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Bad touch, bad touch!

February 16, 2013

If I were to play armchair psychologist for a minute, I’d have to diagnose myself with mild Asperger’s Syndrome. I have all the bubbliness of a Vulcan on Quaaludes at large social gatherings, I have to make sure clothes I buy are tag-free, and I couldn’t wear any pants for years because the inseams seemed to grate against my skin. As horrific as I was about registering social cues, I still realized that reaching down your pants to scrape your fingernails against your inner thighs was a wee bit of a faux pas.

I also recoil from human contact. One friend I had in college quickly realized how badly I stiffened at a hug, so she switched to greeting me with a high-five. With other friends and family members, I will do an odd sort of jig in order to turn a hug into a handshake, and those with whom the dreaded embrace cannot be avoided are given an accompanying, “Oh, we’re going the full-contact route, eh?” in my finest monotone. Forget about kissing. The mere thought of the lukewarm moisture of another person’s mouth makes me want to line my own with last night’s dinner.

Naturally, my aversion to touch has had a negative outcome on my dating life and desire to continue it. In the past, I’ve had dates end in methods more appropriate to a Seinfeld episode. One particularly unpleasant fellow I happened to be watching a movie with tried to put his arm around me. I none-too-gingerly ducked away and bolted for the other end of the couch. He scooted for my end and gamely tried again. I once again parried and perched on the sofa’s arm. He scooted yet again for a third attempt. I hastily settled myself on the floor, as far as I could get from the couch while still being able to see the TV.

The rest of the date didn’t last too long afterwards. Neither did the relationship. It took me another few months after that before I bothered to give romantic encounters another shot, and the fact that my typical reaction to cuddling was to kick the guy off with a mumbled excuse of, “I just remembered, I’m supposed to, uh, help my mom bathe the cat.”

“I thought your mom lived in Colorado? We’re in Baltimore.”

“Yeah, I’m…providing long-distance moral support.”

I was relieved when I met and interacted with my ex. Finally, a guy I wanted to touch! A guy whose mouth didn’t make me think of all the germs contained therein, whose hands didn’t make me furiously scrub their lingering aftertouch from my own! Maybe I was normal after all!

Alas, my newfound neurotypicality only extended so far. My issues with the wetness, texture, and microscopic critters that live on tongues caused me to curl up in a fetal position at the thought of certain bedroom activities. With a guy who was bound and determined to put the suggestions in the book She Comes First to good use, his internalized perceived failure eventually turned outward into a silent but obvious, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

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I didn’t even bust these out to encourage him!

Once the infatuation took off for foreign shores or some Las Vegas 24-hour marriage-by-licensed-Elvis-impersonator chapel, whichever it hit first, my tolerance declined sharply. I came to rely on the cat’s habit of positioning himself in the middle of the bed as a too-cute-to-move seven-pound barrier to intimacy, and vacations in which the insurmountable obstacle was in the care of a neighbor were simply too tiring to allow for anything but going straight to sleep. The best of those were occasions in which our accommodations had two beds, and I could sprawl out on one, tumbling into “deep sleep” too quickly and profoundly to be prodded onto one half of the mattress.

In the end, we didn’t touch at all, except by accident. As he said during our inevitable break-up, “I already resigned myself to living in a passionless relationship.” I, however, knew that the resentment for varying reasons on either side had caused too much figurative and not enough literal friction.

And therein lies the rub for future dating and mating. My aforementioned wish to avoid human touch for fear of inciting bonding chemicals is only the second half of the story. The first and more difficult to overcome half is that I simply cannot fathom wanting to be that close to another human being. The thought of exploring another person, of feeling their oils and juices mix with mine, gets my adrenaline going, all right. Perhaps unfortunately, mine is a reaction to horror and disgust rather than desire.

Besides, my cat is cuter and fuzzier than any human I could hope to come in contact with. He’ll do until I can find a nice Vulcan. That once-every-seven-years schedule may be about all I can take.

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