safe distance as you feel it. May we all be respected, seen, and comforted in our hour of need.

    • H says...

      Damn, Capucine. That last paragraph is pure poetry. Thank you.

    • Jo Kelly says...

      I’m with H… your last paragraph is one to take in deeply and live. thank you! your entire story is lovely & bittersweet. May you continue to find what you need for your heart after your loss. x

  45. Danielle says...

    Even within the U.S. I think there is cultural variation. I’m from the South, and hugging has always been a part of our interactions- family and friends. I live hundreds of miles from my closest friends right now, and when we get back together that tight first hug is one of the best things. I live in the Midwest right now and I still hug and touch probably more than most people here, although I do have to be mindful of those who REALLY don’t want the contact. (I forget sometimes that it’s not comforting to everyone).

    Friendly kissing, on the other hand remains strange to me. I do it, but it never occurs to me to initiate.

    • heather says...

      So, I’m from the South, and the “kiss hello” was a very natural part of my upbringing. I had to snap the eff out of it when I moved to DC. One day I saw a coworker walking down the street one day and on auto-pilot went to air kiss his cheek. His eyebrows went way up and I realized he thought it was some kind of come on. Horrifying.

      I’m still super schmoopy with my best girl friends. We declare our love for each other and hold hands and kiss each other on the face and never get off the phone without saying “I love you.” That kind of casual warmth is so relaxing and affirming. It’s kind of striking considering my husband and I almost never get off the phone saying “I love you.”

  46. Asha says...

    What a great post! If it was up to me, I’d hug, lean, rest a head on shoulder with any friend I meet, but I find I have different versions of affection depending on who I am with. My bff is far more physically affectionate than I am, but I love it, bc she loves on me without abandon. My husband is from Germany so I find with him the small, little things – linking pinkies while we sit together or touching feet in bed- show affection. My boys are so different too. My eldest (8) never used to be a cuddler, but this past year I have seen in him a real shift where he seeks hugs and gives kisses. That might have something to do with his little brother (5) who is a real smoocher! He loves so hard – BIG hugs, smacks of kisses and full body cuddles. Those aren’t only for me – they are for anyone who’s ready for them (although now we are talking about when it’s ok to show physical affection to other people). But as a yoga teacher, I refrain from initiating touch out of respect for my students. Instead I try to convey love through eye contact and genuine smiles. I try to show big affection in little ways.
    (ps: that gif is everything!!!)

  47. Sally says...

    I’ve had my best friend in that role for the better part of 20 years, and I can honestly only recall us hugging once. Neither of us are particularly the touchy-feely type (I get more hugs from her husband than I do from her!) so it just doesn’t happen.

    The one and only time I can recall us hugging was when I first saw her after my dad died. She invited me round for tea (it was my birthday, so… yeah, great timing dad), and we arrived at her house at the same moment, from our respective jobs. She got out of her car and just stood on the driveway and opened her arms to me, and I just went straight into them. Neither of us said a word, but at that moment, I felt so heard.
    We’ve talked in the past about how “we just don’t hug”, but at that sad, horrible moment in my life, she knew what I needed.
    I have never forgotten it.

  48. Kendra says...

    I’m super huggy touchy, especially when I’m in a good mood or enjoying my time with my family or friends. I think many of them have just gotten used to me being that way and accept it, but I try to restrain myself when I know they don’t like to be touched! I doo think my 4 year old is becoming the same though, she regularly comes to me throughout the day and exclaims, “hugs forever!” and grabs me tight or just randomly stops me and says, “kiss”. It melts my heart every time :)

    • Kylie says...

      Hugs forever!! That’s so sweet.

  49. Sasha L says...

    I like hugs with close friends. Too long hugs make me cringe though. And I have chronic pain so sometimes hugs actually hurt. But sometimes they are so comforting.

    My favorite hugs of all are from the preschoolers I teach. Kids hug with all their heart.

    Friendly teacher reminder to always ask children if they’d like a hug from you, and be happy and ok with their no if that’s their answer. Please don’t ever cajole or demand a hug from a child. Consent starts at birth.

  50. Betsy says...

    I’m 33 and the best friend I’ve made post-college recently moved to another city. She was my touchest friend who lived in the same city as me. We’d hold hands when we walked to dinner and such. I’ve friends from high school who we still drape ourselves over each other when we see each other but they live states away. Her last night in town we went out to dinner and drinks with her boyfriend, my husband and her mom. She and I sat next to each other the whole night, held hands when we walked down the street and hugged so long when we finally said goodbye. It reminded me of when I was a little girl when my friends and I would entwine our arms and fingers at the end of a playdate like the physical attachment might mean our parents wouldn’t make us separate and make us go home. I desperately miss the platonic intimacy. It’s so much harder to establish as an adult I feel, don’t want to freak out the non-huggers.

  51. Ha! Love this. It depends on the friend, but with my younger sister we are very touchy. We grab eachother’s butts or when she wears a cute cropped top I can’t help but touch her adorable belly! My older sister, on the other hand, would be appalled if I invaded her personal space. It’s interesting to me bc she’s such a warm, lovely and generous person. Just keep your hands off?

  52. The statement on missing that closeness with “mom friends” resonated with me. I still have that closeness with certain friends from college and before, who all still live in Germany, where I’m from. When we do see each other, we can’t keep our hands off each other and our arms untangled, and I love it. When my one friend and I saw each other again after a few years, we just fell into each others’ arms and cried. That sort of stuff is rare and doesn’t happen often, and I’m not sure if it happens again after that formative period when we were all younger and yearning for those connections in our lives. Before partners and kids and all this adulting. I love my friends now, and I couldn’t imagine life without them, and while we kiss and hug and I’m known to occasionally drop my head on one of their shoulders, I still miss that old familiar closeness with my old friends that I just can’t seem to replicate.

    • liz says...

      honestly a big reason why i’m scared to consider having kids. the experience is what it is, but it also seems to swallow up everything else that’s good

  53. i will hug the eff out of my husband, all day and everyday. everyone else gets a high give. and i don’t force any kids to hug me but if they offer it up, i’ll take it.

  54. Ashley M says...

    My family isn’t very touchy-feely, but when I went to college my roommate (and now best friend) did come from a touchy-feeling family. Playing with hair, rubbing backs, hugs, snuggling in the same twin bed on a Sunday morning recapping our drunken shenanigans from the night before. I came home after my first semester of college and my hometown best friend said to me after a night of hanging out “Why do you keep touching me? You don’t touch people. This is weird!!”

  55. celeste says...

    I’m not a toucher at all and will jump back. I’ll take a hug or a hand hold from my kids or a husband, but that’s it!

  56. My parents (especially my dad) find it odd that my twin sister and I never hug (but we do hug our friends).

    Also, I’ve been salsa dancing for 16 years, and that’s a good way to get physical contact (as long as it’s respectful) when you aren’t getting it elsewhere.

    • Rebecca says...

      Olga, this is exactly me and my twin sister! If we are somewhere together with friends we will both hug everyone..but not each other. Glad it’s not just us!

  57. S says...

    Neither of my parents were particularly affectionate, though I didn’t even think twice about it until I got to a small college in Northern California and EVERYONE hugged each other. I didn’t know what to do! It wasn’t that I hated the hug itself, but it just felt too new to me and I entered hugs with the trepidation of an American trying to double kiss Europeans (too fast? too slow? too much contact?) and my best friends poked fun at me for being so awkward about hugs. Then I met my now-husband who is the king of physical touch, and I hug everyone! I’ve grown so comfortable with it over the years. Everyone in our friend group gets a hug (and an “I love you” when we leave). While casual hugging is something I crave now, intimate cuddling can be harder for me. Sometimes I love to be spooned (naps only!) and other times I feel so claustrophobic I can’t stand him pressed up against me, I think since I was raised with a lot more personal and emotional distance. For whatever reason, though, a very calming physical touch for me is when I have light pressure on my forehead. Sometimes when my mind is racing and I can’t sleep, he’ll just reach across the bed and put his palm on my forehead and we’ll both fall asleep like that :)

    • Katie H says...

