Sunday, 7 April 2019

All you need is love

Are you a touchy feely person ? Does it make you feel a bit creeped out if someone you barely know touches you ? Are you someone who will immediately kiss a person you've just met in a friendly manner ? Is it normal for you to touch the person you're talking to - on the elbow or something, nothing rude obvs ! I only ask because the issue of inappropriate touch has been in the news again and it's made me think about what touch means to different people.

I've lived in London most of my life so being in close proximity to other people is a way of life. However, there are boundaries. It is perfectly possible to have the merest sliver of space between yourself and another commuter on the tube, but if your hands touch it's terribly awkward and apologies ensue. To be frank if personal space is an issue for you I'd avoid the underground altogether as it really will mess with your head. I steer clear of it at all costs and will go on foot if I have time or by bus. If I'm running very late and absolutely have to use the underground I will, but I really don't enjoy it.

Touch has to be consensual doesn't it ? In recent years parents have been more aware of the need to respect a child's wishes not to kiss Aunty Maureen if they don't want to. Growing up we all had to hug aunties didn't we ? I had uncles and aunties who would pinch my cheeks and while I hated it I couldn't refuse - it was rude. When people talk about children having the right to say no I fully support it. It's also an acknowledgment that some children really don't respond well to physical interactions. When Blue Bear first came to live with us he was used to being picked up and held but he wasn't keen on being hugged by people he didn't know. Even now he can be reticent with people he knows really well if he's just not in the mood for being hugged. It took me a long time to go from hugging him to it being a two way thing. He doesn't always want to be touched even now. When I go to kiss him goodnight he will say, "kiss me on my head," instead of his face. I respect his wishes. Brown Bear is used to being smothered with hugs and kisses by aunties and grandparents and responds as any 8 (going on 18) boy would. He is patient with us, but makes it clear he is only doing this out of the goodness of his heart and it could all end any time.

Hugs are really important to me. When I meet up with a friend or family member I always go in for a big hug with them. It's a greeting, but also a way of showing that I've missed them. It's also - for me - a way of destressing. When I'm having a difficult time or a bad day I find a hug makes things so much more bearable. The people who love me know this and make time to see me just to give me a hug and make things better. I do the same for the people I love. Let's be clear that these are not necessarily the same people. the Venn diagram of people who I am nice to and who are also nice to me has an overlap, but it's a small one. I remember talking to a friend who couldn't understand why his partner was so upset with him for giving her money as a present. I explained that she wanted to spend time with him so giving her the money to spend on a 'nice day out with someone' was not the same thing. He couldn't see it. Closeness isn't for everyone - I get that.

Touch is shorthand for "I am here for you," "I've got you," "It's going to be ok," "Don't worry, we've got this." When my kids are sleeping I go in and touch their faces or kiss them on the head. I know they are aware of it when I see the faint smile in response.

Yes, hugs mean love. And love is all you need.

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