I used to tell myself I wasn’t the touchy-feely type.
I grew up uncomfortable showing affection to my friends. I didn’t like it when they’d hug me. I trained myself to believe it was a weakness.
I’m an independent woman — and when I was younger that meant I was a don’t-need-no-man woman who thought holding hands was dumb.
Admittedly, these days I still do think holdings hands is dumb in a crowded space. But on an empty street as we’re walking home together, you can be damn sure I’ll reach out to entwine my fingers through your own.
It wasn’t until I ended my first relationship that I realized how much I craved the intimacy of physical touch.
While we were together, I thought I just wanted regular sex. I thought I was unhappy because he never wanted to do it — or when he did the focus was entirely on him. If I couldn’t get off on his dick alone, that was my problem.
I remember watching a Louis CK show once where one of his jokes was about this scenario. He said (paraphrasing), “If a woman still wants to cuddle you after sex, then you’re not fucking her right.”
After we broke up and I dated other people, I realized it wasn’t really about sex. While Louis CK’s comments are probably true for some, all I really wanted was his arm around my waist. Our legs tangled on the couch. Spooning in bed. Hands held on a quiet street.
Affection is how I say I love you. It’s how I feel loved in return. And I’d been hiding my love for a long time.
I got back with my first boyfriend after a three-year break. I’d dated other people in between and had finally realized what I needed. He told me he’d changed in the past three years, too, and this time things would be different.
I still remember effectively forcing him to bridge the space between us and sit closer to me on the couch — instead of at complete opposite ends. I remember stroking his arm in what would have appeared an absent-minded way.
But I was acutely aware I was touching him, because I’d been starved of it for so long.
I remember him telling me to stop. He didn’t like it. It was annoying. I’m just not the touchy-feely type.
It’s not a bad thing that he didn’t like it, although it did crush me in the moment. I tried to tell myself I was being childish for being so hurt over something so small.
Eventually I realized it wasn’t something small to me and that was okay. We broke up again. I explained to him we wanted different things. I needed to be with someone who craved physical intimacy as much as me.
Affection is how I say I love you. It’s how I feel loved in return. It’s not the gifts, it’s not the words for me (although who doesn’t like hearing it too?).
It’s always been about the closeness that comes with physical touch.
Everyone is different, though. How do you show love?