converted…sort of

As we pulled up to his mom’s house for our first Thanksgiving as a couple he dropped a bomb on me:

“I should warn you.  We are a family of huggers.”

I just rolled my eyes.

“No, really, Kate.  We hug hello AND goodbye.  My mom will hug you.  My sister and brother will hug you. My grandparents will hug you.  Cousins and uncles and aunts will hug you.  Just be ready for it.”

My hands started to sweat.

I was already worrying about how to hug.

Were they “your arms over, mine under” huggers?  Maybe “you go up left, down right, I’ll go up right, down left” huggers.  Maybe they were one-arm huggers.  Was there a cheek kiss involved?  Was this a quick hug or a hard hug or a bear hug or a pat-pat hug?  How did this work?

I was so unprepared.

And nervous.

People I was just meeting would be in my space…touching me.

Couldn’t we just shake hands?  I was good at that.  I have a great, firm handshake that shows I am likeable, yet confident.  I can do hand shakes.


My family doesn’t hug.

I am not sure why.  We are very close.  My brothers punch my arms or cow bite my legs frequently, but we don’t really hug.

My dad likes to poke at me and pinch me and for as long as I can remember I am always yelling, “daaaaad!  UGG!  Get away!”  And he just laughs and tells me it’s his job.

My mom isn’t a big hugger either.  Oh, my Grandma used to hug our faces off, but my aunts and uncles and cousins just don’t throw the hugs around.

And my friends don’t do a lot of hugging.

My friends from high school are mostly dudes.  Dudes don’t just hug.

My friends from college learned long ago that I am not the touchy-feely kind of friend and either force hugs on me, or give me my space.

My space.

It was about to be invaded as I met a bunch of people for the first time.

“Great.  This should be interesting,” I tell Cort as we got out of the truck and headed for for the front door.

He chuckled. “Relax.  Let it happen.  Hugs are good.”


Yes.  That first time was awkward.

And then meeting the other side of the family?  Also huggers.  Awkward.

There was a lot of awkward for awhile.

But recently?  I realized that it’s not so awkward anymore.

I’m not going in for the “wrong” kind of hug.

In fact, the other day I found myself going in for the hug and not just hoping one didn’t find it’s way to me.

And it was nice.

Not a big deal.

I am glad because I can’t imagine Eddie telling someone, “my family just doesn’t hug.”

I’d rather he be warning people, “caution:  my family will hug your face off.”

Ok, maybe not that much  hugging.

I do still need  my space after all.


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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. I remember that Turkey Day… and look at you now. 🙂

  2. TheNextMartha says

    My husband was the first person in my life where the hug just felt right. It still does.

    • Cort wasn’t the first…but he was close. He was one of the very first friends I ever felt ok hugging.

  3. My family was not “huggy”, but when I was a teenager, I fell into this group of friends that did the hugging thing. It took a long time, but they eventually reformed me, and I was able to hug and receive hugs without an accompanying anxiety attack.

    I can now appreciate a good hug, which is important, because my husband is all about the hugging (and so is my daughter)!

  4. You will be hugged at BlogHer. So get ready..

  5. I’m a hugger! I love cuddles and hugs…unless my nose is in your armpit.

  6. I am a hugger, but my family is not. My in-laws are huggers too. And yes, it was awkward in the beginning. But now? It’s natural.

  7. Isn’t it funny! I come from an affectionate family. My husband said his aunts only started using “I love you” since he married me. He claims I impacted them!
    I loved your story and could really imagine the conversation in the car. I could see the facial reactions. As always, a joy to read.

  8. My family? Non-huggers. I don’t know if it’s an Asian thing. We’re low on the physical affection. I grew up being very uncomfortable with hugging and the like. Like you, I treasure my space. The first time I met my MIL, she hugged me dude. And kissed me on the cheek. I was like, oh, um, hi.

    Now, I cannot stop hugging my little boy, my husband, my in-laws, even some of my friends (who are like, er?). However, my family? Still notsomuch. Oh well.

    If I ever met you in person, I would hug your face off though.

  9. A good hug makes a bad day go away.

  10. HA! It’s not just me! LOL

    I’m in the not-a-hugger camp. It doesn’t help that my MIL hates my everlasting guts but hugs me anyway because appearances must be kept up. Hubby hugs me, which is fine so long as it lasts no longer that a four count…then I go for the ribs.

  11. This is what my husband’s family is like.
    After the first day we spent with them, I asked him “So…do they really all hug and kiss EVERY time someone leaves the room? Or is it just when someone leaves to grab milk at the corner store and it takes them 6 minutes to come back?”
    The over-huggery is actually kind of cute. I think I like it now.

  12. In fairness, then, I should warn you. I will hug your face off.

  13. I’m a hugger {& my family too}. Weird if I hug you at BlogHer or no?!

    • hug away, my friend. I have been preparing for the barrage of hugs I will receive at BlogHer.

      unless I don’t…then I will just feel outcast.

      so yes, hug me!

  14. My husband’s family is a family of huggers. Literally, you might leave an event having to hug 40+ people. I’ve been married 10 years and I’ve finally had it. I’ll hug hello MAYBE, but at goodbye time I literally just stand at the door, throw my arm up and say “We’re Leaving. BYE”. And his nasty step dad (who I despise) kisses on the cheek with his wet lips. Repulsive.

