She’s Not Wanting

Pushing back as hard as I can, I still find myself drawn inexorably inwards by his greater strength.  My outstretched hand hits his chest first, then slides up as I can’t hold the distance between us.  When he finally stops pulling me towards him, my right hand is up under his chin, forcing his head back.

It happens so fast that I have no time to consider whether to resist or not.  Grabbed, I am just in reaction mode from the get-go. As everything comes to a standstill, I realize that the others in the room are laughing. 

Others?  Laughing?  Well, yes.

Our project team’s core group is joined occasionally by people from other companies.  This is such an occasion: a senior sales rep from one of our partners has shown up in town for a few days to do what he fondly believes is work.  He’s not my favourite, but I’ve made some effort to see that he doesn’t know that.  A  big, hearty, how-the-hell-are-ya guy, as he comes into the room he makes a big fuss when he sees me.


Playing along reluctantly, I get up.


And I hold out my right hand.

Genius of subtle social cues that he is, it all goes south from there.

I think of this 25-year-old interaction from time to time: most recently on 21 Jun when my calendar of “life’s little instructions” offered me this wisdom:

If a woman offers you a handshake,
she’s not wanting a hug.

I couldn’t have put it any more clearly myself.



  1. Barbara Carlson

    Some men have been known to quickly pull that hand toward them, dragging the unprepared woman to them… not so much anymore, though, what with #Metoo. Some men are now probably afraid even to take a woman’s hand… such a pendulum will eventually swing back to sometimes more sane.
    Won’t it?

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Barbara – Well, in human affairs (no pun intended), I usually expect the pendulum to keep swinging. If only it would pause for a little longer somewhere *I* think is sane . . .

  2. Jim Taylor

    Okay, let’s try this from the man’s side of the situation. I see someone I know. A woman I like. Maybe even a woman I once dated. We move towards each other. I open my arms to give her a hug. Instead, I get straight-armed in the chest. That hurts, you know? Why not just slap my face, or give me a knee in the groin?
    Now, I’m not that kind of guy. I’m only slowly learning that a hug is not necessarily an indication of sexual desire. I grew up believing that physical contact of any kind was a precursor of sexual intimacy. and I was scared of it.
    But I also have feelings. And rejection is not a feeling that I welcome.
    Jim T

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – You’re postulating a different situation, of course: social, not work; prior personal or even intimate relationship versus no relationship. I’m not sure that what you describe is just the man’s side, though. No one enjoys feeling rejected, but in my view no one has the right to force unwanted physical contact on another, either – whether male or female. So what do we do in greeting each other, day to day? Think before acting, I guess. Watch for the cues. And when we encounter a difference in approach/comfort, try not to take it personally.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – LOL. I’ve had karate students in the family show me moves with little effect: I’m definitely deficient on that whole kinesthetic intelligence thing. I’d need a sparring (hugging?) partner to train with.

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