Home > Friends, Love, Parenting > Hug-starved


About a month ago, my friend Ra texted me something that’s been on my mind since.

She said there was a Saturday evening aerobics class in prison. People who attended didn’t necessarily go because they wanted to do aerobics, but because they wanted to see other people. They wanted to be somewhere with someone, or many someones, with whom they had some kind of kinship …

… without having to seek or arrange a time and place.

When I lived in Japan, I was mobbed with hugs daily.

Those hugs were the tiny-armed hugs of the tiny-armed people I taught. I cherished those hugs, but I felt more and more starved by the day for hugs from adults: people who saw me as I truly was and loved me all the same.

I thought of myself as hug-starved, and I was.

I felt so alone.

yukata plus obi

Since having my second son two years ago, I have become so much more a hermit than ever before.

I miss my friends like mad. I miss going to movies, and to concerts, and for brunch and hikes and to art exhibits.

Most my friends probably can’t tell. And why? Because I’m barely in touch. But I’m not barely in touch because I’m not thinking of them, or because I’m not missing them.

I’m barely in touch because I can only keep up with, oh, one-quarter of the things I have to do now. I seldom make it through the bulk of my have-to’s and even less seldom through my really-should’s. Today, for example, my big score was cleaning up six months worth of heinousness under one car seat. It’ll probably be another six before I get under the other one.

There’s not enough time. There’s not enough energy. There’s not enough me.

Day by day, I feel more and more hug-starved … more and more alone … more and more … less.

(And it seems wild, because I have friends around the world. I know they love me, as I love them.

So why can’t I feel it, the same way I do a hug from a friend?

I feel so alone.)

When Ra sent that text last month, I thought about how much I miss seeing my friends with my eyes. Hugging them with my arms, and feeling their arms around me.

I thought how impossible it feels to arrange anything myself these days, not having enough time for the have-to’s as it is, at the same time my friends no longer invite me to events because, hey, when was the last time I said “yes,” anyway?

I thought about how nice it would be to have a place to go at a set time every week or month or quarter, knowing I might possibly see and get a hug from a long-missed friend.

I thought about how wild it is that I live so close to so many friends and yet feel so far away. I feel almost as hug-starved as I did in the middle of nowhere in Japan.

So I think, once a month, I’ll go sit in a coffee shop.

I’ll let my friends know I’ll be sitting there at the same time every month, and that they’re welcome to come or not, and talk or not.

(I’ve slept in the corner at many parties. If someone wants to come and read just knowing a friend is close by, rockin’. No need to say more than hey.)

I’ll let them know there’s a place they can go and be with someone who likes them … without having to plan anything, or coordinate, or hope that everyone doesn’t cancel last minute.

I’ll sit there and read if no one shows up. But if someone does show up, well, then,

I will soak up their presence, and hope that others out there know

they don’t have to feel perpetually hug-starved,

whether or not they show up for a hug.


  1. Paul
    May 21, 2016 at 8:53 pm


  2. May 21, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    I like the idea. I feel like the older I get, the more my interactions with friends have to be planned events. Screw that. I want someone to just knock on my door, step over the scattered toys and sit down for a coffee and some Teen Titans playing in the background.

    • May 21, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      Yes, yes, yes. I so miss when getting together simply began with a phone call, “Wanna hang out?” When did it change? Why?!

      • May 21, 2016 at 9:41 pm

        Now we are so respectful and just “un-real” . I miss being comfortable enough to steal a friends leftovers if I was brave or to drink their last beer. Now we have to be so polite. I blame marriage, single people still live like that. Not that marriage is bad but it is the guilty party in this case.

      • May 22, 2016 at 10:37 am

        I think it changes because of kids and naps and schedules and snacks and appointments and traffic jams. But kids being the big thing. I miss going larking like I did without the Wee One.

    • May 22, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Yes please. YES YES YES YES YES YES.

  3. May 21, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Oh this is a good idea! I might attempt to do something similar, I’ll have to think on it.

    • May 21, 2016 at 9:40 pm

      I’m glad to have it in my mind already. Maybe no one else but me’ll show up. Either way, I win: I either get a few minutes to read or I catch up with people I’ve missed. 🙂

  4. N.
    May 21, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    That is such a lovely idea 🙂 The feeling you just described sounds too familiar to me as well and the label ‘hug starved’ encompasses it perfectly. We need less hug-starved people in the world 😦

    • May 22, 2016 at 5:45 am

      I picked up my phone this morning and was both surprised and unsurprised to see how not-alone in this I am. There are so many factors to this, but one, I think, is … being so well connected to our friends in one way that we lose sight of the physical connection we still very much need. Hugs from afar, and hope you get hood hugs from near soon.

  5. May 21, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    It’s dangerous somehow to say ‘I know exactly what you mean’ – but I feel this way all the time.
    I sit in the park near my house thinking these very things: feeling hug-starved, even though I have a family and I have things to do.
    But I do.
    I miss seeing my friends – the ones that energize me when I chat with them – in person or no.
    I am hug starved too.