      Palm on the forehead! That’s just the sweetest thing…

  58. K says...

    Human touch is always a practiced interaction to me. Like being 16 and holding hands with a boyfriend or when your stepparent says “I love you” and saying it back feels like a betrayal to your blood parent. If you do these things enough, it feels normal and then comforting knowing the recipient can feel your care.

  59. Annie says...

    I went to an all-girls summer camp for 10+ years as a camper and counsellor…the friendships I have from there are so specific and affectionate. We’re in our 30s now, married and starting to have kids, but if you leave us for 5 minutes on a couch we’re in a cuddly pretzel of legs and arms. A group of us met at a bar for “a drink” recently, all of a sudden it was last call and we were braiding each other’s hair. Something about feeling so known and adored…thankful for my sisterhood even though it probably looks like we’re in a cult.

  60. Jessica says...

    My friend Antoinette always gave me the ‘pat pat’ hug which barely counted as a hug–loose arms, pat on shoulder, done. I sat with her one day and told her I really like you and want a real hug from you. She didn’t know what that meant. I showed her and while she was uncomfy (but willing) at first, now she loves it. She says I’m the friend who taught her to hug. I’d say that’s one of my life’s great accomplishments.

  61. Asia says...

    I’m not a casual hugger, but I am a meaningful hugger. I used to get annoyed when I would arrive at a gathering and everyone would kiss and hug even though we’d just seen each other earlier in the day. But then, also if people hugged everyone BUT me (because they know I’m not a hugger), that would annoy me too! (I know, I’m complicated.) But lately, I do feel compelled to hug friends when I haven’t seen them in a while, or won’t see them for a while, or if we’ve just been talking about something heavy.

    I’m also starting to like walking arm-in-arm with people. I guess I chalk it up to the wisdom that comes with aging!

    • Susan Y. says...

      “not a casual hugger” – yes

  62. Rachel says...

    I’m a hugger and I craaavveee physical touch, and I’m slowly converting those around me. First it was dad. He’s affectionate with my mama, but never seemed comfortable giving me long hugs (though we always gave goodnight kisses). There was one time though, at a particularly rough time in my life, that we hugged for many minutes. Since then, we hug more routinely and for longer times. And I don’t let him go if I’m not done hugging!
    Then, it was my husband. When we first started dating, he didn’t enjoy holding hands or sitting right up next to each other on the couch. Now though, HE’S the one who initiates hand holding and long hugs (and the ever-darling one-foot touch when we’re barely awake in bed).
    Mom and sister and I have always been huggers and touchers and hand holders though. Few things beat holding my little sister’s hand :)

  63. liz says...

    absolutely. it’s an easy (maybe even essential?) way to show someone you are there for them and you really love and care for them. I’m not touchy with all my friends but when I think of it, it’s because I’m not as close to those individuals. If I really care about someone, I take that next step of intimacy. I’m a real believer in the idea that hardly any expression of love (maybe aside from sex?) should be reserved for only your romantic partners. Cross that. I believe friends are romantic partners (that you (generally) don’t have sex with)!

  64. Jane says...

    A few comments:
    I used to live in France and when I returned to Canada I missed the bise- the kiss on each cheek, but while I was there I missed hugs, which is more American.
    Instead of offering a solution when the kids are grouchy or suffering an unfairness I will offer a hug. It calms them, makes them feel understood and I’m not solving what cannot be solved.
    I heard somewhere in life’s ether that teenagers get touched less than seniors in an old age home. Horrible for each. So, I hug and give my 17 year old a kiss every night (well, I do that with all three kids, but I make a point of it for my oldest). Not going to solve all of life’s problems, but he knows he is loved and I know it too.
    Finally. I am different with friends. Some I hug, some I kiss, some get nothing! I tell one friend that I love her after every phone call- it’s our sign off.

  65. Yulia says...

    Touch is tricky because it can feel invasive. Not that I’m equating the friendly touch to being groped or fondled, but I think it requires consent like any other touch! Even if you are the sweetest, kindest toucher it doesn’t mean the people you want to touch owe you their body for the touching.

    If you are a toucher and it makes you sad that others aren’t, I suggest giving people an easy out when you approach them with your touch. “Can I hug you?” can be difficult to say no to in the moment. “Are you comfortable with hugs?” might be a better way to test the waters and see if your touch is truly welcome.

    With that said, if you are a toucher then I hope your life is full of the touch you crave. I hope your touches are given with love and received with joy. :)

    • Christine says...

      YES!! As a non toucher (honestly even reading this article gave me the heebie jeebies haha) I love this! I hate people going in for hugs and I have no way out. It feels so violating. I’ve started saying no and trying to block but you’d be surprised how many people believe that because we are friends they are owed that hug. Drives me nuts.

    • Sasha L says...

      Totally agree!!!

  66. Heather D says...

    Is there anything more awkward than receiving a hug and pulling away after a reasonable amount of time only to find the instigator is still holding you? Awkward!! Then you lean back in and die a little inside if it happens again in the same hug cycle.

  67. Kate says...

    I have a couple of girlfriends that I kiss goodbye (especially when arms are full of kids and hugging isn’t possible!) and a few guy friends that get big smacks on the lips when we see each other. I have one girlfriend in particular who is a doctor and takes care of people all day long and when we get together she’ll say, “Ok Kate, are you ready to snuggle me now?” like we’re starting a really important meeting and the first item on the agenda is for me to stroke her hair and scratch her back. I love these relationships so much!

  68. katie says...

    Growing up, my sisters, cousins and I would “exchange” back rubs. My sisters and I still do! I look forward to visits with them knowing I’ll get a good back rub. Our husbands probably think we’re weird and I’m ok with that.

    A cousin and I used to do the “arm tickle” think during church. Yes, during Sunday Mass. It helped the time pass and it felt good.

    In my 20s, I wasn’t much of a hugger. In my 30s, I can safely say I’m now a hugger.

  69. I was VERY anti-touch for most of my childhood and into my early 30s. I proclaimed kissing was disgusting around age 4 and never let my poor parents really give me physical affection ever again. When I had my own children, everything changed. I hug my parents now and everyone else. My husband fondly referred to me as his Ice Queen for years, but I don’t hear that moniker much anymore. I hug colleagues and business associates instead of giving handshakes! I’ve worked with this people for so long and know about their personal lives, it feels crazy to NOT embrace them when I see them in person at business meetings. I now say “I love you” every time I get off the phone with my girl friends. I barely know who am I now, thanks to my children and those first few months and years of unabashed affection they gave me, and continue to give me, and now I am able to give it so freely to everyone else. I constantly apologize and feel such utter sadness for my parents every time my boys come over to give me a ‘huggie’. How did they survive without being able to hug their little daughter all those years ago? The good news is that I have no problem in trying to make it up to them now, with a little help from their grandsons too.

    • Tis says...

      I would like to encourage you to consider those hugs at work. Are they truly reciprocated? Are they really appreciated? I love a hug “in real life” but nothing puts me off quicker than a colleague, let alone my superior, hugging me. Errrgggghhh. (And I know I’m not alone.) But if they’re good, enjoy!

  70. Danielle says...

    I do not enjoy being touched by strangers, but I love the closeness that comes from being touched by friends and loved ones. I moved to America two years back and am still struggling to find that physical intimacy, I miss the closeness I had with my friends and family back in Australia. I’m used to holding friends hands, linking arms, tight hugs, cheek kisses, even play fighting, I feel my friends and family in America get very uncomfortable when I try to hug or touch them.

