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#425335 - 02/15/13 06:36 AM Casual physical affection, what is normal?
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1993
Loc: durham, north england
For the last few months, I've been doing a light opera production of Iolanthe with another university. I'm playing one of the two principle Lords, sort of a comedy duo, one tenor (me), called tolloller, and a baritone. As usual with these sorts of things, people involved get fairly close, since you've got a bunch of students, all betwene 20 and 30, engaged on going on stage, singing and dacning.

One tendency I've noticed about such things is people grow to be very tactile with each other, and as a group, indeed slightly more than is usual in English culture, (I have been told by some of my European and even American friends that this is an area where we brits are rather over stiff).

Of course, with my hyper sensativity to touch and physical affection, especially! where girls are concerned, I have always found this a little difficult, yet at the same time it's part of the activity, indeed one reason people do! become so tactile is practically to do with staging, since you can't really engage in some of the sort of business on stage if your totally stand off about casual touch, ---- heck the director has myself and the other principle lord gripping each other's wrists and hoisting the main female lead into the air to form a human throne at one point! (given that the other lord involved with this is slightly weedy, most of the actual weight carrying end of this falls to me).

people thus grow very physically affectionate off stage. lots of hugging, casual pats on the back etc, indeed quite often sessions end with a group hug.

I've experienced this before, but usually people avoid most physical affection with me even in those circumstances, obviously sensing my "don't touch me" field. I've noticed though this! time things seem different, and I'm experiencing a lot more of this, for example the other day I was required to hold hand with a pair of girls while practicing an on stage dance, then when the director finished to give us the next instruction, one particular girl kept holding on to my hand and squeezed gently.

Last thursday, when in the bar after a rehearsal one girl (the same female lead who I'm required to hold in the air at one point), gave me a hug from the back and kissed the top of my head while saying goodnight (she'd also hugged several other guys, and indeed girls), though of course since I was wearing my large and heavy flease lined leather jacket at the time (a jacket I'm very fond of), I was in some measure protected from the full experience.

these are the sorts of things that haven't really happened since I was a lot younger, indeed around 18 or so. I'm guessing that probably since finishing my phd, since doing recovery etc and since being far more conscious of what I'm doing I'm probably projecting a little less tactile defensiveness than usual, heck where animals are concerned I'm an extremely tactile person, (again, this is the first production I've done since getting my guide dog, which probably helps again).

The problem however is I have absolutely no idea what sort of thing is normal, acceptable etc, and what is not since my only measure is my own feelings on the subject and if I think about physical affection i feel disgusting and guilty. This means that in the past even holding hands with a girl (off stage), or hugging a guy on the shoulder felt like moving the earth to me, indeed this has always been one thing about staging which I've got used to, it's about the only time I've been comfortable since your always told! what to do in terms of hand holding, embracing etc. I have a recurrent nightmare in which I'm sitting oposite a girl talking, then I'm suddenly accused of s/xual abuse, and I am terrified of making someone feel the way I feel when I! experience even casual affection, albeit that I know my feelings are a long way from normal.

Does anyone have any suggestions with this? it's very difficult to track someone's feelings when the only guide I have is my own, and while my emotional sense is quite adequate to let me know what a person feels, I'm so scared that if I even so much as pat someone on the back, it'll be seen as invasive and wrong.

And yes, this is likely a step forward, albeit one I'm not particularly sure of.

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#425396 - 02/15/13 04:40 PM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
DannyT Offline
Member

Registered: 09/14/03
Posts: 402
D.E.,

I'm not quite sure what you're asking, whether you're trying to judge if your fellow actors are being normal or if you are being normal or if you're wondering about how to reciprocate the affection. But either way I'll add a point of view.

I've been in theater, too, and I remember the group backrubs and group hugs and the general warmth really well.

I think of it as the way things were really meant to be. People need touch from one another, and we are less health without it.

So let what ever is offered be received with kindness and the comfort of knowing you're in a remarkably safe place with people who are remarkably warm.

There's no need to initiate anything you're not comfortable with. They won't care about that. Just be willing to receive what is kindly intended with kindness.

Recognize that you'll know from deep experience those things that are not kindly intended if they should arise (though I doubt they will).

I have a funny memory to share from my own theater work. It seems I wasn't able to hug normally. I would hug with my shoulders but keep my waist far back (I'm sure we all understand why). My costar said to me, "That's no way to hug!" And he wrapped his arms around me and picked me right up off the floor in a giant bear hug. If it had been anywhere but on the stage in that warm space I would have freaked out. But I just knew from my heart how kind the gesture was, so I just hugged him back. I'll never forget it. And now I know how to hug somebody. It's delightful.

