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.