  71. I am your stereotypical person of German descent – I am NOT much of a hugger and I would NEVER kiss a friend! Ha. I will hug people but it’s not my initial way to greet someone. The only people I kiss are my husband and our son. It just makes me squirm to think of kissing a friend! Eeks! I know this probably makes me sound like a cold person but it’s just how I was raised I guess? Physical touch is my 2nd highest love language so it is important to me, but only within the bounds of a romantic relationship. I do not crave physical touch from my friends!

    • Noelle says...

      So much the same for me. I’m ok with hugging, but it also makes me squirm to think of kissing or snuggling a friend!

    • Agnes says...

      Lol!! Same!! When I was growing up me and my sisters were really touchy with each other and my dad in particular was super affectionate with us. But people outside the family? Nope. Not friends, and no one said ‘I love you’ except to a family member back then (80’s, even in the 90’s, maybe even into the 2000’s??) that I could remember at all. So now it’s all hugging everyone, ‘I love you’ to people you don’t even know (Youtubers anyone?) and I don’t know, it still makes me feel a little creeped out. The funny thing is that touch IS my love language and if I’m with a partner or little kids, I can’t stop touching and showing ALL the affection!! When my female friends go in for hugs and stuff, I’m the ‘pat pat’ hugger hahaha!

  72. Juliette says...

    I can so relate to the Edith Zimmerman quote! I recently moved to a new country (not a country of huggers) haven’t made many close friends yet and live alone… and I’m really craving physical connection. Using every occasion to hug/touch I get without coming off as weird haha.

  73. Stephanie says...

    I’m super cuddly with my boys and my husband (like cannot fall asleep without at least one foot touching his body and cannot look at my little dudes’ cheeks without getting a strong urge to smooch them).

    I thought I’d comment here that they’re the only ones I’m physically affectionate with, but I realized that’s not true.

    I’m the oldest of five kids—I have three sisters and one brother. I was nine when my youngest sister was born. Toward her, I’ve always felt extra protective, like a little mom. From the start I nicknamed her and even to this day—she’s coming up on 25—I’ll snuggle up next to her on the couch or give her hand a long squeeze. It’s like I want her to know that I’m proud of who she is and there for her if she needs me. Funny how much we can communicate through touch.

  74. We moved to France two years ago, and I’ve only just adopted the local custom of kissing my daughter’s teachers on both cheeks, every morning at drop off, and every afternoon at pick up. Both her teachers are men, and now my husband does the double kiss too! Until recently we were the foreigners who always shook their hands, but we’re slowly adapting to the local customs and it feels really nice to become more settled into the community :-)

  75. Julia says...

    I live in Switzerland where lots of people are used to kiss their friends three (!) times on the cheeks – it seems so unnatural to me, I just want to hug my friends and with those who are not close to me, I prefer to shake hands or do a nod and a smile. Quite often I have the situation that I and the other acquaintance have to decide spontaneously “Are we rather strangers or have we become close enough to do the kissing” and it becomes really awkward when each person decides differently…

  76. Paige says...

    Yes about the French making the most contact! I’ve lived here for five years and it’s really endearing to see how sweet friends are with each other (men and women). Women link arms or hold hands. They nod their heads very close to each other and keep their voices low when in conversation. I’m so used to the kiss-kiss on cheeks these days, that hugging feels bizarre.
    Just like how Americans perceive cheek kisses as a very European and too intimate of a greeting, the French think pressing your bodies together in a hug is a too intimate greeting!

  77. Marcela says...

    When I was a child I absolutely hated saying hi to people just because I don’t want to kiss them in the cheeks like we usually do In Brazil. Now I live in Asia and I miss the kisses and the hugs on a daily basis. In my region we usually give two kisses, one in each cheeks even to strangers, but I only hug my closest friends and relatives not sure why haha

  78. Andrea says...

    I say I’m not a hugger but I think it’s more to convince myself that I don’t *need* physical touch since I’m single and live alone.

  79. Maria says...

    I’m definetely one of the touchy Kind. May be since I am a nurse and we nurses are so used to be in touch with pain and people struggling with ilness. I think nothing soothes you more than a hug or a friendly hand on your shoulder. Of course with friends and family I try to Kiss and squeeze them as much as possible !

  80. tanja vaillancourt says...

    Life is too short not too hug and touch! In Quebec (the French speaking province of Quebec), we hug and kiss on the cheeks! I love it. I think it is a wonderful thing. I have a friend who pushes me when he tells a story and I think it is so funny. His push is like a hug.

  81. Laura C. says...

    Oh, I’m definitely a touchy person and I adore hugging my friends. Sometimes I realize that not everyone likes a good hug and it makes me feel uncomfortable when I do it, but then I think, it’s a hug, not a slap. And I try to remember for the next time who I can hug or not.

  82. neha says...

    I belong to a family of non huggers so when I went to college and friends started hugging me I felt awkward but I never stopped them… 10 years down the line me and my friends are now in different cities but I miss their hugs all the time. Now I am a big hugger and hug my daughter all the time.

  83. I am from France and there, the number of kisses on the cheeks (we call them ‘bises’) depends on which region you are from. So it goes between 1 to 4 kisses. Maps of ‘bises’ even exist so you know what to expect wherever you are visiting.

    However, I moved to Ireland nearly 15 years ago and also lived in Australia 3 out of those years. I am now more used to hugs rather than kisses. And sometimes, it might be a hug and a kiss but that’s rarer.
    Now whenever I visit family and friends in France, I either startle people by giving them a hug or confuse them by stopping after one kiss (the region where I am from has 4 kisses per greeting). It either gets awkward or we get a laugh out of it, it really depends on the person.

  84. paola says...

    It really depends. Old friends from school, definitely yes. Best friend, yeeeessss. Yoga friends, of course. Mom friends, no.

  85. AJ says...

    I am definitely touchy and do really crave and need physical contact. I respect and accept that some friends aren’t the same way and you’re lucky if you get a light, barely-touching, half-second hug (I think it’s a pretty even split and you are definitely not unusual if you’re not the touchy type!).. Whereas I like a proper lingering squeeze! If I go without any decent hugs or touch for a few weeks, I absolutely notice it and start craving it big time. When you’re single, it can be a real thing. It’s a horrible feeling to be ‘needing a hug’ for weeks on end but there’s no easy way to get it. I’ve certainly told good friends I need a hug at times, and they’ve told me the same. My cat gets squeezed a lot too. Thankfully she’s happy to tolerate it :)

  86. Pru says...

    I always used to shy away from cuddles and friends always said ‘Oh, Pru doesn’t like to be touched, don’t hug Pru!’ and it ended up driving me mad. It was like the parting gift at the end of the night that in my head I always read as me being awkward. So I embraced it and although it was weird at first, I have got used to it. Now we end the night with a quick hug (and now and again a kiss on the cheek) and I go away from the night with just happy memories.

    The thing I never understand though is a kiss on one cheek or on both – and being English and living in the UK we seem to do both. It’s very confusing!

  87. Erin says...

    I love this! I am definitely a fan of physical touch when appropriate, but don’t usually initiate it unless I know the other person also is comfortable with it. I also live in a culture (rural Uganda) that is not publicly so affectionate (though it’s not uncommon to see same-gender friends holding hands, even among adults, which I love!). Thankfully, my husband also love physical touch, so we swap a lot of hugs, playful touches, cuddles, etc. I was actually in a bad relationship a couple of years back, and honestly part of why I stayed so long is because my need for physical touch was met through that. Oh, there things we’ll do to be comfortable!

