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Shrugs, Not Hugs

A Room Of Jean’s Own — By Jean Teasdale
Shrugs, Not Hugs
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From the Jean Teasdale email cyber-compu-bag: “Hey Jean, is Hubby Rick still alive?” Why, thanks for asking, Greg! Also, thanks to Anthony and Darci for the same question, as well as Mitch, Dale, Naomi, Chris, Jo, and Baptiste! The answer, as always, is a resounding oui, ja, si, and Chinese for yes! It’s still the most common question I get from Jeanketeers. (The second-most common question is if I get paid for writing my columns, and the third is if I’m still alive.) I don’t know why people are so curious about Hubby Rick’s existence status. After all, it’s not like I don’t mention him in every column. I appreciate the concern, but I would let you know if something bad happened to him—why would I keep his tragic, possibly even sudden and violent, passing a secret?

But the strangest question I received was from Twitter. Now, I used to tweet regularly, but the site started to get pretty darn goofy, plus you never know who you’re actually talking to—it could be someone who is just a robot and not even human, or a person who is a human but really hates everybody. So I mostly stopped, but once in a while, I dip my toe in, and an inquiry tweeted to me back in August got my attention. One of those out-of-the-blue questions: “Jean, when’s the last time Hubby Rick hugged you?”

Not that it was necessarily the tweeter’s Yankee Candle Berry Bramble beeswax, but the question refused to leave my mind. When WAS the last time Hubby Rick hugged me? It’s one of those things that you’d think you could give a quick reply to, yet danged if I could! Looking back, I could have just fired back one of my sassy-but-good-natured zingers for which I’m famous, but it kind of knocked me for a loop. Not only couldn’t I remember when, but it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember IF!

Hugging? Hmmm. That kind of thing is a two-way street, and if I’m being fair, it’s not really something we both do in the strictest sense, per se. I mean, we have definitely clutched at each other. Just for brief periods of time, however. I’ll let your imagination fill in the rest! Hugga hugga? Try hubba hubba! (Well, sort of.)

But surely, you must be thinking, if you don’t really hug, do your thighs at least touch when you share space on the living room couch? HA! Imagine Rick sharing anything! When he’s not working or knocking back a few at Tacky’s Tavern, Rick is practically all over his second, or possibly first, wife—his beloved La-Z-Boy!

Don’t get the wrong idea—sure, the hubs and I may not be a Hugga Bunch, but it’s not like we have zero contact. Brushing past each other, oh, we have that one down. No problem with that. We’ve gotten used to tight apartment spaces, so it’s practically second nature. Once in a while, I wake up at night and find that his back is flush against mine. Or, if he’s sacked out on said La-Z-Boy and needs something, he will grab at the hem of my top as I’m passing by and give it a tug. To get his attention, I used to give his ball-cap brim a hard flick with my thumb and index finger, until he locked me out of the apartment, but that happened ages ago and we’ve gotten way past it.

Surely, Rick and me, being high school sweethearts, shared a big squeeze at some point. What about the thrill of young romance? No, I’m seriously asking! Any people in our class who are reading this recall? My mind draws a total blank. I dreamed practically the whole school day about being whirled about in Patrick Swayze’s arms, or rolling around on the Blue Lagoon beaches with Christopher Atkins, or Christopher Reeve traveling from somewhere in time to sweep me from my open bedroom window! I’ve pasted these cherished fantasies into the scrapbook of my mind, but real moments with my actual boy toy don’t seem to stick to the pages. I suppose that if something in my life isn’t ideal and golden and everything I’ve dreamed of, I soon put it out of my mind. I know, it’s a special trait I’m gifted with. But I’ll say no more about it. I don’t want to inadvertently stir up envy or jealousy among you Jeanketeers. They’re useless and draining emotions for you to have, and I want to stay on your good side!

If anything, we should all thank Rick for my still-growing stuffed animal heap, which has made a dandy hug substitute for years. Also, that long, tubular pillow on our waterbed that I use as a bolster to prop up our pillows? Presto, another quick and easy cuddling solution! You other married gals must admit that even affectionate hubbies aren’t as a rule made of poly fiberfill and conveniently machine washable. And mine doesn’t have a nice clean scent after washing, no matter how long he scrubs at the alcohol stink and meat sweat odor in the shower!

And besides, should we be exchanging germs in an ongoing pandemic? I know I said when Rick is not working he’s at Tacky’s or on his La-Z-Boy, but do any of us know where else he’s been? At some point he may have stopped at the Speedway, and heaven knows who’s out there buying cigarettes and Slim Jims completely maskless!

In the end, I think it just boils down to a marriage mellowing and maturing. What a lot of folks don’t get is how a lack of energy from both hubby and wifey can create a very unifying effect. Rick and I are old enough (28!!!) to know that we don’t have to literally act out or demonstrate everything to convey what we feel for each other. A grunt, a yawn, a sidelong glance, a glare under a hooded brow, or sometimes days of no eye contact at all—quite often that’s enough! Isn’t a mutually shared “eh” a deeper bond of intimacy in itself?

Remember that adorbs old stuffed-toy fad in which the long, skinny arms of two monkeys were fastened around each other in a big embrace? Hubby Rick and I are a lot like that, except the fuzzier parts of the Velcro somehow came off our hands a while back, and we were too lazy to sew or glue them back on. In other words, we’re unfastened, but not apart. Instead of being all hugs, we’re one big simultaneous…shrug. And that’s the way we like it! Or tolerate it. In fact, the more I think about this, the more at peace I feel about this arrangement. I do feel a little guilty, though, that this Twitter question about hugging (which was made by a “SauteedSaliva”—I’m sorry, it’s become too much pressure protecting your identity!) didn’t lead me to a conscious awakening or any personal growth. In my defense, I blew my personal growth wad on last month’s column, and it takes quite a while to build some up again.

Oof! Did this edition of A Room Of Jean’s Own give my ol’ thinkin’ bone a workout! You Jeanketeers really racked my brains here, and to be honest, that goes against the spirit of this column. Next time, do me a favor and keep the questions limited to favorite colors, how many toes my cats have, why we still sleep on a waterbed after all these years, and what role dark chocolate, raw cacao, and carob play in my life (I’ll answer that one right away: zero, zip, and zilch!).