No moving when touching.

13 Dec

An hour of off key singing and pretty taffeta dresses, ragged ties on the boys and for another year it’s over, this memory, this place in time.

No touching when moving is writ large on the dull yellow walls of the gym, and I joke with another mother how constrained these children are, how limited. Do they understand their bodies? Can they touch and not touch? How do they learn the simple reassurance of a friendly hug? How do they play tag without, you know, the tag?

I float in and out, not touching. I’m better on the outside, no investment, no responsibility. You don’t hold my crap so I don’t have to hold yours. I am not a burden. I will not be a burden. I will not touch, or be touched.

I know my reasons for how I am, but I wonder, how on earth can I teach my daughters how to reach out without worry for the burns?

***

It’s amusing to me on some levels how women interact. You might say it seems to be a pose, an act, but I don’t get it. Sometimes I wonder if I missed out on the vagina card when I was born, since I don’t understand women, and as I grow older, find I don’t want to. They gossip. I sit near a few tight groups of women in my workplace and nothing has changed since grade school. Not one thing. Cattiness and meanness and snobbery. I find myself sucked in unwillingly, and have to extract myself, confused by the tide of mean, hating myself for it.

I look to other groups, and find it disguished in well meaning glances, in advice, in “help”-women always seem to want to help me, leading me often to the conclusion that I’m better off hanging out with men since I can drink and pontificate in peace, without worrying about what’s being said the minute I’m 5 minutes down the aisle. Help with my hair, my esteem, my attitude. Always something to fix, always something to change.

I don’t understand sisterhood. It makes me nervous and uneasy and glossed over, closed up. I don’t understand the touching, the hugging! What is the need for hugging, for contact? Surely I’m not the only person overwhelmed by physical proximity and touch, so why is it always so difficult to believe that I really don’t want to hug or be hugged, hands grabbed, hair twirled? Do I need to do this to be a woman? Are these the things that make me part of whatever red tent sort of arrangement that gets made? Is it necessary to subvert my needs and wants in order to have any sort of closeness with women?

I teach my daughters to stand up for themselves, to defend against unwanted advances and actions. I teach them these things with boy and men involved, not able to think of how to adequately defend against girls and women, against the slithery smiles and whispered “did you know…” when they’re barely out of earshot. I teach them to give no quarter, but I am at a loss for how to deal with the shunning, with the changing requirements, with the seeming needs of women. Most of which I don’t understand.

And being alone, do I teach that? Do I teach them to find solace and satisfaction in being on their own? Is it right to teach them that the sisterhood might possibly be a lie, and that reveling in a weekend or 10 spent reading by themselves is glorious? Is it right and good for them to notice that some of us don’t need the network that others do, even when it’s faced with a disapproving eye?

Can they learn to touch little in a world that touches too much? Should they?

***

They were lovely but aloof, my eldest with eyes only for her mother, my youngest the one who knows all the names and loves her friends. Rosalyn points out her friend’s dress, her shoes, her other friend’s tie and hair, carefully mussed by a mother’s hand. One loves grand and the other to herself, and I find it lovely and simple and right.

But later this year, or the next, things will change, and one or both will find they don’t know or play by unwritten rules well. There will be no signs on the wall with these lessons.

And I fear I will have nothing for them than my own lessons, which are likely not nearly enough to go around.

8 Responses to “No moving when touching.”

  1. sweetsalty kate December 13, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    I always hug you, but I don’t understand sisterhood, the way it’s expressed sometimes, either. But I always hug you. Curious. xo

  2. Cynthia December 14, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    I’ll drink with you and promise not to hug you, and I have no desire to play Mean Girls. :)

  3. Marcy December 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    No touching while moving? Really? That sounds like a weird rule — I guess it’s to prevent anyone from accidentally or not so accidentally hurting someone else…

    People in general are pretty bewildering.

  4. Natalie December 14, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    I don’t touch anyone usually…not really. Sometimes after a beer or two, I might lay my head on your lap, or on your shoulder for a few minutes…but those moments are fleeting and happen about once or twice a year, and I usually wonder if I did it right, because it doesn’t feel the way it seems to look when other people are doing it.

    Sisterhood is what you make or don’t make of it and it’s what you want and need. It can be someone to simply talk to about books, and throw in a few uterus jokes (I had the best book group at one time, I wasn’t truly “friends” with any of them, most of them were 20 years older than I, but damnit if they weren’t some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had this decade)

    …or sisterhood can be someone you sweat with and drink with (like my roller derby sisters…we don’t have much in common and probly won’t ever…and I certainly wouldn’t talk to them about anything serious, academic or personal…but we let off physical steam together and work to accomplish something as a team and that somehow bonds us in a weird way

    ….or sisterhood can be something wholly different that isn’t defined or even in existence in any tangible way except in your mind…and it’s up to you to figure out who you want to let in.

    I worry about you Thor…that you seem to want to dismiss a a whole community of others on the basis of perception…perception of what people are, what they feel…or how you might be perceived by them. Women aren’t a static group that you don’t belong to…….because we’re all different from one another in different ways.

    ps – I might still lay on your lap next time we hang out.
    pps – you gonna be in town during holdays? I’m there for 3 days…let’s have nachos and beer.

  5. Stewie December 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    “…..since I can drink and pontificate in peace, without worrying about what’s being said the minute I’m 5 minutes down the aisle.”

    This is because we (the men) are impressed by you.

    As for the sisterhood thing, I don’t get it either. I always thought it was like I see “brotherhood” where you may not speak for a couple years, and take up where you left off as if the intervening time didn’t occur. Or you could call up at 3am and say “I need to get bailed out of jail” and there would be no questions other than “where the hell ARE you?” Lots of jokes and abuse later though. Come to think of it, “brotherhood” of that type doesn’t really exist either. So, I guess it’s safe to say that true “sisterhood” and “brotherhood” are really just friendship, as rare a bird as that is in actual fact.

    Remember, friends help you move. Real friends help you move pianos! Which room did you want the baby grand in again?

  6. Kara December 15, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Your girls will be fine. They will embrace the sisterhood. Or they wont. They will seek out and find the women friends they want and need and they will find their own comfortable level of intimacy. I know this from experience. All my fears for my daughter were for naught – they find their own way.

  7. Sarah Piazza December 25, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    This spoke to me. I’m a lot like you, I think.

  8. she curmudgeon February 23, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    I wanted so badly to have girlfriends and hugs when I was young, fat, misunderstood. As I got older, I didn’t, and made friends more often with boys. I still do. And it takes me a long time before I let someone do more than touch my elbow for attention. I wonder how I might be if I’d gotten more hugs and less alone time to think about how mean girls can be.

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