  88. Suzanne says...

    I sort of am a ‘touchy, huggy type of person, but I didn’t grow up with it. Oh I received hugs from my Mum and Dad if I was upset or had hurt myself and always gave my parents a ‘Goodnight’ kiss before going to bed. I guess that as a family we weren’t brought up to be ‘touchy feely’ at all. I know that my husband would like me to hug him more but as much as I love him, it doesn’t come naturally yet I admit I wish it would.
    The reference to ‘Fairy tickles’ actually brought tears to my eyes as that was something my brothers and me would do to each other when we were down, angry or frightened and upset about something…as a child I hated the programme ‘Doctor Who’ as it would frighten me witless so I would sit between two of my three brothers and while one covered my eyes, the other would ‘Fairy Tickle’ my arm. Now my lasting memory of giving my middle brother ‘Fairy Tickles’ was as I held him when he died in my arms following pancreatic cancer. He went from being very frightened to being totally relaxed almost as soon as I started and spoke to him as his life ebbed away.
    The importance of hugs/cuddles/a kiss/ or a stroke when seeing a loved one, relative or friend is that when you part you never know if you will ever see them again…and with that thought I will make more of an effort… Will you join me in spreading the happiness and love it brings?

    • Rusty says...

      That’s so beautiful.
      I asked my dying mother (before the time came), what I could do for her in her last moments and she thought for a long time and then said “Just hold my hand” with a smile.
      As she took her last breaths, my brother who I had told her wishes to, nudged all my other siblings (sisters) aside, so I could hold my mother’s hand. It was so special to be there for her, doing what she asked. I am her youngest child and we always held hands.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      these comments are so beautiful. thank you so much for sharing.

  89. Maria says...

    I started reading the post and was waiting for your Brazilian friend comment. :) I’m Brazilian – living in Helsinki for the past 5 years – and totally identify with her comment: “When I visit Brazil, I now find it weird that I have to kiss everybody. At a dinner party, I’m like, there goes my next half hour!” :D
    In Finland I’m still trying to figure out the social norms. I’ve noticed friends hug, otherwise it is just a nod or handshake.

  90. Lisa says...

    I’m super touchy to the extent that I’ve learnt how to refrain from doing it as I don’t want to cross my friends boundaries. I do hug, and I’m a long/hard-hugger for sure. I hate the “barely touching”-hugs, it’s like a limp handshake?! With people I know I’m allowed to touch (best friend who likes it, my niece and nephew, the guy I’m dating) I touch them all. the. time. Holding hands, stroke on the back when walking past, hand on the leg (ehm, the date) when watching a movie..

  91. Taylor says...

    This is so interesting! I am such a HUGGER when saying hello or goodbye, but I am NOT a touchy friend. My sisters, who are 3 and 6 years younger than me are much more touchy, hang on, cling to, playful hit, hard nudge, PHYSICAL talkers, where I am not. I constantly am telling them not to touch me so much, boundaries! They are perplexed at this. But when it comes to saying goodbye, I love a good long hug.

  92. J. says...

    My friend group and I are all extremely touchy– hand holding, casual arms around each other, hugs, kisses on cheeks, leaning into one another at restaurant tables or on couches. Guys, girls, straight, gay, single, married– perhaps it’s because we spend so much time together or have known each other for so many years (it is my greatest treasure in life that we all live within about a 5 min radius and see each other multiple times most weeks), but I feel like sometimes I can say with a long, strong hug or a gentle hand squeeze or a head rested on a shoulder something that I could also say with words but more quietly and differently: thank you so much for who you are, I’m here, I like being around you, I’m never going anywhere, you’re home, I love you too much to just say it one way.

  93. Kasar says...

    I’m less affectionate with friends as I have grown older, perhaps even awkward about it. I still do big hugs and kisses on the cheek but not the linking arms and remaining in close physical contact of my teens and early twenties. However my best friend of 30 years (!!) is still very much into “softies” (arm tickles) and literally will run up and tackle me in a hug.
    I do remember once that she came over to my place and sort of crumpled as I opened the door (relationship ending and her absent father dying in the same week). I put her in the shower, washed her, dried her, popped her into my bed and slept with her cradled in my arms. The next morning she was able to put some plans in action. In recent years with the advent of children, she told me that she knows that her cuddles and touch bring her children the same level of comfort and love that mine does for her. It was the loveliest thing anyone has ever said about me.

  94. Nicole says...

    I always kiss my best friends on the cheek when we hug. I want to do more hand and arm holding!!! I love my gal friends so much!!!

  95. SarahN says...

    I’m single and definitely crave touch!

    But some dates, they incidentally touch me and I feel myself recoil. I see that as a sign we’re not a match.

  96. Stella says...

    I’m drawn to physical touch and I like when I can be close to friends in that way. I love giving a friend a kiss on the cheek or snuggling/spooning on the couch! I think that kind of intimacy is a beautiful thing in a friendship, especially in a friendship between men (who are often told it’s not manly).

    I think my affinity for this kind of relationship with friends comes from my father. He passed away when I was 6 but it’s one thing I’ve always I remembered about him. To this day my fathers best friend has a picture framed of the two of them in his house, they’re sitting in the bathtub being goofy and my dad is seen giving his friend a kiss on the cheek. It warms my heart to see this photo displayed proudly in his friend’s house. <3

  97. Kayleen says...

    I’m enjoying all these comments. I fall in the middle of the spectrum. I can be touchy-feely, but also partake in air hugs, air pats on the back, and air high fives. They add a level of silliness and are perfect when I’m not sure how the other person feels about touching.
    I do want to give a shout-out to the box of Portos baked goods in the top photo. I can envision the lovely pastries on the inside. Portos is a gem!

  98. Emily says...

    A friend of mine gives the best hugs and one time she told me her rule of thumb: never be the first one to let go. You never know just how much someone needs that day.

  99. Em says...

    Oh, the curious sense of relief and camaraderie one feels when another articulates her own feelings perfectly! Jo, you so succinctly identified my own experience of touch within female friendships. Additionally, I admit that coming from a Midwest family that wasn’t particularly “kissy huggy”, as an adult, I do now experience a kind of “skin hunger”. I‘d be curious to know the more widespread positive and negative impact (emotional, social, psychological) of societies that lack touch vs. those where it is part of quotidian relationships.

  100. Theresa says...

    I hug my close friends whenever I see them and when we say goodbye. It’s like coming home.

  101. Roxana says...

    Love this! So interesting. Love reading the comments. They’re fascinating and insightful.

    I’m generally a hugger. With my best girlfriends we are all huggers, but even among us there is a spectrum. I also think a lot depends on the kind of touch or hug. I love a good, full body, squishy hug, but only from certain people. I also appreciate an awkward “butt out” or “boobless” hug as someone else put it, because the fact of the hug is sweet, too.

    This discussion reminds me a bit of The 5 Love Languages. When I first read the book like twelve years ago (and then went to one of the marriage conferences) I was like “I am all about physical touch, baby!” Fast forward through four pregnancies and nursing and all the physicality of motherhood and by the end of the day I’m like “Nobody touch me! (unless it’s to massage my feet and or my back, in which case, please proceed.)”

    Either way, I think we would all do well to touch each other more. I often find that my kids behave “better” when I’m more affectionate with them (sometimes deliberately). It hurts my heart when I realize they’re craving a hug or a little touch, but for whatever reason haven’t gotten one. I’m happier too after a good long hug (insert Pillsbury Doughboy poke giggle ;)

  102. agnes says...

    On that topic, I think a lot about older people, when they lose their spouse; my father is a widow, he’s 90, who hugs him? No one, really, as all his children live far away. It breaks my heart to think no one will ever give him the affection my mother would have, physically. I imagine it must be a huge loss.

  103. Anya says...

    In the #METoo era, I think it’s REALLY important to check in and get consent to make sure that the person you are showing physical affection to appreciates and welcomes it. Everyone has different boundaries sometimes even on different days of the week, and my desire for touch doesn’t mean I get to make others uncomfortable. There are definitely times when it feels warranted and comfortable for me to hug co-workers, people I mentor, and even sources/professional contacts (I’m a journalist) but I have adopted the practice of saying “Can I give you a hug” or opening up my arms and waiting a beat before going in for the hug. This is something I try to share and model for my little girls as well– that they don’t have to hug people and people don’t have to hug them, but it’s a lovely thing to do if both people feel like it!

