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I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Watch the Breasts!

For the nursing mother, hugs can be dangerous. They can be quite painful in certain circumstances, like when your breasts are twice their usual size, engorged with milk, and especially sensitive. As we entertain a flurry of family from both sides over the course of four days, I’m getting lots of warm, vigorous congratulatory hugs that are proving to be a major pain in the tit. And since no one wants to pull away from a hug with a grimace of pain or an “ow!” I’m just smiling and bearing it.

I get plenty of hugs in my daily life, from my old man, from O., from my mom, but these never pain me. So I’ve started developing a theory of hugs. At first, I reasoned that it was a matter of how close my relationship to the hugger is, thinking that hugs from people who I’m very close to don’t cause me breast pain because they hugs tend to be full-body hugs rather than leaning-in hugs. Leaning-in hugs are the kind exchanged when you’re close enough to want to hug, but not so close that you’d hug without keeping intimate zones like belly and pelvis appropriately far apart. In-laws, for many people, would be the perfect example of a category of relationships where you exchange lean-in hugs (without necessarily even being aware you’re doing it).

I’ve had to modify my theory, though, as I continue to get more hugs from different varieties of family, especially repeat hugs. First of all, a “Good-morning, nice to see you again!” hug is definitely less painful than a “Hi! I haven’t seen you in four months and I can’t wait to meet your baby for the first time!” hug. But more significantly, I’ve been noticing that hugs from my female relatives and friends are almost never painful, while hugs from my male relatives and friends often are. So gender seems to be a key here, I think for two reasons. One, most women just hug more gently than most men. Many men are accustomed to giving other men rough, energetic hugs that clearly communicate Hail, fellow! Well met! And by the way I’m a heterosexual man, and perhaps this emphatic approach informs the hugs they give women as well. Two, I think the need to keep the areas of the body associated with intimacy far apart is greater in a man-woman hug than in a woman-woman hug. So the chest bears almost all the impact of the hug. And these days, my chest is all breast. And those extra-energetic, chest-to-chest hugs hurt like a mother. (And hurt a mother.)

So what to do? I can’t very well advise my male relatives and friends to “watch the breasts, buddy!” That would probably come off the wrong way. I think I’ll try to alter my hugging style a bit when I’m approaching a hug with a suspected hard chest hugger, coming in sidelong so as to say “Yes, let’s hug! But how about a nice side-to-side hug? So friendly, yet so safe!” Safe in more ways than one.


Blogger Henny Penny said...

A side hug or perhaps change to cheek kissing. I hope are doing well with the influx of visitors. Hope they cook for you guys.

5:51 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I suppose yelling "I'm Leaking!!" would do them damage?

Cause it is kind of what I would do

7:30 AM  
Blogger Mrs. T said...

I once went to hear the auther Victor Villaseñor speak and he made this huge production of Americans hugging with their behinds sticking out, which sounds exactly like what you described here. Would it be equally as damaging to say "Let's hug, but could you relax your ass just a bit?"

8:10 AM  
Blogger Orange said...

Just greet them tits-out. Tell them your nipples need air or you'll get a yeast infection.

Or wear a sling and carry a doll or a football or something when the baby's not in the sling. Instant buffer zone. Or extend your hand for handshakes.

Weird story: My sister-in-law (husband's brother's wife) used to hug all of us. The last time we saw her, she gave us all handshakes. She's odd anyway, but now I wonder if maybe she had some breast or back pain that made her keep us all at bay.

8:41 AM  
Blogger sweatpantsmom said...

I've been away from blogville, and see I've missed a lot.


And (virtual, and painless) hugs to you!

11:49 PM  
Blogger K said...

I have a male friend who, no matter what, will side-hug. The morning after we slept together? Yep. Side-hug. Funeral? Side-hug.
But I like Orange's idea about a buffer - you can go in for the hug and then WHOOOP give them a side-hug. Just don't let them see your football.

2:40 PM  
Blogger mackraym said...

Wow! this reminded me of my friend that recently gave birth. I would hug her and she would say,"owww, my boobs"!

I started by hugging her w/ my arm closer to her waist. Not only bringing her waist in, but also mine.

12:40 AM  

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