Wednesday, January 30, 2013

the horror, the horror of a hug

Today Lola started a new evening writing class.  After I picked her up at school, I suggested she might like to brainstorm ideas for her new writing project.

First Lola loftily informed me that the purpose of the first class, "after we spend a bunch of time saying "oh I am Lordwhatever from Blabbledom", was brainstorming and that the people who lead the class would have a list of suggested writing topics.

Clearly her mother was not needed, but indefatigable for once, I persevered.  "It might be a good idea to go in with some ideas of your own, though.  I know how picky you can be."  On a prior occasion, Lola had despaired of ever coming up with a good idea to write about and shared that she thought she had shot her bolt with her hit article on urban chickens.  "I'll never have a good idea like chickens again."

Lola accepted this point and told me that one of her friends had given her a suggestion.  This friend said Lola should write about "hugs:  heartfelt or HORROR-FILLED?"  It turns out that the friend's little brother had suffered a dislocated arm from a hug.

"Lola, that's awful!  What monster hugged him?"

"It was one of his little friends, not a monster."

I shared with Lola that I had suffered some horrible hugs myself.  Lola wanted details.  The first memorable Hug of Horror occurred when my first husband and I traveled to the Saline Valley.  We shared a love of natural hot springs and camping in the desert, and we had learned that there were some beautiful natural hot springs located near Death Valley, where some hippies and hippy-adjacent people had created a clothing-optional community.  When we arrived at the Saline Valley enclave, we were greeted by a tiny older naked man, with lots of flowing gray hair, who was of questionable cleanliness.  This man was very friendly and welcoming to us, talking to us about the hot springs, the people, what we could expect, what we might like to do, and so on.  Then he asked me  for a hug, explaining that he had to be faithful to his wife but she let him hug other women.  I was at the time a cute, trim twenty-something, and I noticed our new friend only wanted to hug me, not my husband.  The last thing I wanted was for this dingy, naked stranger to hug me, but he had been very kind to us, and I felt stuck.  I let him hug me, pressing his unclean and naked parts up against me, for as short a time as I judged polite and then disengaged.  It was not enjoyed.

The other horrible hug Lola had herself witnessed, but she'd forgotten it.  There used to be some benches by the subway station in the Castro, which have been cut apart and taken away because homeless people used to spend time on them.  I myself thought the particular homeless people who congregated there added color to the neighborhood and didn't detract from it; they never panhandled me or hassled me, but other people in the community wanted them gone.  When the homeless people still had a place to sit or lie down, one day one of them called out to me as I was walking through with my family.  He asked me for a hug, saying he was unhappy and really, really needed a hug.  Without hesitation I hugged him, although in the back of my mind I was wondering whether he would stab me; he was definitely troubled.  After the hug, he called out to me sincerely, "Thank you! Thank you!"  The Sober Husband told me, "You were very brave.  I thought he was going to stab you", which called into question why he didn't intervene if he thought his wife was in danger.  Did he want his wife to get stabbed?

Lola pondered these hugs.  She now had three Hugs of Horror she could write about.  Hugs, she felt, were a far scarier thing than one would think.

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