    • anne says...

      i admit, i felt negative about this comment at first, because sometimes it feels like we’ve gotten so restrictive and constrained about any slightly personal interaction, and are disinclined to allow even the smallest gesture of warmth or casual affection. but. . . you’re right. what’s natural to me may not feel natural to another. and sometimes hearing ‘can i give you a hug?’ or ‘can i touch your arm?’ can be a gesture in and of itself. xo

  104. Katie says...

    I think of it as hugging like an “I”. Lots of people hug like an “A” with just their shoulders touching. You have to really go in with your whole body! It makes such a difference.

  105. Sasha says...

    This reminds of when I moved to a new city and knew NO ONE. One of my roommates was super affectionate and liked to lay across my chest and wrap his arms around my neck. I remember after feeling lonely for a while, it felt so nice to have warm, body to body contact, even though it was with a cat!

  106. Amanda says...

    I actually day dream about having my mom visit so we can cuddle up. Something we haven’t done in years since my children have taken my place! ?

  107. Amanda says...

    By nature I am not drawn to reach out and touch, as a teacher, I tend to prefer my personal space but certain people can give me a side hug or a light back scratch and I feel good and safe. Weirdly, my old boss/principal would reach out for me, I would cringe at her touch, but my assistant principal was very different. My mother smothers me with hugs and my husband too and I feel like the cat escaping from Pepe LePew. As far as friends, there are 2, my girlfriends from high school, that it feels normal to hug and rest a head on their shoulder, etc. I can’t do that with my friends I’ve made as an adult or even my sisters.

  108. lydia says...

    kamina!!!!!! hahahahaha! i am laughing so hard!

  109. Kira says...

    Does anyone have the opposite problem? Like wanting to avoid being touched at all? I have two kids and they’re on summer break and they’re constantly clinging to my legs, sitting on my lap, falling asleep on me, etc. By the time my husband (who is also my best friend) comes home, the last thing I want is someone to kiss me or put their arm around me. Am I weird? Is this normal?

    • d says...

      You are normal! Don’t worry. Feeling over-touched is definitely a thing. My kids are older now, but when I needed some physical space, I just suggested something else that I was more comfortable with–playing with their hair, drawing on their backs, giving them a foot rub, even playing a game or doing their nails. It gave them the closeness they wanted but also gave me the control and space I needed to breathe for a minute. Also, communicate with your husband about it for sure.

  110. Susan says...

    This conversation reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld featuring the “kiss hello” and how Jerry got so sick of the obligatory kiss hello that he started rebuffing people in his building. :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLnuBQDcbD4

    I can be either very affectionate or not- I do try and read the other person-some friends are definitely on the kiss hello program, others just a hug, others just get a smile. But I tell you, I’d rather have no hug than one of those shoulders only, wimpy, barely there hugs. Yuck. You can just FEEL the discomfort of the other person that won’t go in for a full hug. All or nothing, baby!! :)

  111. Andrea says...

    I’m really glad to hear a couple of other commenters hate to be touched. Aside from my husband, kids, & mom I absolutely cannot stand to be touched, it makes me really uncomfortable. One year I was gifted a spa day and OMG, I thought I would die. The poor lady giving me my massage felt really bad because I just couldn’t relax. I assured her it was ME!!!!! So we chatted while she did the massage! I tipped her well! I used to literally look out my window before running out to get my mail because if my next door neighbor saw me she’d have to run over and hug me. Blech! I know I’m a weirdo, I accept that but how do I let people know I don’t want to be touched without coming off as a weirdo?????

    • Irina says...

      Never come to Spain. We kiss twice to say hi and we tend to hug our close friends a lot…
      But, I can understand you, I’ve never felt relaxed in the hairdresser or in a massage.

    • mym says...

      Some people are extremely sensitive to touch. There’s the personal space comfort issue as well, which varies from person to person. You’re not a weirdo! I don’t mind hugs but I hate massages because I am very, very ticklish. I don’t even like getting shampooed at hair salons. Tell people you have a skin sensitivity (or whatever) and you’d rather not touch.

    • Lauren E. says...

      Oh Andrea, you are my kindred spirit. I love when my husband touches me, and with my parents I’m super affectionate. But anyone else? BLECH. A massage gift certificate is basically the worst gift anyone can give me. I tried once and spent the entire hour with my fists clenched. It was a similar feeling to going to the dentist.

    • d says...

      I just met someone at work and when I offered my handshake he simply said, “It’s nice to meet you but I don’t handshake.” He didn’t go into it, and I didn’t ask. It was unusual, but I wasn’t offended. You could try, “I’m excited to see you but I’m not a hugger.”

  112. Emily says...

    I’m definitely a touchy friend. When resting your head on a friend’s shoulder or linking arms, it reminds me of the feeling of my mom stoking my hair as a kid, its a soothing thing.

  113. Antoinette S says...

    I am definitely the touchy friend type. The funny thing I’ve noticed is that as soon as I make contact, it’s instantly returned 10x over. I think I don’t come off as particularly warm at first so I think it surprises people so much when I grab their arm and laugh or give their hand a squeeze that it is almost a reflux to do it back! I love giving my friends a squeeze, I love them.

    • kelly says...

      this is so sweet. x

  114. Andrea says...

    I am definitely not a hugger and I really don’t like to be touched much. I grew up in a pretty normal family except that I’m an only child, so maybe I have always been used to less physical contact? My husband’s family is typical British and are definitely not affectionate. He and I kiss and touch a little…. we’re just not super affectionate with each other! It seems weird I guess but that’s what we are both comfortable with ( married 22 years together 27). I still love to cuddle with my 12 year old son -while he still lets me- but my 16 year old daughter tolerates the occasional hug, and I don’t see her being very physically affectionate with her friends. I don’t really crave physical touch like it seems many other do…

  115. Annette says...

    I am a BIG fan of the looong hug. After 20 seconds the body releases oxytocin which has the effect of making you feel secure, safe and connected. Because it’s longer than some people are used to, I use the connection time to whisper how happy I am to see the person and how good they look, etc. It really works and is especially good for a friend who may live alone.

    • Abby says...

      Yes! Ever since I read that fact I also tried to be even more intentional with my hugs (coming from Germany where hugging is part of our usual greeting ritual – now living in Belgium where it is one kiss on the cheek and I miss the hugs).
      Moreover, I actually only recently had a single friend ask me to be more touchy. I was very happy she confided that need in me because it is such an easy wish to fulfill!
      Also tried being more physical with my grandma since I read somewhere that physical touch can have a super big impact on older people’s neurological system even though she has never been that openly loving person.

  116. Melz says...

    I’m an elementary teacher in a hi poverty area & I’m a toucher. It’s very natural for me. Sometimes I ask students for what they want; a hug or high five. I read somewhere that kids need physical touch a minimum of 8 times per day!

    • Tess says...

      Yes! I’m a kindergarten teacher , and I’ve noticed that a quick touch on a childs shoulder or stroking their hair, calms down and is an instant moodchanger. Kids notice instantly when your comfortable with touch. Every workday there are children attached to me; holding hands, sitting on my lap. Even old students – now 10 / 11 – stil come to me after school to get a hug and tell about their day.

      Then I get home and my own children take shifts. I’m pretty much never not hugging these days, hahaha!

  117. Alexandra says...

    I LOVE physical affection but it definitely depends on the person for me! I have friends I’ll hold hands with and snuggle on the couch with, while others I’ll only touch for a quick hug. When it comes to the people I’m SUPER close with–my mom, my boyfriend, my very best friend–I am very physically affectionate. I try to be respectful about how the other person might feel, but there is truly nothing more beautiful in life to me than cuddling with the people you love. One of my favorite affectionate things to do is to link arms as we walk. It can turn a basic walk into a loving stroll.

