I am not used to being touched. I am not used to touching other people. I hug my family and have always been a cuddler, by which I mean that if you are crying or feeling shitty I WILL hold you and let you sob; I WILL cuddle you until you feel safer. But when it comes to something like last night's yoga class, where we partnered up and pushed down on each other's thighs, I go cold. What is happening here?
The class is made up of some eight women and three men. Two of the men are great, ordinary guys who just get on with the class. But of course, there's the obligatory dickhead wearing inappropriate shorts who has already spent ten minutes showing us his Thai-boxing skills and his well-defined thigh muscles. Nobody in the room wants to partner with him. He makes some sort of faux sexual grunting noise when our teacher leans over the opened thighs of her partner. You know the man, we all do. It is understandable that he makes me uncomfortable. But I am comfortable with my partner. I know her. Still, as I lie there my body is fighting her touch. I feel overwhelmed with the need to get her off me. To have my space back. And I can tell, as I return the touch, that she is feeling the same panic.
I suspect that we are not used to such familiarity with our own bodies. With other people's bodies. For so many reasons, I am used to protecting my body and curling into a defensive posture, not lying prone and exposed. I don't know how to be open to this touch. I don't know how to stop feeling that burned in fear of touch. I worry that my body is somehow offensive to others. I KNOW that the actions of other's bodies can be offensive to me. What I am sure of is that I was not alone in my discomfort. Most of the women in the room had some sort of nervous reaction to the exercise.
So how do I get past this? Will it just become natural with experience? Is it even really a problem? All I can say is I felt that as a radical feminist woman, I was shocked by how tightly closed off my body is in this peaceful, safe space...
(Mister Shorts-that-show-scrotum was comfortable as long as he thought he was going to manhandle his female neighbour. His demeanour altered when one of the men stepped up and commandeered him before he got his hands on anyone else. Heh.)