13 Struggles When You're Not "Affectionate"

I have never been a very affectionate person. As clinical as it sounds, I spent a lot of time in high school actively training myself to hug people in socially appropriate moments so I wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb in a millennial culture that is – bless us and our complete and utter lack of regard for personal space – extremely touchy-feely. Now, I don't want to make the wrong impression and/or make myself sound like a secret serial killer here – I appreciate the sentiment of affection, and even enjoy the affection itself. It's just that I'm just incredibly bad at reciprocating it. Prolifically. Hugging me is like hugging a stop sign.

This has boggled my affectionate parents since my toddlerhood, when I refused good night kisses and apparently turned my cheek to the side like a total diva whenever someone tried. Even now, as an adult who is theoretically old enough to pick up on social cues, I still can't help but be super stiff and awkward, even when I love the person to pieces. When you're not an "affectionate" person, your life is a total minefield of trying not to offend other human beings not from things you did, but things you didn't do, and it makes all of these normal situations instantly turn into really weird ones:

You Never Know What To Do When You See Someone You Kind Of Vaguely Know

Once every month or so you run into some girl you haven't seen in like five years and you knew once from that class in high school, and as you make eye contact in the cereal aisle and approach each other, you're paralyzed with indecision. Do we shake hands? Hug? Fist bump? Will I seem like a total shrew if she goes in for something on higher on the tier of affection than I do? I JUST WANTED FROSTED FLAKES AND NOW I AM HAVING AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS.

You Are Especially Confused When You Travel

I live just outside of DC in Northern Virginia, and I thought we were touchy-feely. But then I spent some time in Nashville and was totally thrown for a loop. People are confused when you don't immediately hug them, and it took about nine months of conditioning for me not to jump a bit in surprise whenever someone went for it.

You Overanalyze Every Kind Of Cuddling

Surprise: It is possible to be terrible at cuddling. I mean, nobody's ever strictly told me I was "bad at it – well, besides a kid I was babysitting once who abruptly told me I wasn't "squishy" enough – but when you're an unaffectionate person attempting to reciprocate a cuddle, you are uncomfortable even if you really want to cuddle. You're constantly wondering if you are squashing the other person or breathing too loudly or if they can tell that you're sweating straight through your pits.

You Never Know How Long A Hug Should Last

One Mississippi...Two I doing this right?

You Are The Literal Worst At Flirting

The first time a guy ever tried to hold my hand at a movie theater, he held open his palm and gave me this really meaningful look, and was profoundly confused when I nodded at him, reached down for my Buncha Crunch, and diligently gave him a handful.

You Can Never Tell If You're Actually Attracted To Someone

Literally any time someone touches me I'm like, "AFFECTION. IT'S HAPPENING. THIS IS NOT A DRILL, I REPEAT, NOT A DRILL." And if I don't already know someone well enough, it might take weeks for me to shut up that voice in my head until I'm comfortable enough to figure out whether or not I actually enjoy the hand-holding, weird face touching and other stuff that happens when we try to flirt as human beings. This is my theory as to why I've only ever dated guys who I was really good friends with first.

Your S.O. Has To Be Ready For Some Weirdness

Until I had my first "sleepover" with a boyfriend, I just kind of assumed that people slept in the same bed side by side and did their own thing. Daytime television did not prepare me for the reality. When we turned out the lights and he started cuddling into the mattress with me I jolted and literally blurted, "Wait, what?" Fortunately, he was well used to me being skittish by then, which was lucky, because not many people would have taken it in stride. It's not that I didn't want to be close to him, because I did. I was just, as usual, totally unprepared.

You Are Constantly Offending People Who Use "I Love You" Liberally

I've said "I love you" to many people, and they are my family, my best friends, and people I've been in serious relationships with. I take the words very seriously, and I know it's just this harmless and kind of thoughtless thing people do when they're like, "Oh my god, I love you," when you barely know them, but then there's alway that awkward pause where you try to recover and you're like, "Ahahahaha...ha, YOU'RE SO COOL! FRIEND." Sorry, pop culture. I can't do it.

"Getting To Know You" Games At Summer Camp Still Give You PTSD

Isn't there some other civil, more efficient way we can get to know each other without forming a gigantic sweating "human knot" or clapping all our disease-ridden hands together?

You Never Know What To Do When Someone Is Sad

With your best friends or with family, it's easy to know how to react when they're upset because you know them and can anticipate what will and won't make them feel better. But when it's someone you don't know that well, or even a stranger, you don't want to overstep your bounds by hugging or comforting them, but you also don't want to make things worse by not doing anything at all. I suppose all people go through this struggle, but when you're already bad at affection as it is, the indecision gets blown way out of proportion.

You Also Don't Know What You Want When You're Sad

Half of you is like, "DON'T TOUCH ME, I AM AN ISLAND," and the other half of you is like, "Please let me burrow into you and snot all over your sweater and become a two person human burrito of sadness."

You're Constantly Feeling Guilty For Something You Can't Help

I'm still cringing remembering friendly gestures I didn't reciprocate well from elementary school. Time does not heal all awkwardness.

You Will Never Be A Disney Princess

I mean, the fact that I am not pixelated and that my body makes anatomical sense is already enough to take me out of the running, but here is the nail in the coffin. How do you expect me to recruit animal sidekicks when I'm not even good at hugging a human?

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