Dee-Dee poured some more wine from the tiny carafe into her glass. She continued her conversation without looking up from the piece of bread she was buttering.
“You have to do it, Jenny.”
Natasha agreed, “Seriously, Jen. I mean, what are you, heartless?”
“But guys… it’s just. I don’t want to cross tha-“
“It’s not a matter of want. There are some things you just have to do in life.”
I went to my friends seeking advice on a matter that was troubling me, partly because I thought they would support my decision. I was caught a bit off guard when they both told me that my actions, or lack thereof, were categorically wrong and possibly indicative of a severe emotional shortcoming on my part.
Earlier in the evening, while we were waiting for our appetizers to arrive, I told Dee-Dee and Nat that I needed to run something by them. As my trusted companions, I felt they would help me see the situation more clearly.
“So… I need your advice. Someone I work with has been kind of upset lately – I think over family problems – and I feel like she wants to confide in me. I don’t really know her at all… I mean we don’t chit-chat, we don’t hang out, we don’t do lunch… but I just feel like something’s coming.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I feel like fairly soon, I’m going to be put in a position where I’m going to have to hug her.”
“What’s so wrong with that? So hug her.”
“C’mon, guys! You know I don’t hug co-workers. It’s just a policy. Remember when my first boss hugged me at Christmas? Ugh, god. It was so awkward and forced… my back is tightening up just thinking about it! I just want to do my job, and it doesn’t involve touching other people.”
Natasha nodded as she perused the menu for her dinner choices. She gave Dee-Dee a knowing glance and said, “Yeah, Jen. You’re really not a hugger, are you?”
“I am so! I hug my friends all the time!”
“You never hug me.”
“What are you talking about? When am I not hugging you? Nat, I hugged you yesterday on the train for god’s sake. You just couldn’t feel it under your enormous Army-Navy snorkel jacket.”
Dee-Dee stepped in, “Look, Jenny. We never really want to hug co-workers, but sometimes it’s the only thing we can do. I mean, look at me. I was hugging people every week at my last job, in between taking them for walks around the building to calm down.”
“Yeah, but that’s because you and everyone you worked with were only one executive budget meeting away from a nervous breakdown.”
“Well, I can’t argue with that, but all the same, I hugged a LOT of people. And you know I’m not a hugger!”
This was true. I think I had been friends with Dee-Dee for five years before we finally hugged, and that was just because her house had been robbed and she was happy to see me arrive with lumber and a toolbox to fix her door.
I think people are innately huggers or non-huggers, and Dee-Dee’s family, being of Nordic descent, lean more toward the non-hugger side of the hugging continuum. Once, she described the image of hugging her sister as that of two Daddy Long Legs embracing, a visual which still brings me great joy.
I’m not entirely sure where I fall on this hug spectrum. I suspect that I carry the hugger gene, but that it is recessive. Or maybe it’s environmentally triggered – the gene completely shuts down the moment I swipe my ID badge through the reader at work.
“But Dee, you know I’m not a cold person at work. Remember when we had to take those personality tests at work that one year? You’re the one who scored low in ‘Caring,’ not me. I was off the frickin’ charts in ‘Caring’ and you know it!”
“Well, I may have scored low in ‘Caring,’ but which one of us is hugging our co-workers? Me or you?”
“I wish Vivian were here. She’d support me – she’s super professional at work. She knows all about drawing lines between personal and professional.”
“Vivian? Are you joking? Viv has worked in the non-profit sector all her life. All those people do is hug each other all the time. Why do you think they can’t turn a profit?”
I tossed my menu down, gulped back the last sip of wine in my glass and signaled to our waiter that we were ready to order our entrees.
“All right, fine. You and Nat are both so compassionate and hug everyone and I’m an ice queen. Hug, hug, hug. Care, care, care. You’re just hugging and caring all day long! I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Let’s get some more wine.”
To: Natasha
CC: Dee-Dee
From: Jenny
Subject: Hugs
hey. so i did it. i hugged her. it was fine. i hope you’re happy.
– j
To: Jenny
CC: Dee-Dee
From: Natasha
Subject: Re: Hugs
what are you talking about?
– nat
To: Natasha
CC: Dee-Dee
From: Jenny
Subject: Re: Hugs
what do you mean what am i talking about? the hug. dinner last week? you and dee-dee both told me i had to hug her so i did.
To: Jenny
CC: Dee-Dee
From: Natasha
Subject: Re: Hugs
are you kidding? i was on my third glass of wine that night! never listen to me when i’m drunk. you should *never* hug a co-worker.
– nat
ps – wanna go to the gym tonight?
To: Natasha
CC: Dee-Dee
From: Jenny
Subject: Re: Hugs
you’re dead to me.

24 Responses to “XOXO”

  1. kris dresen Says:

    “All those people do is hug each other all the time. Why do you think they can’t turn a profit?”
    Knowing Vivian, reading this line took every ounce of control I had not to do a spit-take all over my screen.

