How are you all doing? Coping?
I am doing a lot better than I was last week, which was horrible. I was so angry and hurt and worried about everyone who was being enraged and re-traumatized by the despicable spectacle of Ultimate Frathole Brett Kavenaugh and his disgusting enablers, I had to fight to maintain my focus and some measure of equilibrium.
These are furious times.
I attended a clergy gathering last week and was greeted by someone I know professionally, who drew me against my will into a hug. She is much taller than I am and I wound up kind of stuffed into her armpit for a moment. It was not a terrible ordeal, just an awkward situation made awful by the fact that I was in NO MOOD to be touched by anyone without my explicit consent.
Which is why I say particularly now: let us try not to touch people with the presumption that they want to be touched. Consider whether even holding hands or touching on the arm or shoulder is really welcome. If you’re not absolutely certain, ask. I often kiss parishioners during pastoral calls — we’re kissing and hugging people but even if I’ve kissed someone many times, I’m going to check to see that we’re still good smooching. Also, I need to check in with myself to make sure I don’t exchange hugs and kisses when I’m not feeling like being so intimate. In the past, I have only given careful thought to touch when I’m sick or visiting somone else who is germy. Now, I am refreshing my awareness that we have to keep getting consent to touch in relationships; we can not presume that someone who welcomed hugs last year wants to keep giving and receiving them this year.
DO NOT HUG PEOPLE AUTOMATICALLY. It is not your privilege, it is not your right, and it’s NOT FRIENDLY. It can feel like dominance, it can feel creepy, and it can feel like a violation. DO NOT come up behind people and hug them. Do NOT wrap anyone in your arms unless they hold out their arms to you. Even what you think of as a friendly one-armed embrace is still not okay. As we saw at Queen Aretha’s homegoing service, pulling someone into you throws them off kilter and creates a literal power imbalance.
Make sure your embraces are enthusiastically welcome. If not, mitts off.