I take comfort in your hug

We didn’t hug much when I was younger because the polite thing to do was smile. We hugged at special occassions like birthdays or last meetings as someone left for good and we stayed behind. We hugged on Christmas because Jesus would have wanted us to hug and we said thank you, thank you, thank you even if the gift would soon be stored in the attic next to dusty rugs, magazines, and other rightfully hidden things.
So when I met the girls, otherwise known as the ladies of NighTraiN, I was more than a little hesistant to meet them in their free hug love fests. Hugs were akin to being boiled alive – thanks pastor mark for that one – in that my skin literally felt like it was burning and I would need extra strength aloe vera to soothe the pain. The problem was that NighTraiN, formerly known as Hot Grits ladies wouldn’t take no for an answer.
We met as strangers thrown into an unlikely play with foreign objects (also known as our instruments) and an unwritten script. We met as black women with different black identities in what was hoped to be a subversive voice in the Seattle punk rock scene/identity. An all black female punk rock band. what? We met under the pretense of blackness, of some underlying unity that I otherwise didn’t understand and somewhere in this unification meant…. hugs.
At first it was a point of contention for me and I would attempt to bolt from practice before anyone could get their hugs all over my clean skin. However, my attempts were fruitless because Sel, our bass player, decided to install a routine in which I would get a hug every single practice when I walk in and when I leave. I could have fought this, but I knew that my aversion to hugs was likely some kind of a human connection problem that I should resolve and so… I let it happen.
It seemed like hugs were endless in those days. I would make the rounds from one lady to the next and sit peacefully in my seat awaiting the twinge of my skin to subside, but as soon as I began to feel comfort and coolness, arms would wrap around my neck and there would be a happy high black woman telling me that this was good for me. It was like I was in treatment and never getting out.
Slowly but surely months of treatment began showing signs of improvement in me. I began to sit closer to my friends, sometimes coming as close as brushing my arm against theirs in passing without panic. More months passed and I started curling my arms in the nook of my friends arms as we walked down avenues and into stores. After more than year it happened, I started wrapping my arms around others out of my own volition. It happened at a community group meeting, then at work, then at a show.
It’s hard to believe that was two years ago. I realized tonight when I was at the James Lanman and The Good Hurt’s show, saying hi’s and goodbye’s to bands and their friends, how much I enjoy the feeling of a well meaning hug. Of a hug that represents trust, or friendship, or love. I love the sound of deep breaths exhaled as each body pulls in and the force of the hug panics the air around it. You can feel the change in the air and mood as other people hug, as arms flail through the air and sometimes fumble for the right part of their counterparts body.
I feel skin differently than I used to as the warmth from someone else tingles instead of burns my own. It’s hard to believe so much can change in two years. More of me has changed than just my ability to touch another body, but I am happy now that I can at least take comfort in what people offer in their hugs: acceptance.

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