Blog / 2021 / Thank You for Taking Care of Yourself
May 4, 2021
It’s been two weeks since my second shot. I’m as vaccinated against COVID-19 as currently possible. It feels good to take care of myself and of all of humanity by making it much less likely that my body will be a site for the virus to mutate into something even more dangerous. But I’m not kidding myself.
This is just the beginning.
With so many skipping their second shot or refusing to be vaccinated at all in the US and with so few Americans mustering any enthusiasm about continued mask-wearing despite the fact that the CDC says it’s possible for vaccinated people to get sick and transmit COVID, we aren’t out of the spiky-virus-ball-infested woods yet. Not by a long shot.
So I’m not going back to hugging people anytime soon. My partner, yes—I never stopped hugging him—and now I’ll hug my parents and my in-laws, but that is where I draw the line in the hugging sand. Touching elbows is plenty friendly when I can’t know how diligent the person on the other end of my elbow is about mask-wearing or how conscientious the people they’re hugging are being.
This may be, first and foremost, a safety and public health decision and something I started before COVID was even acknowledged in the US, but I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t excited about one other consequence. 2021 is the year I get good at saying “no” to hugging people I don’t actually want to hug.
In my forty years on this planet, I’ve embraced people at least a bajillion times more than I’ve wanted. The worst of the forced hugs come from the creepy male art buyers who leverage a sale to steal a cuddle with a “cute artist chick,” as one of them actually called me TO MY FACE. But just because the unwanted embraces weren’t always explicitly designed to disempower me didn’t mean that every one of the other, less memorable, and nauseatingly numerous hugs didn’t do just that.
It’s well past time I tell the patriarchy where to shove its “be a good girl” concept when it comes to hugging others, and Melissa Febos’ Girlhood was the last little push I needed to make this happen. The entire book is ruinous and uplifting and very important, but in her essay “Thank You for Taking Care of Yourself” Febos describes her own battle with boundaries, using a Cuddle Party as the catalyst for change.
Apparently, these organized pay-to-cuddle events have lots of rules, my favorite being that, if you ask someone to cuddle and they say “no,” your response is supposed to be:
Thank you for taking care of yourself.
Obviously, I don’t expect my unhugged friends and acquaintances to say this to me over the next year, but, in case you were wondering, every time I say “no” to unwanted touch, I will 100% be thanking myself.
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