Here is a guest post by Mark for the December 2014 Carnival of Aces “Touch, Sensuality, and Non-Sexual Physical Intimacy”.
If you hug me, I will stab you with this piece of mango.
I said those words once, to a friend of mine. The Hello-I-Haven’t-Seen-You-In-So-Long hugs were going around, and I wanted none of it.
Another time, a friend, J, threatened to tickle me – or poke me. I can’t remember. What I do know, is that a third friend, N, shook her head and said “I wouldn’t do that. Last time I tried to poke Mark, I woke up in the hospital, 2 weeks later, and with no memory.” It was a joke, but J tried to call it a bluff, and seconds later I was across the hallway and completely out of reach.
I’ve yelled at my mother for a pat on the shoulder. I’ve ducked out of hugs from my sister. I’ve ended up halfway across the couch, or room, because someone wanted to put up their feet – on me.
Simply put, I hate to be touched
The funny thing is, that I didn’t used to. When I was little, I got the nickname “The Hug-inator” because of my propensity to hug everyone. I mean seriously, I loved hugs. But then middle school came along, and I started growing up, and the world decided that my touch would start to mean things.
And when touch started to mean things beyond platonic affection, I stopped liking touch. It took me a while to figure that out, but it really is that simple.
I’m only comfortable with physical touch when I absolutely know what it means. And when what it means is something that I’m comfortable with.
Social contact, such as greeting and farewell hugs, are fairly well fine to me, though I’ll often skip them. They mean that I like these people as friends, and that I am glad to have a chance to see them. Handshakes are similar – they are a form of purely social contact, and mean very little, overall.
Cuddling, is a rarity in my life, and really, that’s quite fine by me. One person I will willingly cuddle with is my qpp, and that is because I know exactly what that contact means. We’ve talked, we’ve filled out will/want/won’t lists – we have a little label for what our relationship is, and so I’m not worried that my touch is going to be taken in any way other than the way that I mean. It’s known, it’s established – and it’s comfortable. It’s also purely platonic.
What I’m not comfortable with is touch with unknown implications, or touch with known romantic or sexual implications. I’m not ok with even going on dates, let alone the thought of romantically coded physical touch, like holding hands, or kissing. The thought of sexual touch is – I would say repulsive. Unexpected contact, or unclear physical touch is also something I hate – a huge bear hug out of the blue, getting poked, an acquaintance casually putting their hand on my shoulder – I hate all of them. If it’s physical touch, and it’s not clearly defined as platonic, or I’m not comfortable with the person or people touching me, then I am not ok with that physical touch.
There are too many factors to unpack here, or even in a series of essays, because this gets very tangled up in our heteronormative, misogynistic, amatonormative culture, but the end conclusion of it all, is that my comfort with physical touch, depends on communication and implication. And I’m only comfortable with the platonic.