Touching Truths

I’ve always had imaginary friends.

We moved around a lot, when I was little; dad was a marine, so every couple of years we had to pull up stakes and move someplace. This has a pretty disruptive effect on children:  some become really good at making new friends and adapting to new situations – others, like me, find the whole thing to be too much and unintentionally specialize in self-sufficiency. In some ways, that meant learning to be happy with solitary pursuits: I read a lot of books and my solitary play consisted of building sand castles and making up stories about the people who lived there (and died there, because, let’s face it, there’s no point in building a sand castle if you aren’t going to play Godzilla afterward and stomp it to pieces!)  Most of the time my solo pursuits were absorbing enough that I really felt no need for anyone else to be there. Every now and again, though, I wished for someone to talk things over with … actually going out and finding a human being to fill this role was too scary, and, for an imaginative kid like myself, was far more work than necessary – so I’d make someone up.

(My mother, at about this time, was fond of saying “Why don’t you go out and make some friends???”  I would have followed her instructions, but I had no idea where to find parts …)

My imaginary confidants came in a pretty wide variety of shapes, sizes, and occupations.  Some weren’t human. After puberty, most weren’t male. After two failed marriages and a number of failed relationships, my imaginary friends have tended to be attempts to construct my ideal mate.

She’s petite:  I’m a short man, so tall women with legs that reach all the way up to Canada may look nice, but simply aren’t very practical, so I usually picture someone between 5′ and 5’6″.  Over the years, she’s had a variety of hair colors and styles, but, lately, she’s had raven-black hair, cut in a very short style. She has alabaster skin, full lips, and stunningly beautiful eyes, sometimes blue, sometimes green. Laugh lines around the eyes, of course: she has a good sense of humor, and tends to laugh her gentle laugh at nearly every circumstance. There’s nothing remarkable about her figure: she’s neither heavy, nor skinny – I’d call her athletic, but, in my imagination she’s not fond of most activities that could cause her to perspire.  She likes to read, go for long walks in the country, and she loves to converse, on pretty much any subject. She has a pleasant alto voice, and a quiet, easy-going manner …

Every now and again, I feel it necessary to point out to her that she’s not real. At such times, she tends to shrug and point out, in return, that I’m the one who keeps imagining her. From time to time she’ll argue that she’s at least as real as I am, and far more so, to me, than Lindsey Lohan, or any of the Kardashians, which, I must admit, is very true. I’m still not sure if that says something bad about my grasp of reality – or something really bad about the celebs I mentioned. I tend to think the latter, but I’ll let you decide …

She has one fault. Only one. I can’t touch her, and she can’t touch me.

Touch is deeply important. Deeply. I’m sure you’ve heard of experiments where a baby monkey is given something warm and fuzzy to cuddle with, and another baby monkey is given something harsh and cold. The warm and fuzzy monkey comes out Ok, while the harsh and cold one grows up frightened, paranoid, and behaviorally bent in various ways. It can be argued that I’m the second monkey;  not that my mom was harsh and cold, by any means, but there wasn’t much hugging in our household.  And no one touches me, now, at all. Ever.

Oddly, despite my emotional isolation, I’m a pretty touchy-feely guy … it’s not that I want someone permanently welded to my hip:  I just would like, from time to time, to feel a soothing hand on my shoulder, or be hugged or kissed for no particular reason other than that people should be hugged or kissed periodically.

More and more, lately, I’ve been wondering if maybe there wouldn’t be quite so many ass-holes in the world if hugging were more widespread.

When I was growing up, there was this whole John Wayne syndrome:  men were men, and real men didn’t need hugs, because, by God, real men are really tough, and tough guys don’t need any of that soft shit, and women were there to cook and have babies and provide pleasures of the flesh, not emotional support, because real men don’t need any of that emotional crap!

Ok, yes, I realize how dysfunctional that is, but the fact is a lot of it is still going on:  kids nowadays get raised on Grand Theft Auto II, and Jason Statham movies, and World of Warcraft, none of which contain any hugs or kisses or touchy-feely-warm-and-fuzzy emotional shit. Women in the movies aren’t there for love and emotional support:  they’re there as eye-candy, and hormonal jump-start material. In most cases, in movies that have a female lead, however freaking hot she may look, her character has almost certainly been written in such a way that you could replace her with a man, and the movie wouldn’t come out much different.

(Yes, there are movies where women are portrayed as women, and there is love, and hugs and kisses, rather than sex, and there are genuine emotions involved, and butterflies and puppy dogs and laughing children playing in green grassy fields, etc, and there are no explosions, and no one throws a knife that goes whoosh – glork into someone’s throat, and there are no kung-fu moves, no gun-shots, and no screaming or bleeding. I know there are movies like that. They even win awards and stuff. I’m not personally acquainted with anyone who’s seen one of them, but I know they’re out there. For the purposes of this discussion, however, the term movie will be used to describe cinematic constructs that involve action, knife-throwing, gunfire, explosions, and raw, steamy sex, in between, if not accompanied by, brilliant kung-fu moves.)

My point is, society is becoming increasingly less warm and fuzzy.  Mom and Dad both have jobs (it’s the only way they can afford to raise a family) which means neither one is there to raise the kids, with or without hugs … kids spend their time at school, where hugging is discouraged, in gangs, where hugs only happen in conjunction with sex, at sporting events, where there is no hugging (unless it’s wrestling, where there are hugs, of a sort, but they tend to make the participants eyes pop out of their heads), or at a part-time job, where hugging could be construed as sexual harassment, and is, therefore, forbidden. When all of that is over, and everyone gets home for the night, they’re all too tired to do much hugging, and they’re generally pressed for time, because school/work happens depressingly early the next day, and it’s essential to spend some quality time relaxing by playing a violent computer game, or watching a Jason Statham movie with the afore-mentioned knives, bullets, explosions, screaming, blood, gore, and busty beauties awaiting rescue and/or sex.

If lack of hugging does equate to more ass-holes, then it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why we’re up to our asses in them.

Is there a solution? Well, no, not for society as a whole. Sorry, but that’s the fact:  society is pretty well doomed. For individual members of society, however, yes, there may be hope:  go touch someone. Seriously. Find someone you like or care for who’s not smiling, and touch that person. Depending on the setting and relative genders involved this touch can take any of several forms, from a bear-hug, to a soft kiss, to a squeeze of the shoulder, to a hand-shake. Something. Make contact. Somehow. That person will feel better, and so will you. I promise.

And, if it’s not too much trouble, could one of you stop by and touch me in some fashion?  I’d really appreciate it, because, as I mentioned, my imaginary mate can’t do it …

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~ by dourscot on September 13, 2012.

2 Responses to “Touching Truths”

  1. I love this post! That is the exact reason I decided a job where I worked from home with my kids. I had a cop who worked graveyards for a dad, don’t get me wrong I love him so so much he is an excellent father, and my world, and my mom sold cars and worked six days a week from early morning until after I was in bed. I don’t remember much of my mom unless the memories are vacations or involve church memories being that car dealerships were closed on Sundays. I didn’t want the childhood of my kids to be like that.

  2. Amazing, as always.

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