Best wishes,

Danny


Edited by DannyT (02/15/13 04:40 PM)

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#425443 - 02/16/13 12:27 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1993
Loc: durham, north england
Hi danny.

fantastic story about your costar, I can well believe that, also i appreciate hearing from someone who knows the atmosphere of that sort of environment.

My concern is really too fold. Firstly, I've been in that sort of position before, but haven't really known how to respond, it's always felt like something I needed to endure, for ll I know how well meant it is, and while my guard has gone down (especially over a long production), it's taken time and I've noticed I've never been quite as included in the tactile affection side as others. So that is the first question. heck, it's actually been an arguement betwene me and my mum which has gone on for the last few years, since to accept a hug or kiss from her feels like a duty and is something I do rarely, and I never! spontaniously hug her myself, (remember my abuse happened at school not at home), for all we are close emotionally.

The second is to do with appropriateness, since I've known that both as a friend, and in initiating romantic relationships touch has been a problem. one friend of mine for instance (who I met during a production of The Sorcerer), was someone many people including my parents were fairly certain wanted to be closer to me, however the first time she hugged me outside the theatrical context I went utterly tense. I have no idea whether she actually was! interested or not, indeed part of me regrets not telling her about my abuse since that would at least explained my reaction, however I am fairly certain if she was! interested it was the physical affection angle that hit things dead.

It was taking ****'s hand in 2007 that dropped me into recovery since I was battling my own phobia to make my feelings known then got no where, so this is something I'd like to get round yet even if as a merely friendly gesture in that sort of environment I considder patting someone on the back (of either gender), I feel disgusting.

I have noticed a change in the way people react towards me, even in this environment, and as I have noticed a change I'd like to grab it with both hands (yes, irony!), so some rational advice on what people may or may not find acceptable physical affection, either as friends or if I was interested in someone, something I can stick to as a rational individual much like the director's instructions on stage.

Quite ironcially the only friend of mine I am! comfortable with physical affection with is someone who is not only as close as my brother, but also is someone I know absolutely, as an extremely strong and independent person, indeed she has a black belt in karate and does viking reinactment, her honesty and self confidence (she once walked around colidge in a dressing gown), makes her very easy to be with sinse I dam well know! if anyone ever did something she wasn't comfortable with physically she'd dam well let them know! and unlike me on several occasins wouldn't suffer in silence, indeed anyone who tried anything would probably end up with broken bones.

This has meant I know! exactly where I stand with her, both physically and emotionally, which makes things easy and meant I have! been able to accept a casual hug.

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#425458 - 02/16/13 08:20 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
DannyT Offline
Member

Registered: 09/14/03
Posts: 402
In order to find out what people find acceptable, you need to go into a more analytical frame of mind and watch them interact. When I was in college I had had no experience of friendship (I had spent my youth in my room hiding), so it was very awkward for me for many years. I was really shy, etc. So I just started watching people at parties and gradually learned what to do and what not to do. I wish I had been able to tell people a bit about my growing up so the awkward would have been a bit easier, but it eventually worked out. Now I can put people at ease pretty easily. If you watch any TV, you'll also learn some of it that way. Just pretend you're an anthropologist studying the human. It's fun, actually.

In order to get over the tension of the surprise hugs, etc., you might consider practicing them. You mention you have a friend you're really comfortable with. Perhaps you could share your difficulty with her and do some purposeful physical work. If she likes karate, maybe some wrestling would be fun. Or you could take a class that involves some of that physical touch. I've been thinking about joining jiujitsu dojo, and that would certainly do it. Another thing you might try is getting some massages. There's a lot of physical contact that way, but it's in a safe environment, especially if you get a recommendation from someone. I would think the key is practice.

I hope that's helpful,

Danny

ps: the practice is worth it. The hugs are nice once you get used to them.

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#425469 - 02/16/13 10:07 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1993
Loc: durham, north england
Well Dany I appreciate the suggestions but there are a few problems. Firstly, my extremely close friend now lives several hundred miles away and I haven't spoken to her in person for over a year, and while I have several other friends who live closer none of them are peopl I have that sort of physical relationship with.