    • May 22, 2016 at 5:51 am

      I visited New Orleans for a conference last week. I felt so good there, for some reasons I felt I understood and some I felt were evading me.

      Yesterday it hit me that one key difference was getting to spend in person time with friends … every day! I saw and exchanged hugs with my local friend Lisha three of four days and spent time each day with coworker friends. I got home and was so glad to see my family, but also felt an ache I couldn’t quite name until yesterday. It’s missing. If I can somehow make sure I see my friends in living color while at home, I will have the best of both worlds and be sustained.

      Big, big hugs from afar. I wish I could teleport to give them. ♡

  6. May 21, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    This is painfully familiar.
    On many, many levels.
    Cyber hugs. Big fat ones.

  7. May 21, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    I know this feeling too. Luckily many of my friends are in a similar situation and get it. Great idea about the coffee shop, it seems like a win win.

    • May 22, 2016 at 5:55 am

      Most of my local friends don’t have kids. I have a couple in the Valley (20-30 miles that can seem much further due to traffic) who do, and I think I’m going to search ways to see them even apart from kids’ birthday parties. Those are too few and far apart! Big hugs!

  8. May 22, 2016 at 3:46 am

    That’s a great idea! Parenting small children and all that comes with it can be so isolating. This is a good way to work on carving out time for yourself -and your friends. 🙂

    • May 22, 2016 at 6:01 am

      Exactly! A bunch of things all converged for me to identify this ache.

      One was that Anthony and I bought season tickets for the theater. At first I considered buying because I wanted to see one particular show that’ll almost certainly sell out fast.

      As I considered those season tickets, I thought about how exciting it would be to have date night already paid for and set. We always talk about having date nights at least once a month, but they end up being closer to once a quarter … when we’re lucky.

      Being so thrilled to have a bunch of date nights already squared away emphasized how good it would be to have recurring individual time out. So we will be working on making that time for hugging (or at least fist-bumping!) others at least a couple of times a month. Just knowing it’ll soon be out there makes me feel so, so hopeful.

      Bug hugs from afar!

  9. May 22, 2016 at 3:57 am

    This is the hardest part of parenting. Soon your boys will grow more independent, and you will regain time and energy and self. Soon.

    • May 22, 2016 at 6:05 am

      After feeling the glow of your hugs last week, I saw I need to make time and space for that now … maybe not often, but at least once a month. A single hug from you was at least 100 ice cream gallons worth of rush of happiness, but so much more lasting. I think the biggest part of feeling so much better in NOLA was not the evening quiet time but the your-hugs that preceded them. I am still running on those, and your encouragement. ♡

  10. Deb
    May 22, 2016 at 5:28 am

    I second Paul’s {{{HUGS}}}
    I don’t have a good answer either as to why so many of us have gotten into the habit of not making time just to see and be with friends, but I understand the feeling. It seems to start out small and inconspicuously and before you know it, the habit has grown into a real entity that keeps you locked away.

  11. May 22, 2016 at 9:39 am

    “There’s not enough time. There’s not enough energy. There’s not enough me.” I can so empathize with this. Most days I feel spread so thin.

    This solution – a set time at a coffee shop – is SUCH a brilliant one. I might have to adopt it because it’s perfect in its simplicity.

    I wish I could just show up and share a tea with you. My hug comes from far away, but I hope you feel it a little bit anyway.

  12. May 22, 2016 at 10:49 am

    I love your coffeeshop idea!

    Also, wishing you many more tactile versions, but for the time being, I’ll send you what I can:

  13. May 23, 2016 at 5:14 am

    My kids are older now and there is much more time for all that “other stuff”. They are much more independent now. But I remember all too well the crazy rush-rush when they were younger. Taking time out for hugs or coffee or both is very wise!

  14. May 23, 2016 at 11:29 am

    I like that. Great idea.

  15. May 23, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Good for you! Its important to do something for yourself. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in “mom” mode. You could hand out hugs. It might make your day as well as someone else’s.

  16. May 23, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    Great idea about the coffee invite, it is so easy today to miss out on face to face much needed interactions with others. Being social, around others can and does play an important role in our mental health. Thank you for sharing and reminding me to get out there especially when feeling low, everyone needs a hug 🙂

  17. May 24, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Friendship now seems to be a scheduled activity. I don’t know when it changed from a casual “let’s do something” to a formal “I’ll meet you at this place at this time” but it has. You’re smart to acknowledge this fact and be specific about where and when you want to meet. I hope that you get the hugs you long for, but even if you don’t you tried. And that’s what counts.

  18. May 24, 2016 at 10:13 am

    That’s a great idea. Even if you are alone, you will have a regular stress free date with yourself. I’d give you a hug.

  19. June 4, 2016 at 11:06 am

    may your calling
    inspire action
    to get & give
    hugs 🙂

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