Wednesday, December 23, 2009

To touch

When a woman gets pregnant there is this strange phenomenon where everyone wants to rub her belly. Ok, in some ways I can certainly understand this. I admit that I too get urges to rub a pregnant woman's belly or ask to hold a perfect stranger's new baby (but I don't just do it). I think most people are touched and excited in some ways to see these awe inspiring examples of innocent new lives coming into our world and simply want to connect (maybe even REconnect???) with that somehow. I truly do understand that! But there are some people in the world that for whatever reason are not comfortable with being touched and who has the right to judge someone for that?

Growing up my parents weren't very snuggley-wuggley touchy feely sorts so I was probably "touched" in anger more often than with love. It wasn't until I found Wicca and joined an open circle as a very young adult that I really realized just how much this affected me. This circle was a group of generally wonderful, open, warm people. Their usual greeting was to give great big hugs and going skyclad (naked) wasn't out of the ordinary. At first I was VERY uncomfortable with this but I had to admit that I liked it too! It wasn't very long amongst these folks that some startling realizations hit me -- being naked, intimate body contact, both at the same time -- NONE of it had to equal anything sexual! That may sound a bit silly to some people but before I wasn't familiar with touching others very much outside of romantic or sexual types of contact so it was hot-off-the-press news to me! I quickly grew to really love the people of that circle, learned to be comfortable with social nudity, and couldn't get enough of hugs, holding hands, standing around with an arm draped over a hip or shoulder...just touching and being touched in ways that I should've been by my family growing up.

Only a few years later I had moved away and was pregnant with my first son. I was the first child in my family and my husband was the first in his to give our parents a grandchild and each of our grandparents a great-grandchild. Needless to say there was a LOT of excitement and anticipation on both sides of the family!! Most of them either seemed to know that they weren't familiar enough with me to touch me and a few I was fine with them rubbing my belly except one. My husband's grandmother was polite enough to me but it was clear that she didn't feel I belonged in her family. More than once she would smile in my face then speak badly of me to others which is a practice I've always held in contempt. But for some reason while I was pregnant she thought it was perfectly ok to fondle my belly in the most intimate of ways!! I asked her not to, had my husband ask her not to, but she went right on doing it or even did it then backed away dramatically saying "Oh! I forgot that you don't like to be touched!" in a particularly snotty way.

Almost every time I managed to leave as fast as I could to hide the tears of anger, shame, and mixed up sickly hot emotions. I felt like a freak. I told myself that *normal* people would handle the situation with so much more social ease. I imagined his family still out there sneering at how awkward, inept, and ungrateful I was to treat them as if I couldn't even bear for them to touch me when they had been so nice to welcome me into their oh so proper family. I didn't know what to do. I felt downright violated! I thought I was wrong maybe but I still felt justified! Finally in desperation I told my husband that if she grabbed me just one more time I swore I would grab her firmly by both shrivelled breasts and loudly ask how SHE liked being felt up! I don't know what he said and I don't care. All I know is that she did stop which made it so much easier for me to relax and at least TRY to be social with his family.

Years later now I realize that I wasn't right or wrong. I was in the spot emotionally where I was at and I didn't have to explain or justify it in any way. It was still MY body and I had the right to accept or not being touched by anyone. It wasn't my fault that his grandma decided to take offense to this instead of behaving like a rational, mature adult and simply talking to me about it. I had nothing to feel bad or guilty about.

Also I have to happily say that all of these experiences helped me be a better mother! From birth I have been just as "touchy" with my children as they could possibly stand! I've taken every opportunity to maintain loving contact with them. They're now 12 and 15 yrs old, a time when I've heard many boys start to want nothing much to do with their parents, and they still run to give me long, happy hugs in the morning, don't hesitate an instant to come lay against me, put a head on my shoulder or lap, stop on their way by to give me a kiss, let me nuzzle their sweet necks, stroke their backs, and just generally pour out all infinite love I have for them. Maybe I still would've been just as demonstrably affectionate with them without my past experiences, there's no way I could resist being completely in love with these two wonderful scamps, but at the very least it makes me realize just how very important these touches are in their lives now and in the future. If I had to go through hell to learn this and benefit my babies then it was all worth it and I'm so thankful for it!

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