  2. Cheryl Says:

    I carry the rececive hugger gene. Around huggers, I hug. Around non-huggers (or people who smell funny or have creepy ears), it stays dormant.

  3. romy Says:

    i am also not a work-hugger, though i am a work-tapper-on-upper-arm, work-elbow-bumper, and work-my-right-shoulder-bumps-your-left-on-sort-of-casual-purpose-er.
    yeah, who knows.

  4. jenny Says:

    kris: Yeah, that Vivian. Always with the nonstop inappropriate hugging. ;)
    cheryl: Creepy ears? This sounds like a story for the therapist. Now that you’ve shared that, am I gonna have to hug you?
    romy: That last one sounds awfully flirty, if you axed me. Are you carrying on an office romance? Wait wait! Don’t tell me! Arghgh! More hugging required!

  5. red Says:


  6. nina Says:

    If it’s forced, then it doesn’t count. Buy her (the co-worker) chocolates and send her a card.

  7. jenny Says:

    Dang, nina. If I’m giving out hugs, chocolates and cards, somebody better be putting out! ;)

  8. sween Says:

    At least guys have some macho variants, like the “Hug while pounding each other on the back hard enough to leave welts while calling each other ‘little bastard'” hug.
    I say just punch her in the shoulder. Either it works… or she avoids you from then on. Win-win!

  9. Jessica Says:

    This is so odd – I’ve been thinking about a hug post for quite some time…..come see me later!

  10. The Scarlett Says:

    I come from a long line of non-huggers. I’m also not a natural air-kisser. Some people are sooooo good at that. And then if I have to air kiss,I don’t know which side to do it on or if I’m supposed to do both sides these days. That’s a lot of pressure on a person that doesn’t hug naturally if you ask me.

  11. Junebug Says:

    Hugging is for suckers.

  12. jenny Says:

    Sween: oh, I like that guy hug! Isn’t that the one that starts out w/ a cool handshake, but then you pull each other in and do the one arm pound on the back? And then you say, “Much love.” I like that one.
    Jess: Well, we all know that you are a hugger, so maybe we can have a Point/Counterpoint edition.
    Scarlett: Are there really natural air kissers? It seems so unnatural. I do like the one actual kiss on the cheek, though. And the two cheeks is oh so French – what’s not to love! But air kissing is weird.
    Junebug: I think that may need to be my new tagline. Run Jen Run: Hugging is for suckers!

  13. ashbloem Says:

    Hugging people I work with is creepy. Ick.

  14. sween Says:

    The work hug is made more uncomfortable by the inevitable rictus of awkwardness that forms on the face of the reluctant huggee. The rictus that says, “Urgh… must endure… just a moment more… think of England…”

  15. ms. sizzle Says:

    “you are dead to me.”
    i love that! i need to use it more often. ;)
    i think i hug too much.

  16. sandra Says:

    I come from a family of non-huggers, but I’m reforming! I hug a certain set of friends and like to think I’m more affectionate than I was raised to be…but that said, I do have a friend who says — when we’re in a situation where hugging might normally happen — “we don’t hug”. And high-fives me.
    That’s weird, isn’t it…

  17. gillespie Says:

    I am a natural hugger, but my only co-worker is my mother-in-law, and hugging her at work is wrong…just plain wrong.

  18. jill Says:

    I’ve been incapacitatedly inebriated in the presence of people with whom I work/have worked. Hugging them still seems odd. It’s the flourescent light. Saps the humanity right out of you. You must be superhuman, Jenny. But then, we knew that already, didn’t we?

  19. jenny Says:

    Just when I think I have all of you figured out, you throw me for another loop. Based on your collectively stern response to my desire to date a Centaur, I was fully prepared to be lambasted for my lack of compassion on the hugging front.
    But here you all are, making me feel like I am perhaps not a heartless beast. So I’m not alone in feeling completely uncomfortable hugging someone at work?! I wish I had called you all last week… you know, before I executed the hug. ;)

  20. hooizz Says:

    your last email response made milk come out of my nose.
    yes, i still drink milk. ha!

  21. Pants Says:

    I hope hugging the co-worker didn’t make her cry more.
    And I don’t think you should go to the gym until they bring back the rotisserie chicken.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    A hug is a hug is a hug is only a huge mistake if it gives said co-worker the idea that you are now her fixture for emotional support. In which case you will need to correct her by 1) seeming to be too busy for her depression (which involves making a lot of fake phone calls), 2) sending her the link to Dr. Phil’s Web site, or 3) pretending to be more depressed than her. She is turning to you because she perceives you as sympathetic and strong. You will need to convince her you are niether.
    And now that I’ve spelled that out, which is only my advice for you scaled to your corporate setting, I feel like a cold-hearted and stingy bitch of a bee… I think I need a hug.

  23. teahouseblossom Says:

    Hey, I’m glad you did it.
    Sometimes you just need to push your boundaries.

  24. peefer Says:

    Why do you think they can’t turn a profit?
    It’s already been said, but I’ll say it again. That. Is. Classic.
    Good thing for you you’re not a Bonobo chimp. See: