Saturday, February 15, 2014

Please don't touch me: a letter from a non-hugger

A non-hugger's worst nightmare!
I spent time with a friend last night and we had a fun girls' night out with plenty of chatting. She's a very warm and caring person. As we were talking, we got onto the topic of touchy-feely people and hugging. I have an appointment with a doctor whom she has seen in the past, and she mentioned that he briefly patted her shoulder to reassure her and she thought it was very nice. I told her that I sincerely hope he doesn't do that to me. I don't like people I don't know well to touch me when it's not necessary. Heck, I don't even like people I do know well to touch me! My friend and I had a funny conversation about this and laughed, but thinking about it more, I thought it might be somewhat interesting to give the viewpoint from a non-touchy-feely person

Even the dog is in on it!

First things first: in some ways, it's hard to say why I don't want people touching me. I have never been abused in any way. My family is a very normal, loving one (although we do get into huge grammar and Early American Furniture debates). I am not on the Autistic spectrum, nor am I am engineer (sometimes those can be the same thing!). While I do suffer from chronic low-grade back pain, that's not an actual physical reason for people not to touch me.

Here's a novel idea: I just don't like it! I also don't feel that it's necessary.

I probably have just blown the minds of touchy-feely people. I have found that it is almost unfathomable for them to understand this. In fact, if I tell them that I don't like hugs and prefer to just say hello to people, it seems to cause many of them anxiety. It is so strange to me! It's almost as if, by saying that I don't like hugs/being touched, the touchy-feely people want to do that to me more. I kid you not.

Even worse is the European version: the air cheek kisses! Oh goodness, do I ever not like this. How many air kisses does one do? How do you know if you're supposed to do it? Argh! I'm so thankful that in Germany, this is not common, and in business environments or when meeting new people, it's pretty much a no-no.

Also, to be clear: if someone does gives me a hug, it's not like I bat them away or go completely rigid. I do reciprocate, but it's not my favorite thing to do. When I meet new people, I will usually say hello or if it seems appropriate, I will shake hands (especially in a business setting).

I realize that this probably makes me seem antisocial or really weird. I'll totally own the being weird thing (I'm not super interested in being normal as that's often boring), but I don't think that people find me antisocial. When I tell people that I'm in introvert, many do not believe me. I've heard, "but you're so social! You talked to everyone at the party! You're always creating events or having people over." Um, yes, of course! It is completely possible to be both an introvert and to still want to hang out with people and enjoy their company. It just means that after I've been out doing a ton of things, I also want to come home and relax by myself by reading a book or taking a walk alone. I've taken myself out to dinner or to a movie alone and you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed it! If I've been at a work conference, it might mean that after 10-12 hours of being surrounded by my colleagues, I might not be super interested in going out with them every night afterward for drinks. Instead, I might want to explore the city a bit on my own or even just veg out in the hotel room.

I will say that I'm not totally against physical contact. When I have been in relationships, it's been totally fine with my partners; it's not like I'm some frigid person! We'd hug, hold hands, etc. I guess I just think of physical touch as an intimate thing. This needs to be separated from a sensual thing: by intimate, I mean that I prefer to save hugging for the person I spend a lot of time with and who knows me very well/vice versa. I don't prefer to share that with others as I don't think it's necessary or wanted on my behalf.

I have wondered why I'm like this. Again, there is no physical, mental, or emotional problem, as far as I can tell. I have read and enjoyed Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages, and I feel like that book gives some clues. Chapman believes that people have different ways, or languages, to express love and affection. Physical touch is one way; the touchy-feely people fall into that category. Then there are people who like to give gifts/buy things for others. Words of affirmation is for those who like to say kind things to build the other up. Quality time is for those who love spending time with loved ones and giving them undivided attention. The last love language is acts of service, and that is the love language that resonates with me, and I also believe that is the love language of my nuclear family. We might not hug often, but the time I was at home in the US and incredibly sick at midnight, my mom was willing to leave immediately and drive two hours to take care of me. To me, that resonated loudly as an act of love. I know that my family will do anything they can to help me when needed -- and vice versa. I feel incredibly loved and protected by my family (and lucky to have them!)

The main point here is: don't worry about people who don't like hugs. They can give and receive love in many different other ways!

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