As regards watching people, ---- well that's sort of not possible given my lack of working eyebalsl unless I'm litterally standing next to someone and observing very closely, plus often if I do happen to catch two people hugging or similar I'll just automatically assume they're together, this is why I am so reliant on my emotional sense to pick up those sorts of kews, and in fairness I've got dam good at using it and can pretty much get on with most people, albeit not physically in any circumstance

Some sort of physical activity might be a good idea, though generally what I would probably do is just blank out, as I do whenever someone around me mentions s/x or when I come across such things in books or films, distance myself from the situation and not experience it, simply endure it, something again I've got very good at doing, indeed on a physical level I've done this before in stage productions even in situations that would've otherwise been highly triggering, during visits to doctors, or more recently when I'm physically demonstrated singing exercizes by various vocal teachers (indeed my singing teacher has really! picked up my physical inhibitions and always asks before touching my throat, shoulders, chest or stomach to demonstrate points of vocal technique).

As to massage, to be honest even the thought of that disgusts me, for all I do know it's a professional activity (heck my mum as a physio therapist has to do a certain amount), just the thought of that sort of physical powerlessness during pure experience particularly with a complete stranger really bothers me.

I suppose this all goes back to my bodily betrayal during my abuse, one of the worst things, but either way it is not fun which is why I do welcome suggestions on dealing with this.

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#425522 - 02/17/13 03:42 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
Lancer Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/13/12
Posts: 901
Loc: Florida
First, glad to hear about the show! For perspective, I remember your agonzing several months ago over matters scholastic. Congratulations. Just a little temporal beating about the ears.

Can't speak to the stage, but, yeah, a group of mates in the bar and we get friendly after a few. Today I'm usually okay with it unless someone's touch is too intense. Sounds to me like you're approaching it in a good way. See how comfortable you are and, when ready, push the envelope a little more. Observing others is a good reference, but you don't necessarily have to be like them.

I wondering if there's someone in whom you could confide about your discomfort and who is absolutely trustworthy in keeping confidences. Essentially what we in the States would refer to as a wingman. A thot?

And - you don't want to hear this - I'll add I've a Welsh massage therapist with whom I was intially reserved. He's big and intimidating. But, he is particularly respectful of their sensitivities, such as yours, and their limits. Just another thot. (He may be back in Cardiff briefly in a year or so) laugh


A little humour to lighten things up. While I was on a shoot today, I encountered a couple on holiday from the UK. We were experiencing a chill for which I hadn't dressed:
1. He offered me his jacket for USD50.
2. "Yes, you look cold. Would you like a cuddle?"
blush

I've been laffing about that last one for hours.


Edited by Lancer (02/17/13 04:55 AM)
Edit Reason: It was USD50...not 500 ;-)

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#425524 - 02/17/13 04:05 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1993
Loc: durham, north england
Well lancer, sounds like this couple you met were displaying what my mum and I call northern humour, indeed the "would you like a cuddle?" is something I've heard before myself. It rather reminds me of the culture up hear in the north east which sees women being incredibly extravert, often quite sarcastic with humour and very often hard as nales, indeed one of my mum's favourite sayings is "don't argue with geordi women!" laugh.

It's nice in one way though since it means people are very down to earth and fairly straight forward, albeit other sides of it such as lack of compassion, often sterriotypes about men and homophobia exist too particularly when the people involved haven't had lots of education.

As to your massage idea, that might be possible if the person were male, indeed I'd probably be more comfortable with a large, intimidating welshman than a woman (especially a young woman), though again I don't know if I'd actually have the nerve to do that unless it was involved with some other activity such as muscle training or singing.

I've not heard of Wingman before (accept in that episode of the simpsons where Homer ends up being one), though again this is a miner problem since mostly anyone I would considder asking for this isn't around at the moment.

I did however last thursday complement a girl on her hair and gave it a stroke while my hand was round her shoulders during a bit of staging, so obviously things are moving forward slightly, that is indeed why I asked about bounderies since i'm never sure when trying that type of thing if it is too far or not.

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#425528 - 02/17/13 05:27 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
Lancer Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/13/12
Posts: 901
Loc: Florida
I probably should clarify that the comment was from the short, fat husband with really bad teeth...and his wife looked like Bubbles Devere (albeit without the extensive wardrobe).

Ummm...Little Britain/Bubbles Devere:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vhU6YbyPHw
(lol...you don't want this embedded!)

Sorry. Didn't mean to hijack the thread :-(

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#425529 - 02/17/13 05:43 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1993
Loc: durham, north england
Oh, i sort of assumed that was the wife, ouch! well nobody said the Uk was free of weerdoes.

Btw, who's bubbles deveer? The only bubbles I can think of was Michael Jaxon's favourite monkey, ---- and I really! hope the wife didn't look like that, laugh.

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#425530 - 02/17/13 06:52 AM Re: Casual physical affection, what is normal? [Re: dark empathy]
Lancer Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/13/12
Posts: 901
Loc: Florida
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