The 12-Minute Hug

Physical connection is human.

I was sitting in my car yesterday in the parking lot of a Starbucks, on a coaching call with my client in NYC. I do a lot of coaching calls in my car because the acoustics are good.

She and I were having some real talk about how strange it is to be foisted into introversion: you know, hanging out at home, by yourself, not willing the energy to reach out and connect with people because, well, you can't; you have to stay home and try to "slow the spread." I am allowed to say this, by the way, because I am an introvert. There are many kinds of introverts and this is the kind I am; the kind whose life kind of resembles a pandemic lockdown at the best of times.

While we were talking, I was gazing out my windshield. In front of me, in the parking lot, a man and a woman were hugging. It was a tight hug. Their entire bodies were in on it, torsos and legs pressed up against each other. Arms were wrapped all the way around the other person's body. Chins rested on each others' shoulders. Eyes closed.

They didn't move. There was no stroking of the back. No rocking side to side. No kissing. They held that hug, motionless and tight.

I began to notice that the hug was going on for quite some time, with no end in sight. In fact, it went on for about half of the coaching call; before someone pulled in and parked in front of me so I couldn't see the huggers anymore. Maybe they're still there.

I wondered who they were. What was their relationship? The hug was non-sexual. It looked full of love and compassion... maybe empathy, maybe sympathy. I thought... "I think these two are married and have just decided not to divorce. Or they have decided TO divorce and it's amicable and right and also sad. Or maybe they're brother and sister and they've just lost their parent. Or maybe they are deeply in love, but it's a forbidden love, and this hug stolen in a Starbucks parking lot is their only chance to share intimate and loving touch." I had a lot of theories.

I don't know those folks, and I don't want to speculate on their situation. So I'll talk about how it felt for me:

  • I haven't been hugged like that in... I don't even know. Maybe when my mom died and I had a lot of amazing support and love all around me. I'm a loved person. But I haven't had that physical expression of it bestowed upon me lately.

  • I think we NEED hugs like that. I want to receive hugs like that. I want to give them.I haven't bestowed this physical expression of love on others lately, either.

  • I think embracing is so human. I love things that unite us as a species.

I haven't stopped thinking about that hug.

How would witnessing a 12-minute hug make you feel?


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