I have a mild touch aversion. This didn’t help that one of my friends is a “hugger” and it was a serious faux pas if I tried to sneak way without a good-bye hug. I hated it at work when my coworkers would give me a friendly pat on the back and I wanted to scream in frustration because people just couldn’t understand that they were traipsing all over my bubble. Is it really so hard to Respect. The. Bubble.?
You know it’s bad when you want the family cat to give you some space. Those were some dark days. When I realized that the stress from my touch aversion was starting to get the better of me I decided to do something about it. I’m more comfortable with self-help than professional help so I started by looking at some proven stress relievers. Hands down the research all agreed that eating healthier and exercise were the “easiest” and most effective stress relievers.
So, I kicked the soda and as a shock to even myself I took up dancing.
I didn’t just jump right into partner dances because, ew people. But when I realized that my perspective on dance was wrong I was able to overcome my touch aversion and gradually work my way up to partner dances. Currently I would say my touch aversion is under control and doesn’t interfere with my daily life anymore. I can hug my friends and family without kicking up a fuss. I don’t jump out of my skin when coworkers pat me on the back. And most importantly I’m okay with the family cat giving me snuggles now.
The first step was redefining what dancing meant for me. I had to stop picturing dancing as this: (image from Google key word search “night club”)
And think of it like this: (image from nwfolklife.org)
Attending a Folklife Festival opened my eyes and let me go back to the roots of dancing. In the past dancing was more about community than bump-n-grind. After each of the dance groups preformed at the festival they would invite the audience to join in to a group dance which generally just required that you to hold hands and skip around in a circle to music. It was SO much fun. Nobody expected me to know the steps. All I had to do was follow the music and smile.
The next step was Line Dancing. For me line dancing was perfect because I could have that community feeling I felt at the festival AND keep my personal space. Sure, it wasn’t something I could brag to my coworkers about, but it was something fun for me. My favorite line dance is to “Les Champs Elysees” with “Nothin’ but Taillights” a close second.
My family actually spent a lot of time trying to convince me about partner dances. My younger sister does ballroom completions for her collage club, but going pro was definitely not what I was looking for. Unfortunately the majority of the dance studios I tried all teach with the mindset of what a competition judge is looking for. I needed something a little more down to Earth. My sister was nice enough to be my dance partner for most of the lessons we were trying out. Starting out with a partner I was comfortable touching and then easing myself into getting use to other partners really helped me warm up to the idea of partner dances.
The best thing to happen was I found a studio that I liked. The owner originally did teach with competitions in mind, but then realized that there wasn’t anybody teaching folks like me who just wanted to learn for fun and for social reasons. Now that’s all she teaches. She’s still teaches form and stuff, but she’ll take the time to explain why the frame is important or why this and that. The studio has helpers of all ages and skill levels and holds dance parties that draw in regulars. These factors provide me the community feeling I really like. People just come to dance without all the extras social stuff that would normally make me nervous. The lessons are really fun and so far I’ve learned the basics for more than five different dances. My favorite is the Swing.
At first dancing with a partner was a little out of my comfort zone, but after some practice I got more comfortable with having my space invaded a little bit. It helped that I knew what to expect, the touching was mostly focused on the arms and hands, most of the time I was more focused on the music than my initial discomfort, the touching only lasted as long as the song (so just a few minutes at a time), and I having a lot of fun.