I Miss Snuggling My Friends
Last week, I dreamed I was travelling on a ferry boat. It was like most ferry boats except that instead of rows of seats, there were rows of beds. My husband was two rows up from me and I was deciding just how cuddly I wanted to be with the people next to me, if you catch my drift. I settled for just spooning. It felt nice.
I woke up from the dream cuddled into the arms of my husband. I told him about the dream and he said, “This social distancing thing is really getting to you.” And he was right.
In many ways, I am the kind of person who can more easily adapt to this situation than most. I need hours of alone time daily to feel “myself”. I enjoy working on my own. I’m fiercely independent and many of my decisions are guided by this independence. For a long time I was not a very cuddly person. I like my space. But much of this changed for me following a series of life events that led to exploring polyamory.
Polyamory means “many loves”, and generally implies many romantic loves. In our case, I’m not getting into any specifics. What matters is that my husband and I encountered a situation that caused us to decide that a strictly monogamous relationship was not our best, most authentic choice for that time. There has been no straight line or logical progression since that situation. But the Pandora’s box was opened in terms of perspective. There is no more single “right” way to do a long term (for us, twenty-three years) relationship.
When we were figuring out what all this meant, we went to a lot of “meet-ups” within the polyamorous and similar communities. We met a lot of friends (and yes, some lovers)this way. Most people remained strictly friends. But there was a difference with many of these friends compared to those we met outside the community. Touch with friends was okay.
Friends could hold hands. Friends could cuddle on a couch to watch a TV show. Friends could fall asleep together in a bed (no sex) just like when we were kids on a sleepover. I learned I could enjoy friendly touch.
Really, it’s no wonder I came to like it. Look at how much children touch. Think of how in the Victorian days (which we often view as stodgy) adults went tobogganing together for winter fun. Older literature is full of same sex friends sharing non-sexual kisses and holding hands. Throughout human history, touch has been a normal part of being human together.
And then a worldwide pandemic happened. It is now important for the safety of everyone that we not only avoid touching those not already living in our households, but to also maintain a “social distance” of at least three feet. Snuggling my friends is out of the question. We can negotiate how we do culture but we can’t negotiate biology. COVID-19 doesn’t care that I (or anybody else for that matter) believe that touch is an important part of being human.
So is there anything I can take out of living in a situation that allowed more touch than the average North American has experienced and bring to a situation where touch needs to be extremely limited? I think so. What I have most valued about the people I have met through the polyamorous community is that there is something about the shared experience of touch that cuts through the bullsh**t. It doesn’t feel like it makes sense to cuddle someone and then talk about the weather, or put on an act that you are utterly invulnerable. I have learned to be more genuine about what I share, to see how much everybody matters. I have learned to communicate more honestly, to listen to things that are difficult to hear, and to deal with thoughts and feelings that don’t always match up to what I think they “should” be. Maybe we should take an opportunity to figure out how to be closer in spirit if we can’t be in body.