  118. Sarah says...

    I’m similar – not a huge initiater of touching. BUT it has literally melted me a couple of times when my close friends have. A shoulder massage when I was just a few days postpartum and in tears from everything being so overwhelming or a head rub after the death of my dad. Man, nothing could beat it.

  119. Jana says...

    I always liked a good hug until I had kids! My husband and I even cuddled and hugged more and I often hugged my friends hello and goodbye. Now that I have two little boys who climb all over me all the time, try seem to fill my touch quota for the day and need my personal space back! I hope one day I’ll return to being a more liberal hugger.

    • Jolanda says...

      I feel the same, touching and talking to my children all days sometimes at the end of the day I am sick of hearing my own voice and cannot stand the thought of being touched.
      And normaly I am also quite touchy.

    • Emma says...

      YES! “Touch fatigue” is a real thing, especially when you have small children and they’re all over you ALL. THE. TIME. I find myself desperately needing moments when no one is touching me — and I’m actually a pretty liberal conversational arm toucher/hugger! My poor cats always get the rough end of the stick when they try to cuddle with me — they always pick the moment at the end of the day when I’m finally getting some physical space and end up getting brutally rebuffed. :)

  120. Catherine S. says...

    I think I peeked my physical affections in college- my friends tolerated me. I was known to try to kiss (on the cheek!) them and they tolerated it but also groaned at the same time. However, happily, I have a picture of my bestie (vehement anti-toucher!) doling out a kiss on me at my wedding! One of my favorite memories!

  121. BWG says...

    I just started teaching in Hawaii (middle school English) and I have been surprised with how much my students touch each other, especially the boys. They hug and play with each other’s hair, or just lounge, arms around each other while we watch a movie. They will wrestle, play chase games, or holding hand, or just pet each other. It is almost like they can’t not touch each other like a bunch of siblings or puppies.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s really sweet :)

    • Breanne says...

      i’m so glad you commented! i’m a 5th grade teacher and i just realized in reading your comment that my 5th grade boys would touch alllll the time. my automatic response (because usually they were tripping over each other) was always, “hands to yourself” because that’s just what I was somehow ingrained to say. in reading your comment, i’m suddenly thinking, “why did i do that!?” from now on, i’ll leave the affection be and smile about it instead. thanks! :)

  122. hali says...

    In trying to comment on a favorite past boss who once asked if I was a hugger or not, (she’s a hugger… I … kind of am? the question really threw me for a loop) I just realized that the act of hugging someone (male or female) is the line I draw between acquaintance and friend.

    A friend- I gush into their arms and give a tight squeeze to, grabbing the back of their shoulders with my fingers for a half second as if to acknowledge how special it is that they’re in front of me and how happy I am for the occasion. An acquaintance gets a big happy smile and a very warm greeting, MAYBE a light pathetic hug but nothing actually affectionate.

    My husband and I exchange hugs CONSTANTLY, they’re our physical check-ins- I can tell his mood, confidence, hunger level, fatigue and a bunch of other things by how he hugs me. He can zap me out of tears with a solid hug if he really tries.

    My mom and I often “got stuck” growing up. She’s not an exceptionally affectionate person but ever since grade school, we’d hug each other and just not let go for what seemed like minutes on end- in the kitchen while cooking dinner, upon getting home from school or randomly in the parking lot. “Oh, we’re stuck,” she’d say quietly and I’d just nod and stay there until it made no sense to stick together anymore. We still get stuck but there’s a literal ocean between us so it’s less often and more significant now for obvious reasons.

    By the time I left the job with the favorite old boss (ugh I was so sad to leave!) we definitely crossed the hug threshold into friendship territory. And I guess I totally AM a hugger but, like, serious hugs.

    • Elle says...

      I love “oh we’re stuck.” That’s really sweet.

    • midwest mama says...

      This is so sweet. I read a comment years ago on a post I cannot recall about a topic I also cannot recall about a woman and her sister having a moment in the kitchen where they once caught and held each other’s gaze for minutes. Just looked into each other’s eyes in silence one day. I remember her describing it as a spiritual experience; like they finally truly saw each other. Your “getting stuck” reminded me of this in a physical way, and I just love imagining feeling seen and held in such a comfortable way.

    • Katy says...

      Love your description of “getting stuck”, I have a version with my mom when I’m home. I’m 26 and don’t live near my parents, so when I do get a chance to see her and sit on the couch next to her I just want to bundle up in her arms like a little kid and hug her and not let go!

  123. Betsy says...

    I try to read the person I’m with, but I veer toward being physical. Linking an arm in theirs and resting a head in the crook of the neck for a hot second is the best non-invasive “tell” I’ve found. If they sort of pat and scoot away, then no go. If they lean into it or wrap a hand around your arm, you’ve got a kindred cuddler.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that :)

    • AM says...

      Kindred cuddler! Im going to use this phrase now on :)

  124. emma says...

    The only person I touch is my husband… I really hate it when friends touch me and I tolerate it from my mom (who is super touchy & drives me nuts), because I know she means well… and now that I have a daughter of my own that doesn’t want cuddles… I understand. :)

  125. Hi Joanna and team :)
    I guess I am one of those cases that physical contact with friends changed with age and life experiences.
    I used to be very affectionate with my really close friends, hugs, kisses, we would even be holding hands sometimes while talking.
    But honestly and for a few years now (I’d say half of my life now), I cannot stand physical contact, I hate when people touch me, when they give me a hug without asking (I still do it to be polite, but it makes me really uncomfortable). I don’t miss physical contact at all from anyone, not even from people I haven’t seen in a really long time.
    I sometimes find myself thinking if it’s just my way of being or if I’m just broken inside ahahah
    It’s something I can never talk about in a conversation because people will give the side eye and will analyze you and fell the need to tell you how wrong you are.
    Thank you cup of Jo and for the always amazing blog/website and let us weirdos come here and notice that there is nothing special about us and that we are just as common as we can be (I really say this as a positive thing! =D)
    Btw amazing choice of picture for this post at the end xD

  126. Sheila Mary says...

    I’ve always wanted to be more affectionate with friends, but felt concerned that they would feel uncomfortable with it. Most of my friends have been straight women, while I’m queer, and I never wanted it to seem like a “thing.” I knew it would never come across as sexual, but it did seem like maybe I should let my friends opt into the affection, rather than me choosing it for us. I still feel this way.

    I had a good friend in college who was really into snuggles and naps and close couch sitting, and embraced those things with me. I really loved it, and miss it now. I enjoy a lot of physical attention from my partner, but there’s something different about it with a friend. And that friend made me feel like my queerness wasn’t even a consideration (a “thing”) for her. It was a joy.

    • Amy says...

      I am a straight female and so appreciate this comment! I would absolutely LOVE to hear more about this topic — I feel like, in the media, there are a million instances of gay men interacting with straight women, but almost none of gay women interacting with straight women. I have a few acquaintances/neighbors/coworkers/etc who are lesbians, and I am never sure if I am being too friendly with them, implying that I am also gay or flirting for attention. Years of interacting with straight men have taught me to never be too friendly or they might “get the wrong idea.” But it would suck if lesbian women were robbed of female friendship!

      Would love for Cup of Jo to have a post or two on this topic!

  127. Tiffany says...

    A couple of years ago a mom friend of mine, whom I’ve known for a few years, and I were leaving a restaurant with our spouses and kids. As we walked I wrapped my arm around her arm in the parking lot and I could tell it made her uncomfortable. (I haven’t tried it since with her or anyone). I’ve since noticed that she’s not that affectionate and only goes in for a hug when saying hello or goodbye.

  128. Elizabeth says...

    That Ross and Joey gif is perfect. Ahahaha!

