Offspring the Third had a small horde of friends over this past weekend. (Another day, I'll write about how marvelous that is, especially when one considers how brutal his peers were when he was in grade school. Good for him, to have found his way and his Tribe.) They were a mixed group of boys and girls, all very cheerful and polite. They drank cocoa with marshmallows, and consumed pizza and wee little pumpkin pie tarts that Offspring the Third had made, and then together they all rolled out and decorated sugar cookies. (I played the role of house elf, invisible except for when requested by Offspring the Third to help find the rolling pin or to fetch the pizzas from the oven.) They all laughed and shared inside jokes with one another, and it sounded as if they enjoyed themselves mightily.
After they exchanged gifts as per a preordained name-draw, they sat around the Christmas tree and chatted. All nine of them were squished together on the furniture, deliberately putting arms, feet, heads on one another, each physically in contact with several of the others concurrently. It didn't have any overt sexual overtones; rather, they all just seemed extraordinarily comfortable with touch. The same behavior extended to when they moved to the kitchen, for they all crowded and jostled each other playfully, comfortably. A few of them even carried some of the others back and forth between rooms. They were like a bunch of puppies together.
I wonder: at what point do we lose that type of physical contact?
My physical contact with others -- except for my immediate family, where there is a bit more contact -- is limited to handshakes and occasionally the briefest of hugs hello or goodbye for a few people. It is difficult even to imagine draping an arm across someone else's shoulders, or brushing someone else's hair, or sitting close enough for a foot or a knee to touch someone else. It's a cultural barrier of adulthood, with building of invisible walls and assertions of broad personal space. It leaves us all insufficiently touched, I think.
Are trained to eschew any physical contact so as to avoid any possibility of offending someone else with touch? Are we so easily bothered by another's touch? Or is it that any touch is construed as possibly sexual, and thus we avoid contact so as to avoid misinterpretation of small gestures? What ever happened to physical without sexual touch?
This is how we end up with professional "cuddlers" - because common touch has been lost from our communal vocabulary.
There are times when I am very cognizant of having to avoid touching someone else, even though my first instinct is to reach out my hand. I am stifled. Or rather, I stifle myself. Because it is Not Done.
It does not seem right to me.
This adorable puppy pile was found here: