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So, Touching

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I am a tactile creature.

Not so much with people, but with things. I like to touch soft fabrics, and run my fingers through deep pile carpet. I like to trace the grain on solid wood, and press my hands against granite stone so hard the imprint is left on my palms. I love searching the seabed, trying to find beaded seashells and tide-smoothed driftwood and coarse-edged coral. I like the slippery coolness of glass, the feel of a salty breeze on my skin, the springy tension of needles on a pine cone. My fingertips explore the world around me. it’s not always enough for me to just look at things; I have to feel them.

I suppose I don’t seem overly tactual when I first meet new people. I didn’t grow up in a cuddling kind of household; I still feel a bit awkward hugging people that aren’t my closest friends. It feels uncomfortably intimate, and I’m never quite sure how to arrange my limbs so that they fit against the angles of a stranger’s body. I overthink it, debating whether or not to stick my hand out or just hug-tackle the person before they have a chance to decide for themselves. When I touch strangers, I always feel like I’m intruding, rudely popping their personal space bubble with my clumsy presence.

If I care about you, it’s different.

If I care about you, I like to sit shoulder to shoulder with you. I like looping my arm around your waist while we belt out lyrics to terrible songs. I like sitting against walls, thighs touching, talking about life. I will hold your hand on the way to the shop. I will throw an arm around your shoulders and pull you close. I will hug you hard and long, because I missed you, or I hate saying goodbye, or I’m happy for you, or just because. I will hesitate for a split second before doing any of the above because it doesn’t come naturally, then do it anyway because I want to be close to you.

But if I love you.

If I love you, I can’t keep my hands to myself. I want to run my fingers through your hair, and trace the outline of your lips. I want to hook my arms around your neck and stretch against you, tucking my head into your shoulder and disappearing into a feeling of warmth and quiet thoughts and soft exhalations. I want to rake my nails lightly down your back.  I want to slip under your clothes and feel the difference in texture between the cotton of your t-shirt and the warmth of your skin. I want to lace my fingers through yours, and kiss a trail down your throat, and place the heel of my hand in the hollow of your shoulder. I want to lean against you, and rest my forearm on your thigh, and be acutely, painfully aware of your arm around me. I want to slip a finger through one of your belt loops, and tug at the rough denim. I want to sit between your thighs and feel the safe, solid weight of your body against my spine. I want to outline the features of your face until I recognise them blindfolded.

The chasm between the stiff discomfort I feel with casual physical interaction and the greedy, bottomless hunger for touch I feel when it comes to those I love has always bewildered me. I assume it has to do with feeling vulnerable, and feeling safe, and the mix of both of those things making it possible for me to express myself. Maybe I’m wrong in thinking that I am not a physically affectionate person. Maybe I am an intensely physically afffectionate person and it just happens to generally be constrained by a straightjacket of apprehension, unease and the usual social anxiety.

Physics says that our electrons never actually come into contact. Our electrons repel each other, keeping us apart from anything we reach for. On an atomic level, I suppose I am never actually touching anything, only following its form.

My fingertips will always hover an infinitesimal distance from yours.

36 thoughts on “So, Touching

      1. Just that I agree with every word written. 🙂 I didn’t realize there was was a title for people who like to touch things. I’m totally that person too! At clothing stores, I like to run my hand down the racks just to feel the different materials.

  1. This is a very interesting post. Touch is deeply personal. Yet studies have shown that touch deprived babies do not thrive. Similarly us grown ups.We need a certain number of hugs a day in order to survive. More to move beyond mere survival to happiness and growth. In this politically correct climate we live in these days, I am saddened to hear fathers say they are too scared to hug their daughters after they grow older for fear of being accused of molesting them. And of schools where teachers are not allowed to hug children when they are hurt for whatever reason. What is wrong with us that we deprive ourselves of the most basic and beautiful expressions of caring for each other ?!

    1. Thank you, I actually felt a little nervous to post this because I felt like even talking about it was deeply personal, if that makes sense… I agree with you that it would be nice for everyone to get a little closer.