  129. Katie Weltner says...

    I think about this all the time! I see pictures of women from the 20s or whatever draped all over their friends, and it feels so different from where we’re at today. I am a firm believer in reserving hand-holding for partners and kiddos – sweaty palms with friends just feels weird. I hug my friends every time we see each other, and we often awkwardly touch each other’s shoulders when we think it’s warranted. It’s funny how you can care about people so much but not know how to touch them!!

    • Tenley says...

      Haha, this came up amongst my housemates when I was living in a house with 3 other girls—everyone was chatting about their love languages, and for most of them, touch is pretty high up on their lists of importance. Mine? Almost at the bottom.
      “Huh, we probably would hug a lot more if you didn’t live here..”
      Didn’t mean to deprive them of comfortable touch! Sorry I’m not a hugger guys!!!

      I definitely do have days where I just need a hug, but now I have a reputation as a non-hugger! I guess I could just ask for one…

  130. Carla says...

    I’m like Susan. I don’t hug all my friends and come to think about it I’m not affectionate with any of my guy friends. I have 3 friends from high school and we’re really close however, 2 of them are now living abroad and even if there are 2 of us left here, we don’t see each other often because of work and motherhood. So whenever they visit home or we see each other I really give them a tight, hold their arms while walking or lean on their shoulders when we’re sitting.

    • Jenny says...

      I’m an evasive side hugger but it’s about me, not you. I’m self conscious about my tum. Personality-wise, I’m sharp and prickly at first but in fact a total emotional softie who loves my friends for life. Still, I can hardly hug my best friend. I spend an hour a day hugging my dog though!

  131. AP says...

    I’m in the purgatory of a marriage ending and my therapist kept prescribing I go get a massage. After I had one, I realized how deeply I had been missing human touch, the physicality of another person. Thank goodness for my therapist.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i’ve heard about this! how when you break up with someone, often a big part of the sadness is simply missing regular touch. so a massage can really help. that’s so wonderful to hear that it really worked!

    • LW says...

      I’m in the same boat with my marriage ending and one thing I really miss is the physical touch. I hug and kiss my children all the time, but it’s not the same sensation. I feel a bit like an island now instead of a piece of mainland.

  132. Mimi says...

    I watch the new Queer Eye with my young sons for many reasons, but partly so they can see examples of men who are physically affectionate with their friends. My boys are at an age right now where they hug friends and hold hands, but I feel like boys tend to lose that as they get older and I want them to see amazing role models who still enjoy those types of friendships.

    • Janine says...

      I love this so much!! I’m always struck by how casually affectionate the Fab 5 are with each other. They’ll hold hands, have their arms around each other, put their legs up on each other while hanging out on the couch. It reminds me of how I would hang out with my girl friends in high school, all draped over each other. It’s so refreshing to see men do it!

    • Sasha L says...

      Such a great show on every conceivable level. I love that your using the guys as examples and role models for your guys. Their genuine concern and joy for the people they help inspires me so much.

  133. Ann says...

    My high school friends and I have always given hugs to each other and tell each other we love each other. Recently, we all saw each other and had some of those conversations that feel therapeutic and good for the soul- you know what I mean?! I was overcome with love and appreciation for these wonderful women in my life. As we were leaving, I gave them a hug and went to kiss her atop her head/forehead. She was so alarmed and caught off guard that she reflexively put her arms up and went into a defensive position! Ha! I think we then established that there would be no more head kisses in our future…

  134. Interestingly, before I opened this post but saw you’d written it, Joanna, I assumed you’d fall on the touchy side of friendly contact! I’d reasoned that as a mum who kisses her children on the lips, your affection would be physical in all relationships. It’s funny to reflect on the pedantic assumptions and observations picked up from years of reading COJ. :)

    Anyway, I’m a very physically affectionate person both with friends and—now that I write it out, gulp!—acquaintances. It’s something I became more keenly aware of in January, when I transitioned from years of freelance editing to a job in-house. I’d be doing the awkward shuffle-dance giving right of way to a coworker in the hallway and intuitively reach out to guide them with a hand on their low back and a big smile; when I ask how somebody is, I instinctively reach out to cradle their elbow. It took me a few tries to realize, embarrassingly, that folks who responded with an odd look or shiver simply didn’t like that level of contact—and it took me time to shed the insult I felt from it, too. In theory I know many people really don’t like physical contact (especially with somebody who’s more or less a stranger!), but these last few months helped me understand it better firsthand. Honestly, in retrospect, I feel lucky to have learned the lesson without a talking-to. Rest assured I now save the small intimacies for friends who are well used to it. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i know, it’s funny! my personality is VERY open — i’m a completely open book and get emotionally affectionate very quickly with people — but with physical touch, i sort of naturally save it for my husband and children. with friends, i do love touch and WANT to do more of it, but i also feel sort of innately awkward with it, maybe because growing up in michigan to british parents, there wasn’t that much touch among friendships/family friends. i don’t know! but i find it all so interesting!

  135. M says...

    Same! When I very first moved to a brand new city for grad school a few months before the program started, I remember realizing I was feeling out of sorts because it had been two weeks since I had physical contact with another person – no hand shakes, hugs hello/goodbye, arm touches, stray hair management gestures, etc. As soon as I realized I why I was feeling a bit off I booked a manicure. (Happy to report that once I settled in, I completed the program with a degree, many wonderful friends, and a boyfriend-now husband. But the first weeks were tough!)

  136. sabrina says...

    2 things – I’m a hugger but not everyone is. I usually greet and depart with a good hug for good friends. 2nd regarding longing for touch – I used to work in an assisted living community where one of the residents would slide out of her wheelchair if a delivery man came in – I finally asked her why she was willing to potentially injure herself and she said it was for the touch of a man – something she expected never to receive again and that she missed.

    • Sasha L says...

      I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the resident that you helped was choosing delivery drivers for some free touching ?

  137. Genna says...

    Oh what a wonderful topic! That French vs. American statistic is so telling. I have never been very touchy with friends but I wish we were. I find that a lot of my friends really actually don’t like being touched, while I do. It has definitely affected my own initiation of touch with friends and makes me a bit sad. I hadn’t thought about it in a while though and am glad to realize it is important to me!

  138. 100% depends on the friend. As an individual my nature is not overly physically affectionate in general. I don’t hug or have much physical affection with friends I see often. That said, my bestie who lives across the country is far different. We not only hug in hello and goodbye, but will cuddle, put head on shoulder, and show much affection throughout our visits. We are so happy to see each other since its not as often as we would like- its just natural.

  139. Jessica says...

    It’s an age thing, for me. When I was in my late teens through 20’s, my friends and I would find any reason to touch – human pyramids, dance, play, just plain old “puppy piles” late at night after the party had only-kinda ended. As people coupled up, touch decreased. Now affection from friends kinda surprises me – in a pleasant way – but I wish it didn’t because that little flinch often cuts it short when I mean to give a nice, good hug in return !

  140. JO says...

    Joanna, was this post (maybe subconsciously) sparked by Fleabag and Boo’s relationship??? I just finished the series (now OBSESSED) and was fascinated by how physical the friends were with each other in the flashbacks! There were moments in season 1 where I thought maybe Fleabag was in love with Boo. Anyway, just a thought, and thanks for introducing me to this gem of a show :)!

  141. Chelsey says...

    With my family, children and close girlfriends yes absolutely.

