If 90% of communication occurs through body language, then a significant amount of what we "say" to each other comes from casual physical touch—a hand on someone's lower back when you're leaning in to talk to them, an extra-long hug, or just a pat on the shoulder—or lack thereof. We all have friends who are able to give a shoulder rub without even thinking about it, and those who flinch at a handshake. Here's where we stand on affection:
Emily: I wasn't aware of my slight opposition to affection until my best friend mentioned it to me about a year ago. She said she often wants to wrap her arms around me while we're walking or cuddle up while watching a movie but knows it would make me uncomfortable. When I heard that I was initially floored...but then understood where she was coming from. I actually love physical contact - for some reason I just never think to initiate it with people other than G or Sloan. For years I also thought that I was one of those unlucky people who was surrounded by awkward huggers - you know the type where you just can't read whether they're going to embrace you, give you a high five, or do a quick air kiss. It wasn't until recently that I realized (to my horror) if I'm constantly in those situations that the problem is probably ME. So I realized I just have to commit either way, with an overly aggressive, no-questions-asked hug or super pulled back with an uncomfortable half-wave so the person knows we're not going to make any contact whatsoever. So yeah, it's established. I'm not that affectionate.
Geoffrey: Aside from my wife, daughter and cats, I'm not an overly affectionate person. However, I try to match the level of affection given to me, so I'll happily exchange hugs if another person initiates the action. I've softened a bit since becoming a father and because the relationships with the people/partners we work with have more of a familial vibe, hugs and affectionate embraces have replaced the pragmatic handshake.
Alina: First things first, I am Latin, and Latin people are very physical. We hug, embrace, cuddle, nuzzle, touch, gesture, by nature. I pretty much constantly want to be nuzzled into the people I love most, or even just don't hate. On a couch, I'm most content and comfortable when my legs are touching the person's next to me. If I am sitting with my best friend, I try to drape my legs across her lap as if she were my boyfriend. At night, I want to spoon closely. I love cuddling. My best friend growing up used to put a barrier of pillows between us at sleepovers because I would attempt to spoon all night. It's still a hilarious memory for us. Day to day, I get bursts of affection wherein I want to squeeze someone's shoulders, hug them, or just rest my head on their shoulder. I straight up love humans and human touch. Hope I haven't creeped you out yet.
Leslie: There are only about ten people in the world—my boyfriend, my best friends, and close family—that I will embrace without hesitation. The issue is that I want to be naturally affectionate with everyone else, even though it doesn't always work in my favor. For example, whenever I'm greeting someone in a non-professional setting, my default is to go in for a quick hug, the risk being that last panicked, wide-eyed millisecond where I realize the person is not a hugger and I completely absorb their fear and pivot my hug into an awkward chest bump. A naturally affectionate person would bear-hug the awkwardness right out of that situation—maybe practice makes perfect?