I can’t imagine a day without it (Picture: Emmie Harrison-West)
Standing in my towel, with freshly washed hair and moisturiser seeping from my body, my husband shouted a quick ‘bye!’ and rushed to the stairs.
‘But what about my hug?’ I screeched back at him (probably rather pathetically).
He reluctantly came running back, took a moment to embrace me, towel and all, and planted a kiss on my cheek.
His shoulders dropped and he smiled. At that moment, it didn’t matter that his train was in seven minutes and it’s a six minute walk to the station. It didn’t matter that I had no clean pants, that it was raining outside, or that we had no cereal left for breakfast.
All that mattered was that embrace.
The last one before we face the stresses of the day and don’t see each other for 10 hours.
‘You look handsome,’ I told him. Well, it is true after all.
His eyes creased. ‘You look, er… pretty?’ he laughed, looking down at my red blotchy face, and the bright purple towel we’ve had since we first met, not quite covering my body, stretch marks and all. I laughed at what I must look like next to him.
It’s our routine – it has been for years – and I can’t imagine a day without it.
Some might say that it’s ‘un-feminist’ of me. That I’m dependent on a man to make me happy when I should embrace myself as a ‘strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man’.
Well, you’re wrong. I think that image is harmful.
Plus, according to researchers in Germany and the Netherlands, a morning hug can actually be quite powerful.
In the experiment, 76 people in romantic relationships were subjected to an activity that raised cortisol levels (the hormone associated with stress) – in the women that embraced their partner for 20 seconds beforehand, stress levels remained unchanged and rose by only 1.5%.
If I have a hug, I feel anchored. Safe
But in those that didn’t hug, stress levels rocketed by 37% in less than half an hour.
The report suggests that men should make an effort to hug their female partners, helping women guard feelings of stress for the day ahead.
I’ve heard many women over the years say that they don’t need a man to make them happy, but, in all honesty, I suppose I do, in a way.
I can’t start my day without a soggy embrace or sleepy half-armed hug while I’m still in bed and my husband leaves the flat in a blur of laptop bags, and checkered shirts.
On the odd chance that we don’t hug, if he ‘really doesn’t have time’ or we’re both snappy (read, hungover) my day feels different – my social anxiety and feelings of depression start to take over and I feel like my guard is down. But if I have a hug, I feel anchored. Safe.
With each hug, it feels like the weight of stress leftover from the previous day has been lifted. Shared – equally.
I don’t think that it makes me any less of a feminist for yearning for a morning hug from my husband, though.
In some ways, perhaps I depend on him – but it doesn’t mean that I’m at his mercy. And I like to think that he depends on me, too – even if the report claims to see no visible stress-busting benefits in men.
I think, as a feminist, it’s very easy to forget to be vulnerable. We’ve spent our lives to date fighting for social equality, against gender inequality, harassment and oppression that blights our everyday, that it’s OK to want to heal. To allow yourself to want to be loved, nurtured – if you’re ready and willing.
Nowhere in the definition of feminism is it stated that it’s a vicious movement, thriving on the downfall of men, man haters and bra burners – even though lockdown might have encouraged some of us to ditch the bra.
Feminism is not a political issue to ‘take sides on’.
Women shouldn’t feel they need to continue to constantly uphold this ‘angry’, unforgiving persona made up by the misconceptions of men and not take the time to be loved, or cherished.
I enjoy hugs – as much as I enjoy being a wife. I enjoy cooking, finding a good bra, and even sharing my surname with a man. I know I’ll never make as much money as my husband does, with society unwarrantly painting me out to be a caregiver that will always be lesser from before I was even born.
But if I start my day with a hug, all that matters is that I am equal. Worthy of love, and of vulnerability. I’m suitably armed against the daily, often exhausting, stresses of being a woman.
And for when he gets back from work? Well, I might be found running to the top of the stairs when I hear his keys in the door. He has no choice, really – it is scientifically proven after all.
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