  15. I seriously didn’t know that there were people who didn’t hug until I met my husband’s family. I come from a large family (there’s usually 100 people at Thanksgiving, and those are just the ones from my grandma’s side [if my entire family gets together it’s well over 500 people]). And, anyway, they ALL HUG. To me, there is no such thing as personal space. You hug, you sit beside each other, practically on each others laps. My husband’s family is super small (there’s about 10 people at their Thanksgiving [maybe 100 relatives total – possibly not even that many]). And yeah, they do not hug. Ever. Husby gets freaked out if I even stand too close to him, but I feel lonely if I’m not touching someone.

    and, what’s a cow bite?

    • ack! i am totally fine with no touching.

      a cow bite is when someone grabs your thigh right above the knee where it tickles? And squeezes really hard. it hurts and tickles at the same time.

      my brothers do it ALWAYS.

  16. The breakdown of the different kinds of hugs was priceless! I was actually laughing, because I could see each one. What really stood out for me was how you aligned and compared the hugging of Cort’s family to the different ways of showing affection of your own and didn’t really judge one was being better than the other, which really gave the ending of rather wanting Eddie to be embarrassed by too much hugging rather than too little a lot of punch.

  17. If we ever meet, I will hug and hug and hug you.

    My inlaw’s were not huggers, I believe it was me that converted them, 🙂

    I’m just so glad that Eddie will grow up being HUGGED, it’s the best medicine isn’t it???

    • somehow, Kir? I totally already knew that you were a hugger. and I am totally prepared to be mauled by you if we ever get the pleasure of meeting 😉

  18. ZOMG…our family never hugged nor did any sort of public displays of affection. NEVER. Then I met Shawn and it all changed. ANd I am so super happy I did. It’s amazing what a hug can do for your soul.

  19. Lady? I’m going to hug you and invade your space. Be ready.

    Also? My family? Huggers. Dan’s family? Huggers-by-virtue-of-living-in-the-South-but-totally-not-native-huggers. Which makes them really awkward huggers.

  20. I hear you on this one, only with my family/in-laws it’s the “I love you’s” that make me twitch.

    My family was not an “I love you family” although we all do. Love each other, I mean.
    A lot.

    We just never felt the need to say it.
    Really kind of ever.

    I remember being in college and all of my roommates would be talking to their parents, sisters, brothers…ending each silly five-minute conversation with “I love you.”

    I’d think, “Didn’t you just call to ask for money for beer?” And then I’d hear this:
    “Okay. I understand, Mom. No more money for beer. I love you!”

    I didn’t get it.

    Bill’s parents say I love you to me. And his sisters. And cousins. COUSINS!

    It’s a main reason I don’t answer the phone. Ever.
    Because I do love them. Mostly.

    But if I don’t tell my own MOTHER that on the phone, yeah.
    I’m not gonna tell yours.

    If trapped, I sweat out the “WE love you, too!” like I’m talking on behalf of the kids AND me.

    I wish I weren’t so uncomfortable with it. But I am.

    Still, like you, I don’t want my kids growing up uncomfortable. I tell them all. the. time.
    At least a dozen “I love you’s” a day.

    With them (and my husband), it doesn’t bother me. At all.

    But enthusiastic “I love yous” between people who’ve met only three times?

    • dude. I am NOT an “i love you” person AT ALL. We still do NOT say it in my family. EVER. My mom will slip it in there every now and then and I tend to mumble something in return.

      I say it CONSTANTLY to Cort and Eddie.

      But to others? No.

      Unless I am drinking. Then somehow I love EVERYONE and EVERYTHING.

  21. Great post! I love how you’ve “converted”. I am not really a hugger either, except to my kids and husband. Maybe I’ll convert too 😉

  22. My family only hugs hello & goodbye when we meet from out-of-town. My in-laws? Hug hello and goodbye every day AND even goodnight. No one can go to bed without a round of hugs and “I love yous” everywhere. It’s a bit excessive.

    But yeah, I guess it’s better than everyone fighting.

  23. What an adorable post! I like hugs, but I’m really short, so hugging tall people can be very awkward. Face in the chest? Up on tiptoes while they bend over? You’re so right – there’s technique here.

    So glad to see so many familiar names are going to BlogHer!

  24. Ok, so I won’t hug you at BlogHer. 😉

    Love the nervousness you describe at walking into that. I can just imagine. I don’t like hugging people under those circumstances either, but I am generally a hugger. Not a voracious one, but still.

    And, um, what’s a cow bite?

    • a cow bite, my dear friend, is when your just sitting there and someone grabs your thigh right above your knee and squeezes. It hurts and tickles at the same time and the more you squirm, the worse it is. but you CAN’T not squirm. It’s my brothers’ specialty.

  25. Oh, I’m a hugger. A hardcore hugger. From a family of non-huggers. Quite the anomaly.

    I have definitely been known to warn people. “Just so you know, I hug.” My husband has to tell me frequently which of our friends don’t like to be hugged. Because I get so caught up in the hugging, I forget.

  26. I am SO not a hugger. So I get this, totally. 🙂

  27. Just a warning Burson Nation is a touchy feely sovereign state. If the Sluiters ever visit, be ready.

  28. I’m not a hugger either, except for my husband who gives great hug.

    My in laws hug hello and goodbye, and the part that is weirdest to me is that the men will only hug the women. So when I first met Dave’s Dad, I was worth a hug even though he didn’t even know me, but his own son was worth only a handshake. Strange.

  29. That is the best warning ever! I am not a hugger, but I want to be so I can warn people that I will hug their face off. Maybe I will just randomly tell people that.