I'm not a hugger. When people sit right beside me when there are spots further away, I scream a little inside. It even annoys me when someone uses the washroom stall beside me when the other ones are empty. Traffic jams accelerate my heart rate to the point that I once had to pull off the highway and sit in the grass doing deep breathing exercises until I was calm enough to re-join the metal sardine pack.
I wonder what sets our comfort level with personal space. Nature, nuture, or both? Recently I was reading through my teenage diaries, which are considerably less funny and more frightening than my pre-teen diaries. It occurred to me that between the ages of 10 and 15, I had virtually no physical contact with another person. My parents are very undemonstrative and rarely showed affection toward me during my teens.
Despite not being a hugger, I felt horribly lonely and unloved. It's a good thing I was an ugly duckling, because I would have been on the fast track to teen motherhood otherwise. Reading my diary entries about when I met my now-husband is like watching a starving person being placed in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet, and whenever I do The Five Love Languages quiz, touch comes up as one of the top two.
So why the need for a huge amount of personal space if my primary love language is touch? I think it's because I'm emotionally reserved and touch means so much to me that I'm uncomfortable feeling people up left and right. Jay's family are huggers and it's always kind of freaked me out, because it feels too intimate for the relationship. Can't we just smile and nod?
Well, no. The world wants its insincere gestures and it's become too much effort to try to avoid them. As I've gotten older, I've gotten better at faking the casual hugs and pats on the arm, the air kisses, not squirming away when someone gets in my space. It almost looks natural.