Space Invaders (aka: A Touchy Subject)

A stranger hugged me yesterday. It was during the course of a group ELL conversation, and he was trying to illustrate some point. I stiffened, and patiently endured the awkward moment until the stranger pulled away. Later, he seemed to realize the faux pas he had committed and apologized profusely.

“It’s okay,” I assured him. But inside, I was thinking the opposite. It was really not okay.

I am not a hugger.

awkward-hugs

 

Not because I am cold and unaffectionate by nature. In fact, I am generous with hugs and cuddles with my kids, a strong maternal instinct at work. I offer the usual hugs and kisses to relatives or long-lost family friends when the occasion presents itself. But beyond that, I am not into being touchy-feely, preferring the safe virtual {{{HUGS}}} of internet peeps. (Even the obligatory handshake makes me want to reach for a bottle of hand-sanitizer, but that’s a different story).

Have I always been this way? It’s hard to say. I didn’t date at all in college before I met my now ex-husband. And when we married, I was the perfect gift — a chaste, untouched little Christian wifey. Just like that, I learned, my body was no longer my own. According to my ex-husband (and, apparently, the Bible), my body belonged to him, not to me. Translation: it was my wifely duty to do whatever he wanted, even when I didn’t like it or feel like it.

Unfortunately, I also learned that I hated sex. It was an always uncomfortable, mostly painful, rarely pleasurable event that I grudgingly accepted as my fate. The moment it was over, I couldn’t wait to scoot away to my own little edge of our king-sized bed, as far away as possible from the person who insisted on putting me through such torture night after night.

Okay, maybe torture is too dramatic of a word. But still, it was awful, and I hated it.

As the years passed, and nothing got better, I developed an aversion. Not only to sex itself, but to anything that might lead to it. That included kisses, hugs, and cuddling of any kind. But the bigger I drew my personal space bubble, the more my ex insisted on invading it. The more I expressed my discomfort with sex, the more he insisted we have it. The more we had it, the bigger my aversion grew. And so on.

Long story short, after seventeen years of yuck, I got divorced. (Happy ending).

But the aversion to being touched remains.

control yourself

I did learn, thanks to a fling with a guy we’ll call my “post-divorce experiment,” that cuddling, when it’s wanted, can be quite nice. However, something inside me freezes ice cold at the uninvited touch of another person. When other humans unknowingly step inside my bubble of personal space, panic boils up like a geyser, and I instinctively begin to search for an escape route.

So how do I avoid situations that may lead to the violation of my personal space? Maybe I should stop showering every morning. Maybe I could start a fashion line of barbed-wire accessories, and call it Every Rose Has Its Thorn. Or, more simply, avoid uncomfortable real life situations with strangers by staying home in my safe little cave, behind the glowing computer screen, where {{{HUGS}}} are totally acceptable.

virtual hugz

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