      1. I can understand your hesitation and nerves. In a way, you have opened a chink into you to share with us, your readers, your feelings. It takes courage to do that to be brave enough to allow yourself to feel vulnerable. But that very act opens conversations and encourages closeness and understanding. No doubt there are many others who feel exactly the same way 🙂

  2. you write so well I felt like I was touching everything you spoke of!!!
    I think you sound exceptionally affectionate.
    I am a toucher, feeler and a hugger but I have people who I am extremely close to that I can’t hug, its not me its them (ha) one of them is my sister. I can sense her getting the fear that I am going togo in for a hug when I leave, if I do manage to squeeze a hug out of her I can feel after about one second that she has decided its long enough and getting awkward. I don’t think it is about whether your household is cuddly or not its a personality trait, maybe a starsign thing?(if you believe) my Mum said Cheryl hated cuddles from day one, she refused to be swaddled or held close. I on the other hand enjoyed to be held close and cuddled all day long…I still do,….. my other sister and I hug so much that it is probably awkward for other people!

    1. Thank you! Maybe you’re right, I do think some people probably just are or aren’t, same as with everything I guess! I laughed at your description of your sister she sounds a bit like me with strangers! I’m a sagittarius and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about that!

      1. haha I am not much of a star sign person either but a woman at work always comments on my traits by saying ‘that’s because you’re a Cancerian’
        I gave blood the other day and was given a fun fact leaflet about a Japanese culture where they believe your blood group determines your personality.
        I find both bizarre but interesting!

  3. “Physics says that our electrons never actually come into contact. Our electrons repel each other, keeping us apart from anything we reach for. On an atomic level, I suppose I am never actually touching anything, only following its form.

    My fingertips will always hover an infinitesimal distance from yours.”

    <3

  4. When I was a kid and I went with my mother grocery shopping, she’d always have to slap my hand because I wanted to touch everything. One of my favorites is always to go to the meat department and poke the different cuts of meat. Beef, pork, chicken, they all feel different. And then sirloin, top round, chuck, skirt, they all feel different too.
    Dunno if that’s translated into my relationships. Just thought I’d share. Now that I go grocery shopping on my own, the only difference is no one’s slapping me away. Hahah.

  5. That sounded so awesome. I hope I can find someone like you to love me, because that intensity would be great.
    My first university girlfriend had a fantastic touch. When she touched my shoulder , my hands, my neck….whatever, t was just electric. When I read your description that is what it reminded me of.

    1. I hope you find somebody like your first university girlfriend, because it really sounds like you had chemistry! When somebody trails a fingertip along your skin and it sparks electric shocks in its wake, that’s when you have to hang on.

    1. Thanks Jeff! I was actually really nervous to post this one for some reason. I guess because it’s very… intimate. And potentially a bit strange. I’m glad you liked it.

  6. So interesting this made me think, I grew up in a non-touching household. The few times we siblings were forced to hug each other were so awkward! Yet with my partner I’m extremely affectionate, just as you describe being.

    1. Thank you Lane, that’s a lovely comment to read on a post that made me a little uncomfortable to write!

      1. You’re much braver than I am. And, for that, I give you massive credit. I began blogging at this transitional stage in my life for introspection… self-evaluation of my life, my values… am I doing the things that really matter to me? More than just inspirational musings… you help me push those boundaries and I am grateful.

        1. Thank you! I definitely don’t feel brave Lane. I think a bit of introspection makes me more self-aware though and I hope that self-awareness makes me better somehow? Hard to know…

  7. It boils down to trust and vulnerability, for me. I keep everyone at arms distance for the longest time. But once I trust and love them (friends and fam?), I am too cuddly, and huggy and tactile.

    Its not that I feel physically awkward with strangers, its that I feel affronted if they come in my space. Same thing with acquaintances and non-close friends – I did not give you permission to be close to me, and your insistence is a power play. Back off.

    Love your writing. Love love love it!

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