Guys in wheelchairs need hugs, too.

If you want to hug the guy in the wheelchair, come on down here. Don’t be shy. Come down where I can reach you. Take a knee or pull up a chair, and let’s do this thing. The A-frame hug – with you bending over at the waist and us both trying to figure out what to do with our faces and where to put our hands –  is better than no hug at all, but it’s not satisfying to me, and probably not to you either. There’s nothing like a real unqualified all out hug and kiss and squeeze. The intensity and duration of the hug and or squeeze is variable consistent with the relationship of the participants and the occasion, and the kiss is always optional (I’ve got a big beard and I fully understand if you don’t want that in your face). But the hug and the squeeze is the whole point.

It’s the same for having a conversation of any consequence or duration. If you come down here, pull up a chair and get down to my level (in more ways than one), we can chat all night and neither of us will get a stiff neck. Doing it this way does require a bit more of a commitment from you – it’s harder to casually wander away when you’re sitting in a chair (trust me, I know). I promise you your commitment will be appreciated.

I’ve been down here, waist high in the world, for some time. The view is occasionally quite interesting – I’ve got a good excuse for looking at people’s butts – but as you can imagine it is usually not terribly inspiring. Of all the things I miss about being down here, apart from the whole “walking” thing, hugs are near the top of the list. Getting down on one knee doesn’t need to feel like you’re proposing to me (sorry guys and gals, he’s happily married!) (although, as my grandfather said, I’ll try anything once.) The whole idea of the arrangement is for less awkwardness.

But if this is getting too complicated, the classic fist bump is perfectly fine. Even better if you jazz it up with some fireworks.

Recommended reading: Waist High in the World, by Nancy Mairs.



One of the (many) things that suck about being in a wheelchair is the awkward wheelchair hug. Someone comes to the house for dinner, and it’s hugs all around. Then they come to me, and, game though we all might be, no one is entirely sure how to go about it. It’s relatively easy for most guys – we just shake hands or do a “soul shake,” a shoulder-slap, and that suffices. Some guys who are very good friends, we still make the attempt.

With women friends, it maybe be that, were I not in a wheelchair, we’d just hug. Which would be lovely. But, I seem to get more kisses – on the mouth, too! – since I’ve been seated. This is a good thing.
391ca. j4Wheelchair Hug no 2_vaugk_5289
Either way, male or female, the wheelchair hug is just awkward. I’ve never asked someone, even just as an experiment, to try kneeling or squatting when hugging me. On one knee? Would that feel like a marriage proposal? In most cases, I’d be OK with that; not sure my wife would be.

A related awkward situation is the longer conversation. If it’s just you and me, I think the etiquette is for you to sit, if possible, so I’m not craning my neck. Having to gaze up at you feels somehow demeaning. I don’t know what the etiquette is when there’s a group of us. I don’t suppose I can expect you all to sit down.

When looking online for ideas about this topic, I found When You Meet a Person Who Uses A Wheelchair – which many of you have probably already seen, in one version or another.

I go to a men’s retreat/gathering twice year, and there is a lot of hugging. (There is nothing like a hearty hug from another man.) One of the regulars is well known within the group for his full-contact, full-body power hugs. Getting my yearly hug from this man is something I look forward to all year. I’m not sure how I’ll deal with it the next time I see him. Maybe I’ll just have to figure out how to stand up.

(If anyone knows of any tips on how to handle the wheelchair hug, pass them along!)