Thursday, 8 November 2012

Physical contact

About five years ago, I saw on facebook a group called Asperger Awareness. I had a look and one of the things they listed as an aspie trait was: Standing too close to others.

I felt a number of things: Firstly I was annoyed. Did we really become so intolerant that we assign diagnoses to people that cross the 15 cm boundary? If diagnoses are trigged by such minor details, we eventually end up in a society where nobody belongs to normality anymore... And then I was also relieved. Because I was home free. I don't stand too close to others. In fact, I think I stand too far away. As history showed, I was not home free, and now I am quite content about being an aspie. But is has taken me a while to get there. I wasn't there yet five years ago.

Proximity to others bother me. I am not talking about my family, but everybody else. If another person stands close to me, I usually take a step away. I really don't like talking to people when I can also smell them. If I have to show a colleague something on my computer, I carefully place myself away from him or her, e.g. with a chair in between. I don't like it if I accidentally touch the other person during a conversation.

Some people use physical contact as part of their communication. E.g. some colleague pats me on my shoulder while we are talking about school kids over lunch. I gathered that it was a way of telling me: I know how you feel, I feel the same way and you have a funny way of expressing your experiences. But I had major difficulties in concentrating on our conversation because her constant patting me on my shoulder distracted me. Sometimes I get used to it though.

If there is one rule of greeting and it is hugging then hugging is OK. But some people hug upon arrival one time and before farewell the next. Some people hug hello and goodbye one time and not at all the next. Nobody (I guess) hug their colleagues everytime they meet. But if the colleague had a baby, or they leave because they got another job, then you hug. Maybe. And if you don't work together anymore but meet at the zoo one day, you hug, even though you never touched the person while the two of you worked together.

I hug because social convention dictates it. I'd rather not touch at all. I am not afraid of germs or anything, I just get very self-concious and insecure. And I can see the disappointment in people's eyes when I 'forget' (I don't, I just pretend). You see, I didn't hug the colleague that had a baby. And not the ex-colleague at the zoo either.

My family and my best friends: That is different. If I feel completely comfortable with others touching is OK, and I like to hug. I still get confused about physical contact as a means of communication though. I get distracted when the person I am talking to, touches me during conversation.

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