The untouchable Druid

I’m really not good with social hugging. I had thought this was all very straightforward. My childhood was definitely a non-contact sport, as an adult I have been physically abused, and I suffer a lot of pain. Why would I want anyone to touch me? Unexpected kisses can give me panic attacks. However, in the last year or so, I’ve had a lot more very tactile people in my life, lots more scope to find out what I want. I think it would also be fair to say that in the context of my marriage, I am not an untouchable ice queen. Whatever my issues are, it’s not as simple as an absolute unwillingness to make contact.

It’s worth pausing to note here that it is very easy indeed to be doing things and not know why. If something has become normal, if you grew up with it, if it’s part of your culture then going along unquestioningly is very easy. Who we are is somewhat malleable and we are easily persuaded by our environments into being someone who fits. But if that’s not who you are, there’s an accompanying unease, a chaffing sense that something is out of kilter. So here I am, doing a thing, and not knowing why. Hating being pounced on and resenting casual, unmeant contact, and assuming it was because I’m not a very tactile person.

In the last year I’ve had three very important sets of exchanges around the issue of reduced physical contact. Three different people who, for different reasons are not able to make physical contact with me on the level I would have gone for. There have been conversations to understand why and to figure out what would work, and how to honour boundaries. These are three people I really like, and in the space where contact does not occur, I’ve been seeing a thing. A great welling up of joy and affection that seeks expression. I find it mildly frustrating that I cannot pour that emotion out in the most obvious ways, but at the same time to inflict unwelcome contact is, as I know from grim experience, a pretty disgusting thing. There is no way I would do that to someone I care about.

And that may be the critical point in all of this. Unmeant social affection, I realise, troubles me because it is unmeant. On occasions when I’ve expressed discomfort with being kissed, it’s tended to be the case that the person doing the kissing kisses everyone and considers it to be no big deal. I am really uneasy about doing that casually precisely because it’s not an empty gesture when I do it. I don’t like hugging people where nothing is felt or meant.

I’ve put in some serious contemplating time around this issue over the last few days. I realise I am not a cold and standoffish person, and that all my issues with contact come from somewhere else entirely. I’m an intense, emotional, passionate sort of person and (when I’m not hurting bodily, which is a different issue altogether) my inclination is to express surges of joy and adoration by throwing my arms around people, and in more serious cases, kissing them on the cheek. When I mean it, I hug tight, close and serious and I stop there for as long as I think it acceptable to the other person. In learning to accommodate people whose wants are different to mine, I’ve become more able to understand who I am and what I want, which is an interesting moral to the story. When everything is the same, when we don’t allow difference, we are less able to find out about our own authentic selves. Who I think I am has just shifted dramatically. It probably won’t change what I do, but it changes things within me.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “The untouchable Druid

  • Scandia-Hollandia

    I completely understand this. I live in a country (The Netherlands) where it is custom to give three cheek kisses when you meet with friends, family, etc. At one office I worked in, even colleagues would do it if they hadn’t seen each other in a while. When I first moved here, people I had never met moved forward for the cheek kisses, only to feel my outstretched hand shoved into their sternum because I assumed we would shake hands. I don’t kiss people I’ve never met – that’s just weird!
    … for me. In Denmark, where I’m originally from, it is common to hug (close) friends and family, and otherwise just wave or shake hands with everyone else. In The Netherlands, hugging is very intimate and close, and suddenly I was the one being “rejected” when I went in to greet or say goodbye to good friends. I don’t enjoy most physical contact that I did not initiate, for various reasons, but I am also often unsure whether the other person wants the physical contact, which leaves me a bit stranded (and sometimes feeling socially awkward). Heartfelt social affection usually always makes me feel good (and loved!), as it then also means the other person feels comfortable enough around me to engage in social affection. It’s a bit of a weird limbo situation sometimes…
    You’ve given me lots to think about!

  • Cheryl

    I hated social hugging and kissing before I met my hubby, it wasn’t something I was at all use to, but marrying into a Greek family has forced to me accept I have to adjust. It’s just something I have to accept as the norm now.

  • Linda Boeckhout

    I know myself to be very sensitive to negative energy people are carrying around with them. Being around many people often makes me drowsy and stressed. It is not because I’m cold, but indeed because I am too open to other people so limiting close physical proximity is my way of protecting myself. So, as a native Dutchwoman, I’m not too fond of the notorious three kisses either, as I never know what I might take away from being in someone’s aura. Still, it’s not something you can avoid all the time but I try to limit it to people I actually know. Which makes sense anyway, because I also do not like the casual element in something so intimate as a kiss.

  • dkhyde2014

    I guess you’ve either come from (or go into) a tactile culture/family or you don’t. Life experiences also have a huge part to play. Awkwardness tends to arise when people from different backgrounds with different expectations mix).

    I’m not a social hugger. We have had moments where after dinner a couple leave our house and the husband advances on my wife to hug and/or kiss (which always bugs me) and then the visiting wife tends to stand there expectantly until I reluctantly shake her hand – or on one occasion she advanced on me to find me walking backwards. I’m getting better at reciprocating, but I don’t like it, and don’t know if I’m socially inept, or just different, or probably too British.

    What annoys me is the presumption that someone has a right to kiss my wife (and I’m not the jealous kind) without asking permission, just because we’re saying goodbye. Maybe as a Beta male I’m too used to seeing overbearing Alpha males (or couples) dashing round in social event trying to ‘mark’ as many people as possible – like dogs and lamp posts?

    I’ll try to fit in, and not make others feel uncomfortable, but I’ll always ask permission to enter your space unless I know you really well, and would hope you’d do the same. My respect may be viewed as being standoffish, but I’ll take that chance!

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