TopChef, who is really noteverstill and is my Fairy Blogmother (since I still believe in the magic of fairies) wrote a really great post about massages at The DC Moms. An email chain that began with a compliment about her post evolved into a discussion about pedicures and being touched. Coming on the heels of a conversation with someone else about why a high-five is not an appropriate ending to a first date – and doesn’t bode well for a second – I figured that I’d better take a long, hard look at my feelings towards touch and intimacy.
I don’t like people touching me. I’ve never been one of those happy huggers who greets family and friends with big cheerful hugs…and when I’ve been enveloped by big cheerful hugs, I’ve wished that I could be anywhere else other than that tight embrace where you'rethisclosetoanotherperson. Now, I’m not completely anti-touching. I’m affectionate with my parents and is it too weird to tell you that I still sit on my mom’s lap? You think that’s bad? Imagine how my mom feels. (I only do it occasionally…not like all the time, geez!) You know that personal space thing? My brother jokes that I like to have a good five feet of personal space around me at all times. He’s exaggerating just a little. I’d be fine with four.
So, how’d I get to be this way? I’ve always attributed it to one event in my life. While I can’t remember if it was after my first or second surgery, I can still see and hear what happened in my mind like it was yesterday.
If you manage to break through the four feet of personal space around me and look at my face really closely, you’ll see two very faint scars under my eyes. They’re from my first cheekbone surgery. Do me a favor and look at the hem on your skirt or the stitching on your shirt sleeve. Now image those tiny stitches under your eyes. Now image that you’re seven or nine years old and you have to get those stitches removed. Snip. Snip. Snip.
Let’s just say, I didn’t it handle it very well. I made the scene from The Exorcist look like a heartwarming holiday tale. I freaked out. It was an absolute primal protect myself at all costs freak out. I cried, I begged, I used words that would make truck drivers and sailors blush. I was a little girl and I was
scared petrified. I didn’t know why my doctor was doing what he was doing, why my mom was letting him do what he was doing, why God was letting them do what they were doing. All I knew was that I was going to do whatever it took so that no one touched hurt me. Ultimately, after my mother managed to calm me down, the stitches were removed – with the gentlest of hands – and I apologized for my bad behavior and all the curse words.
So. You know. I don’t like being touched. That horrible experience scarred me for life. Or did it? Am I just using this episode as protection against the unknown? A defense mechanism? An easy excuse to avoid this whole touchy subject?
This is what TopChef wrote to me last week that made me think:
You don't like people touching you because you fear intimacy? So really you're nervous about people touching you so you've convinced yourself that you dislike it? Nervous is not the same as averse…
Said with love, of course.
And with that my friends, my friend hit the (embedded pedicure joke alert) nail on the head. It’s a habit I have – saying I don’t like something without giving it a chance (hello, food!) or because I’m plain old scared. I used to say that I didn’t like driving on highways but really, I was just terrified of being killed by a tractor trailer. I got over the fear and now I love driving on highways. It’s super easy for me to say that I don’t like to be touched – I’ve got a whooper of a traumatic life experience to use as an excuse – but really, it’s because I’m scared. It's time to stop making excuses.
But until I work through some more of my issues, a high five is gonna have to do at the end of the first date (when I actually go on a first date). But if Mark, Steve, or Tom’s patient, he’ll get lucky…and I’ll give him a handshake on the second date.