When I was in fourth grade, my teacher's name was Dr. Callard. She liked to give and
receive hugs. In this day and age, I'm sure someone would freak out about this, but at the time
it was no big deal. I was considered a good hugger, despite it being
one of the rougher points of my childhood -- but I digress.
As time went on, and the angst of adolescence set in, my hugging skills actually deteriorated.
I assured myself that I touch no one and no one touches me, and tried really hard to
believe it, that I could put up walls around myself and all would be well. I disliked touching people.
When I touched someone they felt more real, more there, more alive than they were as images from my eyes.
When I started dating I began to realize something. No matter how hard I
might try to convince myself that my separatist stoicism was the path, I realized that
the sense of touch is important to us. Of course, the sexual fixation of that age
meant that there was a veritable minefield with regards to being cuddly with some humans,
while gestures could be misinterpreted as well. So I tore down some of my barriers, but kept some
This didn't mean that I didn't want more touch in my life. While we rely upon our sense of sight
to perceive the world, it seemed that the sense of touch was more important when it came to perceiving others.
But I was worried I might offend someone.
Finally, two epiphanies struck. I cannot remember which came first. One, prompted by a good
friend, caused me to realize that I am smiling, inside and out, when I get that physical contact fix.
The other, which I'm sure will be of amusement to those of you who figured this out at a more reasonable
age, like three years old, is that people usually tell you if they're offended/upset by something. If they
don't tell you, that's their own problem. (Not that this is a license to harass people or anything, but
coming from the other end of the pendulum, this was a major insight.)
So now I try to touch people's lives on the levels I can, and hope they'll touch mine in return, because
I am a rock no longer. Being snuggled on two sides is far better, and I think I finally learned the lesson Dr. Callard was trying to teach me in the first place.