Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to Hug a Drunken Porcupine

Close up of a porcupineNow admittedly, I have not hugged too many porcupines, regardless of their state of inebriation, or lack thereof.  But sometimes it seems like my entire life has been spent trying to figure out how to do it successfully.

What, you may reasonably ask, would a "successful porcupine hug" be like?  Good question.  Maybe one where you can walk away and not need emergency medical treatment?

The thing about porcupines is that they have a hard time telling their friends from their enemies, and therefore, they tend to just send out barbs to anyone who comes within their firing range.  Know anyone like that in your group of friends, or among family members?  You do not have to answer that.

And why drunken porcupines (DPs for short)?  Because anytime I have been attacked by a wobbly "prickly pig" - which is essentially what the word porcupine means - inevitably either the DP him or herself, or someone apologizing for them, would tell me that they didn't really mean it, and I should excuse them for their hurtful behavior because they were "under the influence" at the time they sent all their zingers my way.  Huh?

"You know how her mother was, and she was always too influenced by her."

"He only strikes out like that because of the influence his older brother had on him."

"She doesn't mean to be nasty, she just was overly influenced by her third grade teacher who embarrassed her."

....whatever.  And then there are those porcupines who really are DPs with DUI - Damaging Under the Influence of substances both legal and illegal.  Again, we are often admonished, "Well, you know she only says things like that when she has had too much to drink."

Sorry, but I studied and worked in drug and alcohol programs for five years and the fact is that people tend to exaggerate their own worst tendencies when under the influence, but they do not act completely contrary to their character.  A mean drunk is simply an ornery sober person, gone over to their own dark side.

So what to do when one of these DPs comes wobbling into your day wanting a "hug" despite the fact that they have repeatedly punctured you in a thousand places, for about a hundred years, and you are only just healing up from the last time you tried to make contact with them?

Do you ignore them?  Do you tell them to get lost because they are painful to be around and, although you don't admit it, they privately make you furious?  Or scare you to death with their invective?

I have even known one or two DPs who told me it was my own fault that I got treated to the pincushion treatment any time they were around me, because I brought out "their worst quills" and they just couldn't help it.  Picture of a porcupine on a wood stack  Sorry - not buying it.

Another misleading factor is that some porcupines are pretty cute, from a distance.  And some can look fairly innocuous, if you don't try to hug them, or even shake paws with them.

So how do you hug a drunken porcupine?  Carefully, very, very carefully.  And you wear great big padded oven mitts, face protectors, and very sturdy overalls.  And why would you want to try?  I am not sure, but maybe because they are one of God's creatures, too, and maybe underneath all those sharp barbs they need a hug? 

I don't know about you, but I truly wish our family didn't have quite as many porcupines as it does, and I certainly wish they didn't imbibe so frequently.  But as I always say, "Every family has a crazy Aunt Harriet or a nutty Uncle Harry."  And every family or group of friends knows one or two drunken porcupines.
Picture of a porcupine on a log
The next time one of them tries to cozy up to you, my suggestion is smile, if you can, back slowly away, and only offer a paw-shake after you have donned the oven mitts.  'Cause the only way to hug a porcupine is carefully, very carefully.  And if they are DUI - just RUUUNNNN!

Wishing you hugs of the non-porcupine kind, until next time ...Marsha



  1. Lots and lots of wisdom in this.

    We have to learn how to differentiate, which is what you advocate here. We can not take responsibiity for their issues - and DP's are masters at making it look like all of their problems are someone else's fault.

    A frustrating problem. Yes, I've had some DP's in my life, and they are not fun to hug!

  2. I don't have any porcupine quills and I don't get drunk so you are safe to hug me any time. Lucky for me I don't have any porcupines in my immediate family but some of the inlaws may verge on the prickly but I've never seen them wobbly. Down under we don't have porcupines but we have a similar animal called an echidna. It is a marsupial and eats ants. My dog was always trying to hug them and came home with a nose full of spines.

  3. Yep - so true. I have a couple of those in my family too. Everyone walks on eggshells and it's too bad. We'd have so much more fun if we weren't always trying to be so careful.

  4. Very, very true. The drunken porcupine analogy is quite appropriate.

  5. Well, it's not just family members who have indiscriminate quills. There are also neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members. Whew.

    Jesus said "love thy neighbor". Ha.

  6. Smiling and absorbing these very wise words! :)


  7. I have no porcupines in my family, drunk or otherwise, so I am blessed with that, but i have an acquaintance who wants to be a friend, but her barbed quills will not let me. she wants to go out to lunch and off to museums but her constant complaining and talking about others keeps me away from her. she is angry all the time, angry with her husband, angry with doctors and her voice is like sharp quills, and she doesn't drink, so can't imagine how she would be as a DP