Please help yourself to this virtual hug

Image by the excellent Stuart F Taylor

Quite a few of us right now are feeling anxious and down. I was very much wrapped in that feeling recently when a friend of mine sent me a virtual hug. It made my heart ache because what I wanted was to hold him – squeeze him really tightly and properly extract every drop of reassurance and comfort from that hug. But picturing that kind of hug weirdly did make me feel a little bit better. So I thought I’d have a crack at doing for hugs what I sometimes do with more erotic topics, and write it in the kind of detail that might help you feel it, if you’d like to. Here’s a virtual hug to which you’re welcome to help yourself, or pass on to a friend who might need one. 

You knock on the door to my office, and when I say ‘come in!’ you push it open gently. Stand in the doorway with your shoulders slumped and your arms by your sides, eyes darting this way and that like you’ve got something to say but you don’t know how to say it. You look unhappy, and that’s no surprise – there’s a hell of a lot to be unhappy about right now. ‘What’s up?’ I ask, and you tell me: ‘I think I just really need a hug.’

I stand up and turn off my monitor, go over to where you’re standing, and wrap both my arms around you. You’re stiff and trembling a bit, like you’re just about to cry. This probably needs more than the average hug, doesn’t it?

This time, right now. This sadness. This worry and uncertainty. This tangled, ever-growing ball made up of different threads – each and every one representing a tiny worry, a giant heartbreak, a powerful gutpunch of grief. Some threads are hopes for the future which somehow have become worries now too – the things you planned and now have to unplan. The sense of failure that you were silly and hopeful enough to plan anything in the first place – that’s another thread too.

There are so many that you cannot hope to untangle them now. But you don’t need to: no one expects you to, least of all me. You want a hug, so let’s do that. Let’s focus right now on doing that in the best way we possibly can.

I take you by the hand and lead you to the bedroom. Pull back the duvet on the bed because it’s cold and we need to be warm. Fully clothed, I climb into bed and stretch out my arms, tell you ‘come on, c’mere.’

You slide in. You rest your head on my arm and bury your face in my chest as I pull the duvet over you, and me, and both of us. Get comfy, snuggle down.

Fully wrap both my arms around you, and hold you.

And hold you.

And hold you.

Tightly, quietly, calmly. Note that there is no time limit here. No agenda. I stroke your back, and the back of your neck. Plant a kiss on the top of your head. Squeeze.

And hold you.

I am not going to ask you what’s wrong. I am not going to make you untangle that ball of worry and sadness – not now. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re not here to analyse anything, so when you start to cry I am not going to ask you ‘why?’

Importantly, too, I will not say ‘sssh.’ I won’t say ‘it gets better’ or ‘this too shall pass.’ I won’t try to cheer you up with stories from my day, or remind you of those things you told me last week you were looking forward to. I won’t suggest dinner, or a drink, or sex, or any other thing. There is no other thing right now besides you and me and this hug.

You can cry for as long as you like. Cry until you’re all out of tears. Cry until you don’t want to cry any more. Cry until you fall asleep, if you like – I’ll still be here. Holding you tightly and stroking your back and kissing the top of your head and not talking about anything at all – not the tangled knot of worry or your tears or even the way your skin feels so warm against mine.

I’ll just be here. Holding you.

Because you needed a hug.


I appreciate that, no matter how detailed, a virtual hug isn’t the same as the real thing. But in absence of the real thing, I enjoyed wallowing in the memory of great hugs from the past, so I thought a few of you might enjoy that too. Feel free to share it with anyone who needs one. 


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