    I grew up around a close knit family (lots of friends that became family mostly) and after parties or Christmas all the adults would unceremoniously end up piled in the largest bed passing around a bottle of champagne or wine. It used to mortify us as kids. Now years later I am happy to say we have joined them :)

  142. Kim says...

    I used to not be much of a hugger. Then I was assaulted by a bf in college and it took me years to allow anyone (even my mother) hug me. I just stiffened immediately and couldn’t handle it. It took a long time for me to heal (which quite honestly, I probably still am.) Therapy, of course but also a lot of personal drive to be healthier and happier in all the ways.i really focused on Me. After all that time, my world changed. I stopped being attracted to and dating the wrong guys and only let the good people in, and that includes friendships. I’m very particular about my time and live for myself as much as possible. I have been lucky enough to have turned into a generous hugger! I hug new friends, old friends a bit longer, my wonderful husband, our kids, relatives, etc etc. I do try to read the situation and body language and always fall back on a “can I hug you?” If I’m unsure. Studies show serotonin bursts in your brain with a ten second hug or something like that. Chemically, and emotionally they make me feel connected to the people I care about.

    My mother has forgiven the period of no hugs, thankfully.

    • Jo Kelly says...

      What a bittersweet story of your healing path, Kim. I’m sorry for the pain you went through… What a beautiful change in your world now! Thank you for sharing how the role of touch & physical connection has been part of your wholeness… I really appreciated reading this.

    • Kim says...

      Thanks for your kind words.❤️

  143. shade says...

    I’m a very non-touchy person but I wish I wasn’t this way. I have no affection with any of my friends near or far. Not even with my close family members. Hugging hello or goodbye is odd for me too sometimes. I make a point to be as affectionate as possible with my son (it’s also much easier) – mostly because I don’t want him to turn out the same way I did.

  144. Diana K. says...

    “At a dinner party, I’m like, there goes my next half hour!”
    I relate to this. My family is a bunch of one-kiss Europeans, but we know a few double-kissers and then once at a friend’s house we were introduced to a triple-kisser (!!) and it’s just all too much.

    • Nicki says...

      This made me laugh. My husband is French, and in his family you double-kiss not only for every hello or good-bye, but also first thing in the morning. When we stay at his parents’ house over the holidays (along with 10-15 other siblings, their kids, the grandparents, etc.) you will get a kiss from everyone who you encounter, aged 2 to 98, as soon as you stumble out of your room in your pyjamas. Most times I think it’s sweet, though I’ll admit there have been mornings where I’m really not awake and have tried to sneak past people to avoid that level of intimacy before having brushed my teeth!

      We touch a lot within my immediate family (husband/children as well as my own German-American parents and siblings). Everyone enjoys hugging and cuddling and kissing hello or good bye (including on the lips).

      We currently live in Nigeria, where people are also very affectionate – my four-year old hugs both her teachers and friends at pre-school every morning when she arrives. Our work and social environment is very international, and I will hug or kiss any Nigerian or expatriate friend when I see them socially (as most people would in France, Spain, Italy, Greece, etc.) A British friend and I were just joking this week though that it can be awkward when you’re kissing hello in a big international group but then come across a British or German person and hesitate before eventually shaking hands.

      Even in Germany I would say it varies though. Within the group of female friends that I grew up with in Berlin, we kiss and hug every time we see each other, link arms, and even at 40 still sometimes swap clothes or do each others’ hair and make up – a very similar affection to what I have with my sisters.

      I’m surprised at how many people commenting here say that they don’t like being touched in these ways, and am now immediately wondering if I’ve made anyone feel uncomfortable!

  145. G. says...

    This topic of human touch & affection has been on my mind lately. My long-term relationship–full of daily hugs, sweet forward kisses, and cuddling up to each other at night–may be ending. One of the things that I am thinking about is if this relationship ends, where will I get any physical human contact? How can I cope without it? I’ve been so well loved for so long, that I can’t imagine not starting and ending the day without caring human touch.
    The idea of messages sounds lovely.

  146. D says...

    I’m definitely uncomfortable being touchy with friends. My friend is college was extremely physical with everyone, but she sort of made a point not to be with me because she knew it made me uncomfortable. I don’t I want it to be that way, though! I think maybe because the women in my family aren’t very physically affectionate, it feels unnatural. But the funny thing is, I think I’m over-the-top physically affectionate with boyfriends. Like, my one special person. I think it’s a vulnerability thing!

  147. Katherine says...

    I experienced a most difficult phase of life a few years ago where I felt horribly alone and deprived of love. During that time my therapist suggested that I ask my close friends for longer hugs to increase the amount of touch I received. I was afraid at first to make the request but, to my surprise, no one bat an eyelash. To this day I have many friends that I can approach or they can approach me with the simple request of, “Long hug!” and we happily offer it to one another. Physical touch is so important, I hadn’t understood that before.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so sweet, katherine!

    • Alexandra says...

      Yes! When I went through a depressive episode, one of the most beautiful things a friend did was hold me as I slept. I was having a particularly challenging day and she invited me to spend the night in her bed and she snuggled me close from behind. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, alexandra, i want to cry hearing that! so beautiful.

  148. ac says...

    My friend once told me that humans need seven touches a day for survival. Not sure if thats a true fact or not but its stuck with me :) I’m super affectionate with my boyfriend to the point of annoyance, and I wish I could be more touchy with my friends. Giving & receiving human touch is one of lifes simple pleasures

  149. Mel says...

    I love this post! A friend and I were just talking about this the other day about how our group of girlfriends are all very touchy with each other and how that isn’t always the case with friendships. I think part of it is due to the fact that we have all been friends since the beginning of high school or longer (girls in high school are definitely touchy-er than later on in life). It is something I love so much – being able to give a good hug when needed, play with each others hair, the arm tickle and even a cuddle between the bunch of us on a couch while watching a movie. Its a closeness I am grateful to have :)

  150. K says...

    I can totally identify with Susan. My best friend who lives in another state is my only friend I’m affectionate with. I love having that physical contact with her when we see each other. Holding hands, snuggling up on the couch, hugging a lot — she’s a great hugger too. She hugs with her whole body, her hips and thighs are pushed up against you. When I pointed this out to her (to tell her how much I loved it), her response was priceless –“Well how else do people hug? With their butts sticking out so their lower bodies don’t touch at all?”

    • Vanessa says...

      I do the boobless hug! Just the shoulders and the bit of chest above the books make contact. This is because my inner people pleaser realises most people feel awkward with hugs. However my extrovert don’t-give-a-damn friend does the full works – soft and squishy, boobs and thighs hug, and I always find it so warm and comforting.

      I’m not sure about everyone else, but I find that convent/girls school girls are the ones who always say hello and goodbye with hugs? Is this a thing? The co-eds are usually more hands-off.

    • Hilary says...

      I just HAD to this Vince Vaughn quote from Wedding Crashers about the ass-out hug:
      “Do you do like the ass-out hug? Where you like, you hug each other like this and the ass sticks out because you’re trying not to get too close or just go right in and kiss them on the lips or don’t kiss them at all?” It’s very difficult trying to read the situation. ”

      In short, yes, that is how lots of people hug.

    • Kamina says...

      “Well how else do people hug? With their butts sticking out so their lower bodies don’t touch at all?”

      My husband and his friends noticed that a lot of guys hug by standing far apart and not allowing any contact below the waist, theorising that men are afraid their junk might touch another man’s junk. In response, husband & co invented what they call the “crotch first hug” and will often greet each other by walking at each other with their pelvises thrust forward until their crotches make contact first and then they complete the hug. It’s a special thing they only do within this particular group of longtime friends!

    • Sarah says...

      Vanessa, such an interesting question about the girls’ school phenomenon. I went to a girls’ school and I definitely always hug friends hello and goodbye. And when a bunch of us from high school get together, it’s HUG CITY. The husbands also all get hugs, from everyone. I’ve never even given it a second thought! Now I’m wondering if someone in the group secretly hates it! Ha!

    • lydia says...

      kamina!!! i am laughing so hard!!! hahahaha! pelvis’ first!! ?

    • Chandra says...

      In the Black community, this butt out hug with nothing else touching but arms is called a church hug. It’s the safe hug you give everyone you don’t really want to hug. Lol. I love this topic, haha and am selectively touchy with my friends.