Claire Martin

PDA – by Claire Martin

I’m a hugger.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that even if I meet you with a handshake, I will generally depart with a hug.

This is absolutely not an inherited trait. I come from a family of true British stiff-upper-lippers (!) who generally frown on tears and find hugging far too intimate for comfort. My hugging is, in fact, an attribute that my family simply considers an amusing personal “quirk”, and no doubt blame much of it on my time in Canada!

I don’t know when or how I got into the habit of hugging, but I do clearly remember certain events in my life where PDA’s – everything from a simple hug, to seeing couples hold hands, became powerful symbols of love, comfort, and humanity.

In the late 80’s for example, I clearly remember watching Princess Diana one night on the TV news, defiantly holding the hands of Aids patients in an east London hospital when many still believed the disease could be contracted through casual contact. I was impressed by her dignity and conviction. But mostly I was impressed by the unspoken offer of love and strength given by simple touch.

This past summer, I found myself alone waiting for skin-graft surgery in Lionsgate Hospital. It was literally a “Hot August Night”, but I was scared and consumed with “what-if-thoughts” for the next few hours. A nurse came over and saw me trembling under my hospital gown. Despite the warmth of the evening, I was chilled. “Ah honey,” she said, “let me get you a blanket”. She came back moments later with a warmed blanket and tucked me in. She then took my hand and asked me about my day. We talked, well, she talked for a few minutes. She never once let go of my hand. I could feel her warmth gradually seep into my fingers, and I literally clung on for dear life.

When we are at our most vulnerable, a simple touch is an absolute sign of humanity.

Two days ago, on the Seabus coming home from work, an elderly couple got on and sat opposite me. Their knees were touching and they were holding hands. Every now and again, the woman would reach over and whisper something in her companion’s ear. He would smile and respond with a tighter grip.

I tried not to stare. But it was simply lovely to watch a couple so obviously still in love and enjoying each others company.

I’m writing this as current world and political events would lead us to believe that we are hurtling towards an unholy mess, that there is little good left in the world, and that decent humanity is a thing of the past.

I want to reassure everyone that we’re ok. Character is, in fact, defined not when times are good, but when they are bad. And as the wonderful former First Lady of the United States said, “when they go low, we go high”… Yes, ma’am!

Mantra for this year then is as follows:
“Go High”
“Show Character”
“Hug lots”


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  • Reply Wendy Beckett February 28, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Oh yes Claire…….you are right on the money…………when you are frightened for any reason a warm hand holding yours is heaven….the world needs much more simple human contact!

    • Reply Claire Martin March 2, 2017 at 7:09 pm

      Absolutely.. and just as I’ve been the recipient of a loving or caring touch, I’ve tried to give as good as I’ve got..
      Thanks for the lovely comment Wendy!

  • Reply everett raeburn February 28, 2017 at 11:02 am

    i So love seeing couples that are older, holding hands. it is a silent way of saying ,”i’m here for you”. when my wife and i started dating, she felt awkward at parties and just a wink from me across the room, or just putting my hand on her shoulder when we walked by one another made her feel secure and not alone. the simplest of touches can say and mean so much. it is a beautiful for of communication. then there is the unwanted touching which i don’t want to spoil your wonderful column with. i love how you see the simple beauty of humanity. babble-gabble out Ev xo

    • Reply Claire Martin March 2, 2017 at 7:12 pm

      Thanks Everett.. and you’re right, touching is inherently intimate.. you’ve gotta be aware of and respect the recipient’s feelings.

  • Reply Linda February 28, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Yes Claire, let’s do that. I’m a Brit like you. I’ve felt all of those thoughts and situations you mention and am right there with the ‘when they go low, we go high’ sentiment’.

    Good luck getting back to where you want to be. It takes a lot of determination and time…but it does happen.

    Cheers for writing.


    • Reply Claire Martin March 2, 2017 at 7:14 pm

      Thanks for the reply and support Linda.. makes me walk a little taller to have such a strong community take the journey with me!

  • Reply tangotv February 28, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Good writing, Jody. I could see each one of your scenes as they unfolded, and it made me smile.

  • Reply Charlotte Phillips Voice and Creative Services February 28, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Great essay, Claire! I had some surgery yesterday and the sweetest nurse in the world held my quivering hand throughout the entire procedure. Such a loving gesture and calming effect. You are so right about “hug lots”.

    • Reply Claire Martin March 2, 2017 at 7:16 pm

      Nurses (my Grandmother used to say) are “angels on earth”. I utterly agree. Glad you had one with you yesterday.. here’s to thanking them every chance I get!

  • Reply Wendy Vreeken Banham February 28, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Right on, Claire! I too, am a hugger. I respect that not everyone is as demonstrative, but I did think the world could use more PDAs, especially right now, but really, always.

    • Reply Claire Martin March 2, 2017 at 7:16 pm

      You and me, girl! Thanks for the comment.

  • Reply Roddie MacKinnon February 28, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Wish I could be as optimistic as you Claire but from what I see out there, in my opinion, is that if you try to do something nice especially if you are public figure a lot of people take it as meaning you most likely have an ulterior motive and in their minds it’s generally not good.

    • Reply Claire Martin March 2, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      Gotta be honest and truthfully genuine, Roddie! Thanks for the note.

  • Reply ghmanderson February 28, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Claire, as always a great article but I found this one especially poignant as I too come from a family of non huggers including my parents even though they had nine children – guess they skipped the hugging. Anyway I am a hugger; perhaps I got this from my 26 years of working in the charitable sector – god knows that it is tough for a male to be a hugger in the work world but my wife thinks it is because I exude caring and love and passion. We still walk hand-in-hand nearly 25 years later and I love to see couples show that same kind of caring no matter how long they have been together. Anyway, thanks once again for your wonderful thoughts! Glenn

    • Reply Claire Martin March 2, 2017 at 7:23 pm

      Thanks for this. I love hearing that you still hold hands with your wife!

  • Reply Jane Mackie March 5, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Oh yes Claire…hugs….they are the best…..especially unexpected but very timely ones in airports…or really…at any time at all…..they soothe painful moments and share in joyful times…hello’s, goodbyes, and I’m here for you moments…universal language i think. Jane

    • Reply Claire March 13, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Bless you Jane!

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