Comfort Chickens (and Dahlias)


I recently read an article that quoted Virginia Satir, a world-renowned family therapist, who said “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”  At that point I realized that I was significantly underachieving as a husband and needed to step up my game, it is a miracle my dear wife has survived this long.  I have never been a big hugger, I think it may have been my German heritage, or fear of a lawsuit, and now we have covid, the flu and RSV, which are good and convenient excuses to not give awkward hugs.

But I do think Ms. Satir is on to something.  People need to be comforted, whether it be with a long hug, or a comfort dog named Sylvester. It’s a cruel world at times, especially now, and a little comfort is needed by a lot of people, especially woman, people of color, and trans people. Recently I was hiking at Natural Bridge State Park in Kentucky and I came across a guy hiking the trail who had a comfort rooster on the hike with him. Yes, you read that right. He was carrying a plump Rhode Island Red named Fred in his arms as he hiked up the trail and a few inquisitive hikers stopped to talk to him. He was from Florida, which alone is a good reason to need comforting, and explained that petting his rooster provided him with comfort and he took him everywhere he travelled.  Just then I imagined getting on a long flight next to a guy carrying a comfort rooster that crowed the entire flight. Right then I decided to never fly again. I also fondly reminisced that the chicken that provided me the most comfort was from a bucket at KFC. 

My Dahlia Lama

It got me to thinking though, if I could have a comfort pet what would it be? I have a wonderful dog and he does provide me comfort, but he is much too large to take with me everywhere I go. After thinking about it a bit I realized that flowers provide me comfort so rather than a comfort pet, I would have a comfort Dahlia, one of my favorite flowers. I could name it something cute like Dahlia Lama, and take it with me wherever I went.  I would introduce it to people I met on long hikes, and take it shopping with me at Walmart, where most people had never met a Dahlia in person.  I would make a fake certificate saying it was an official comfort flower so I would not get harassed by ushers at a movie theater or at restaurants, I would just have to be careful about not leaving it behind and it getting mistaken for a table decoration.

After the flower epiphany that got me wondering more about what other things people might take comfort in. More than a few people, including yours truly, have taken comfort in a good bourbon. Could you imagine getting on a flight carrying a bottle of Maker’s Mark and when the flight attendant said that you couldn’t bring your own alcohol onto the flight you smugly produce an official certificate saying it was your comfort bourbon.  That would certainly reduce my dread of flying. I could also see comfort songs, like Max from Stranger Things whose comfort song Running Up the Hill by Kate Bush protected her from the evil character Vecna. My comfort song would be either Imagine by John Lennon or Under the Milky Way by The Church, and I could play it on a continuous loop to prevent me from being transported to evil places, like the line at the local Department of Motor Vehicles or the dentist. And you could have comfort books and comfort blankets, (just ask Linus), or any number of different comfort items. We already have comfort food but I have no idea what that means, I think it’s just something that tastes really good but has 12,000 calories and is the leading cause of heart attacks in America.

But then I pondered, why do so many people need comforting. Maybe we should all just be kinder to each other, and maybe we should quit being racist, sexist, misogynist, name your “ist.” Maybe we should provide for those in need and love our fellow man despite their race, color, creed or sexual orientation. And maybe, after all of this, just maybe us humans need to provide better comfort to each other. So please go give your spouse or friend or even a stranger 4, 8 or even 12 hugs. Just ask them first. And if you are on a flight and spot some middle-aged guy carrying a comfort Dahlia named Lama buy him a bourbon and be thankful he’s not carrying a comfort rooster named Fred.

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