Sunday, July 20, 2008

Touchy Feely Amy

Some of my friends think I don’t like to be hugged. Not true. Not true especially since everyone hugs me regardless. More than a few like to prove how much they like me by administering rib crushing hugs, literally sweeping me off my feet, the tips of my toes grazing the floor, while they heft me up in ways that their backs will be screaming about later.

It’s not that I don’t like to be hugged, just as it’s not that I didn’t get my fair share of parental affection growing up (though my sister Agatha, has never been much of a hugger no matter what age.) But these hugs from friends and family don’t fill a weird hole in me, the hole that craves physical affection that means something more.

I’m not talking about guys. Okay, I’m mostly talking about guys. I’d say I’m 70 percent talking about guys.

Very early on in my dating adventures, there was a guy in the late hours of the night that I did not have sex with, but we did kiss and make out for quite some time and as we were both settling down to sleep, I snuggled up next to him, there was nothing to indicate that that was a bad idea. He, in return, physically pushed me off of him rudely, without verbal explanation and rolled over, his back to me, and went to sleep. I went to sleep covered in shame, how dare I think I could rest my head against his shoulder, throw my arm across his chest, never mind the fact we were down to our underwear, and had engaged in a massive makeout session. I was good enough to kiss, I was good enough to make out with, I was not good enough to fall asleep with arms around each other. Maybe it was too weirdly intimate for him. Maybe he was an Anti-Cuddler. Who knows. He didn’t say anything about it the next day, nor did we ever kiss, touch, or otherwise make out ever again.

That shame of being rudely lifted, of literally being pushed aside, seared itself into my psyche, and warped me in such a way that to this day, I still approach any potential snuggling with a guy with a weird mixture of apprehension and yearning please let me touch you that’s highly embarrassing.

Most of the guys who’ve shared late night company with me don’t have a problem with it, think it’s cute and or funny that I need to be touching some part of them as we both drift off to sleep, but I still can’t shake off the apprehension, and the slobbering gratitude that comes with their assent ohthankyouohthankyouohthankyou.

Sometimes it’s as small as me touching the small of their back as we sleep. Sometimes it’s as big as me literally stretching out ON their back. One guy who never said no to anything, patiently endured me cuddling his side, then rolling onto his back, then rolling off to the other side. “Ahhh, Amy the human blanket” he joked. Another guy was battling a bug, so we didn’t do anything, just held hands while sleeping, which one of the more poignant things I’ve ever done in bed.

My mother the Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much is probably dismayed to be reading this far, but she’ll be pleased to know that those days are most likely behind me now. Every day I let go a little bit more of the dream that I will ever meet My Future Husband Or Otherwise Mutually Committed Relationship. It’s a little like coming to the gradual acceptance of an obvious fact, like yes, my eyes will always be the grey weak blue color of creek water. Sure, I could wear colored contacts if I wanted to, but I’d have to take them out eventually, and the creek water color would be staring at me in the mirror.

Because I’m letting go of the dream (and I’m turning comments off, because I don’t need a tidal wave of well intentioned comments saying he’s out there! Honest! Nobody knows how much it hurts to hear those things when the facts are so plainly against you.) the weird need in me to have Meaningful Contact manifests itself in bizarre ways.

There was the time at the class at the gym, where we were partnered up for stretching, and were instructed to get in a lunge stance and face away from each other, bracing our back feet together, then reach back with one arm, grab your partner’s hand, and lean. Stretching the shoulder muscles, I think. Looking forward, feeling the grip of the other person behind me, the tug, the pull, the reach, that has stayed with me for years now.

I recently went to a cookout and Baby Hazel was there. She’s walking now, her hair no longer stands straight up. She was the first one to see me coming through the door. She doesn’t remember me, she doesn’t know I used to sing 80s songs to get her to go to sleep, but in that One Year Old Happy To See Any New Person way, said, “HI!” “Hi Hazel” I said, “Can I get a hug?” And she instantly tottered forward with arms outstretched until she hit me full on, her head already turned to the side to settle in the notch of my shoulder.

I’m taking Salsa classes, because I love dancing and I’m good at following instructions, ho ho ho. Salsa is a touchy feely dance, and the girl does the majority of the spinning when spinning is required. The guy is supposed to be the guide, to make sure the girl doesn’t go spinning out of control, meaning a hand on the small of the back, a hand on the hip, little touches of direction, of guidance, stay here, stop here, move here, follow me.

I have this thing about how I always have to sit on the end of any aisle in church (I need the space to balance my notebook on the arm of the chair while I scribble notes on the sermon.) But when we have Communion, there’s the whole awkwardness of people in my row stepping over me to get back to their seats. A few weeks ago, I was praying, leaning forward, eyes closed, desperately trying to reach some sort of connection with God. And there was a gentle touch, a few fingers on my shoulder. Just a guy trying to get back to his seat, and I was blocking the aisle. But the gentle touch on my shoulder, me with my eyes closed, is something I remember.

Now sure, all you Do Gooders who’re in the process of sending me well intentioned emails that will make me scream in pain (seriously, don’t do it. Don’t even start the email saying “I know you didn’t want me to send this.” Just don’t send it at all.) are sitting here with well intentioned knowing smiles Oh, Amy, don’t you see? That’s God! That’s God, working through other people, giving you the touches you’re so desperately craving.

Maybe it is. Maybe it’s me overanalyzing it, because every cell in my body is screaming out for some kind of contact, more than just the hugs from friends and family, something that will once and for all burn away the shame I still carry from that asshole all those years ago, because I don’t know how to get rid of it, and God doesn’t seem to want to help me carry that particular burden (And I have a feeling it’s because He didn’t want me to be in bed with that asshole in the first place. Yes, I know it’s not true. Doesn’t mean my brain doesn’t still go that way.) All I know is that it hurts. It hurts it hurts it hurts, it’s an ache I carry with me every damn day, and I wish I could find the thing or person or mindset that would make it stop.