I recently played tennis with a guy for our first date. Although we’d corresponded a couple of times to schedule the tennis, I really didn’t know anything else about this person.

When he met me in the parking lot, I held out my hand to greet him. He held his arms open, suggesting a hug. Ugh. I sucked it up, used my acting skills, and hugged.

An hour into the tennis, he came to the net when I did to pick up balls. Again, he held out his arms to hug over the net. Again, I used my acting skills. Double ugh.

At the end of the match, he ran to the net, licking his lips. I held out my hand and said, “Good match.” He went in for another hug and pulled back as if he was going to kiss me. That was it. My acting skills had reached their limit. Fearing he would try it again in the parking lot when we said good-bye, I told him the only touching from there on out was a high-five.

Obviously, this man was raised a hugger. Obviously, I was not. I’m not saying I don’t hug people I know well, it’s the strangers that I’m not comfortable with. It’s my personal space, and these huggers are invading it. For all they know, I could be Ted Bundy’s protégé…or even Al Bundy’s, for that matter.

I once visited a guy’s family, and they were hugging every time I turned around. They couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. When they tried to incorporate me into their circle of love, I informed them I would give them a hug coming and going, and that was it. And I didn’t mean every time I left their house and returned.

Is there a middle ground between the super affectionate and the not-so affectionate? Is there ever a nice way to tell someone you’re not comfortable hugging them and would rather just high-five? Is avoidance of huggers the only way around this debacle?

Admittedly, I’m to the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to not hugging people I don’t know well. I’m sure there is room for improvement. Maybe I was leading the guy on. Maybe, instead of reporting the score as love-love, I should have clarified, “That’s like-like to you.”

Although you say the word “love” a lot in tennis, there is one thing I am quite sure of: There is no hugging in tennis.

Happy dating…and hugging!

Devil’s Elbow, Book 2 of the Harbor Secret Series, is now available in hard copy!  Yay!