My brother-in-law enjoys poking fun at me for my stupid moves with women. One time we were hanging out at my apartment and he noticed one my younger sister's attractive friend paying extra attention to me. Of course, I didn't think anything of it (opens in new tab).
When she got up to leave, I walked her to the door, and my brother-in-law watched the sadness from down the hallway. My sister's friend turned to me as I opened the door and moved toward me for a hug (opens in new tab). I dipped backward, patted her back — turning her away from me — and rushed her out into the hallway. "See ya later," I said as I shut the door.
My brother-in-law laid into me: "That girl was into you and you just pushed her out the door."
Now, I wasn't about to make out with that girl in the middle of our gathering, but my friendly "way to go, buddy" pat on the back effectively put up a wall between my sister's friend and me. I realized I have a weakness in tactile communication. The two main reasons for this:
1. I am not a "touchy" person.
2. I'm never sure if any touch is an invasion of a girl's space (opens in new tab).
I'd love to learn how to communicate with tactile signals (opens in new tab). Here are my most awkward tactile signals:
This awkward little dance happens when your signs are crossed up. I habitually play it safe, going with the handshake, even when I have met a girl a few times. When a handshake-hug occurs, one of you goes for the hug (opens in new tab), the other sticks their hand out like a bayonet for the shake. At its worst, the two people then switch simultaneously, then switch again. Finally, someone gives in. Awkwardness ensues because both of you think you've misjudged the situation.
The Air Wave
This is my go-to move; it's sad because this is something you'd expect from a middle schooler. I'm too nervous or clueless about what to do when I see a girl for a date or meeting, so I'll awkwardly wave my hand "hello" like a rear windshield wiper on a car. It's friendly and noncommittal (opens in new tab), and it creates an invisible wall separating us so we don't have to touch — it even wipes out a handshake.
The European Half-Kiss on the Cheek
I'm not a cheek kisser. When I encounter a friend or relative who requires a kiss on the cheek (opens in new tab), I feel like I'm aboard a roller-coaster right before a scary loop. I know it's coming, and I know it's going to be stressful. My version of the kiss on the cheek has been scaled down to a half-kiss. I turn my head so that my lips are facing completely away from the other person. They kiss my cheek, I look over their shoulder. I don't feel like I should be kissing anyone I'm not intimate with (opens in new tab) — even on the cheek.
So many women love hugging it's inescapable. Just like the "adjusted" kiss on the cheek above, I've adjusted the hug. I hug a girl like she's a guy. I am brief, not extending the embrace. I don't squeeze too tight, and I do that "way to go, buddy" pat on the back as if she's a pitcher who just induced the final out of a baseball game. I've been told by women that I'm a "bad hugger," and some particularly evil women have said: "Come on, Rich. What kind of hug is that? Come here!" before making me do it all over again.
The fundamental issue is fear of intimacy. Growing up, I shied away from kissing and hugging my parents, and it was no fault of theirs. I just literally had trouble getting close to another human being physically unless it was a girl I was attracted to.
So apparently, I'm mentally afraid of intimacy, and physically afraid.
I wonder if some of these things — the hug, the kiss on the cheek, etc. — are gateways to intimacy. Does it make me seem like I have a wall around me? I may be portraying myself as an unloving person. Is it a bad habit to save this kind of touching for a significant other?
What are your thoughts? Do you hug and kiss on the cheek a lot, and do you consider intimate greetings or tactile signals to be a basis of attraction? Do you think my reluctance to participate in these activities is sending the wrong signals?
Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/richravens (opens in new tab)
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