I collect things. I collect a lot of things. I collect music; my library is almost 17,500 songs (that’s 46.6 days or approximately 106 GB). I collect movies. I honestly have no idea how many DVD’s or Blu-Rays I have on my shelves and now stacked on top of my shelves. I love to read. I buy books so often that I’ve filled my bookshelf two books deep and now have resorted to letting them collect in a giant heap on my bedroom floor. Sitting next to them is the box that holds my record collection because I also collect vinyl. Legendary BBC DJ John Peel famously said, “Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don’t have any surface noise. I said, ‘Listen, mate, *life* has surface noise.” I couldn’t agree more.
That sort of leads into the story concerning one of my other collections.
I collect t-shirts. It used to be band shirts I picked up at shows. But now I’m a recluse and really only leave my apartment to go to class and the off occasions where friends invite me to go places that don’t trigger my social anxiety. Now, I’ve started buying shirts that reference my favorite movies, books, authors, and presidential candidate (Bernthewhitehouse.com is great). I’ve lost count of how many I’ve collected since I quit my job but that really doesn’t matter. The point is, I’ve been buying new ones all the time.
I can’t remember which came first, the desire or the idea. My life becomes one big swirl of racing thoughts and sleepless nights lately so I couldn’t tell you whether I saw this video first or if I bough the t-shirt off Amazon first. In the end it doesn’t really matter because the sentiment is still the same and it doesn’t affect the story that follows.
At some point in my thought process was this video. The stark contrast to the same stimuli between two diametrically opposed groups is flooring, despite the fact they’re both human. Don’t humans have a desire to be touched and embraced?
According to Psychology Today there are a multitude of benefits to human contact. It creates bonds which decreases the instance of violence, it builds trust. So why would you shy away with that.
I guess some people like to stay angry. That’s not really the point of this story.
So, I found a shirt that advertised free hugs to the public hoping to see a similar response. I wore it to the University today since Wednesdays are my long days, stretching from about 8am to 3:30pm and requires trips between at least two or three buildings and about four different floors between them.
From the outset, I realize perhaps people could take the message the wrong way. With all my piercings and tattoos, even I might consider my wearing a shirt advertising free hugs to be a dare rather than an open invitation. Part of me wants to believe otherwise.
Would you believe I only got one hug all day? It was from this really big guy in the Arts & Sciences hall who told me I was doing a good job afterwards. I guess that’s all the validation I needed. Just like when I used to do youth ministry I only ever asked for one positive response. It was still disappointing.
I was reminded of a piece I wrote a long time ago about the issue: what I referred to as collegiate catatonia. Everyone seemed to be walking around in a self-absorbed state. No one really looked at me. They either kept looking straight ahead, at the ground (a different issue altogether) or their phone. It was kind of sad in a way how disengaged these younger students were. Me? I’ve been around the block a few times and this is my third time attending this university over the last 12 years.
How could someone turn down free hugs? I like hugs. I like giving hugs. It’s one of the few things I think I’m good at. There are friends I look forward to hugging, though one of them is gone and I miss her every day.
Would you give up free hugs?