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The cats are winning. This morning: Me: Hey, you're only cuddling… - Tactical Ninja

May. 10th, 2013

09:33 am

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The cats are winning. This morning:

Me: Hey, you're only cuddling me so you can reach the cat, right?
Him: *innocent look* No, I was cuddling you and then saw the cat.

A likely story. Also, I caught them sort-of sharing a chair. So that we-hate-each-other-so-you-have-to-grease-us-both-up game is up. Hah.


Last night I went to a contact improv class. I like and enjoy using my body, and ideally I would like to do partner adagio, which is like slow-motion choreographed contact improv - but there seems to be little of that kind of adagio on offer in this town (it's all cheerleading based which is too fast for what I want), and I have been unable to find a partner. Hence the handbalancing. So anyway, I thought contact improv might be worth a try for a similar feel.

I had reservations because I know I have issues with being touched by strangers, but my experiences of circus training have all been ok so I thought maybe this would be too. Turns out, not so much.

The class started out with a mindfulness exercise with walking movement, which was all fine. There were three people I knew there, and three people I didn't. So we were walking about and I was getting a feel for moving freely, and then suddenly there's this hand on my shoulder from behind and the class teacher is talking about how we're now going to pick a partner and touch them and follow their movement and all I can think is SOMEONE'STOUCHINGMESOMEONE'STOUCHINGMESOMEONE'STOUCHINGMEARGHARGHARGH and so I asked him to touch someone else and he did and that was fine and then someone else touched me and I was ok for a minute because I thought it was tieke and I knew she'd understand why I was so tense but it wasn't her and then I realised that I wouldn't be able to participate in the class if I couldn't even handle that so I left.

And when I got home I had a panic attack, and sat in the shower for half an hour trying to breathe and freaking out and then I went to bed and when Dr Wheel came home I was a mess and can I just say thank goodness for Dr Wheel. It's like my brain gets filled up with freakout hormones so it doesn't work properly and it takes a few hours for that to fade to where I can function normally and then I'm just really tired, and then I feel like a failure because this shouldn't happen. And he doesn't hate me for it.

So, um, that was unexpected. And horrible, and far too much drama for how I want my life to be. And now I'm trying to work out what happened. Here's what I've come up with.

I don't like being touched by strangers. Yet I can do adagio classes and have pap smear tests and breast exams and be fine. So it seems that I'm ok with touch from strangers when it's expected, there's a purpose, I know who will be touching me and where they'll be touching me and what we are trying to achieve by the touching. As long as there's fair warning, I'm ok.

So it wasn't the contact part that was the problem. It was the improv part - the part where I wasn't just going to be touched by strangers, I was going to be touched randomly and without warning and possibly from behind. I was already feeling a bit blergh when I started the class, and I had expected that we'd do warm up exercises and then maybe partner off, so I'd know who was going to be touching me and be able to mentally prepare myself - "this person is going to do X thing" and I'd be fine. Instead, I found myself in a situation where I could be touched by anyone at any time, anywhere and I had to tolerate it - in fact if I wanted to get anything from the class I had to make myself vulnerable to a form of intimacy that I have realised, I'm in no way ready to share with strangers.

It's not just touching, but interacting through touch. Communicating and moving with another person based entirely on what you can both feel through the touch. I can only think of three women and two men that I am willing to allow that level of intimacy with.

None of this was the fault of the contact improv class people. I had not disclosed my difficulties (tbh I didn't realise I had them to that extent till it was happening) and they have every right to expect that people who put themselves voluntarily in that situation would be ok with a simple touch on the shoulder. This is purely a thing that happened that was unfortunate. *shrug*

Anyway, so now I know. And the next thought in my mind is "How do I fix this?" How do I get to be so I'm not thoroughly freaked out by someone wanting to interact with me in that way? Like I said, 5 people is a very small trust group. There are more people I'm ok with touch I'm prepared for, touch that has context. How do I take the step from that to being more comfortable with intimacy?

As usual, I'm embarrassed. These occurrences are rare enough that they always take me by surprise, and when they do, all I want is to prevent them happening again. I don't want my life to be limited by this crap, and when it is I feel stupid. Sorry to those who witnessed it.


So, um. Maybe capoeira? Although, I get the impression that that's the realm of 20 year old boys - which would be aesthetically pleasing but I'd probably end up being their granny mascot or something.

Heh. The trials and tribulations of a frustrated adagio fan.

PS Hyperbole and a Half is back. It's worth reading.

Comments:

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From:dianavilliers
Date:May 9th, 2013 09:53 pm (UTC)
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I took some pictures of Wellington capoeristas a while back. Here, and here.

They appeared to be a happy, friendly supportive group with a good mix of genders and abilities, and although you could be right about it skewing young, there didn't seem to be much in the way of macho posturing.

Edited at 2013-05-09 09:54 pm (UTC)
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From:pombagira
Date:May 10th, 2013 12:56 am (UTC)
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i wonder if there is less of the macho posturing because it is not just about fighting, but dance and movement as well, and some spirituality of sorts thowen in ? *ponders this*
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From:pombagira
Date:May 10th, 2013 12:57 am (UTC)
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i don't currently have any answers/thoughts.. but i do have loves

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From:tieke
Date:May 10th, 2013 01:10 am (UTC)
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I actually felt somewhat uncomfortable too, in the class last night. Not to the extent that you did, but I pretty much did spend the first half or so of the class just forcing myself to go through the motions because I didn't feel too comfortable about touching and being touched by strangers in that way. I've been thinking about the differences between it and the contact improv I've done before, and I don't think the teacher did anything wrong, but there were 2 things that made last night different and less comfortable for me:
1. complete strangers. Usually I've done contact improv with people I'm already somehow connected to, e.g. Fellow performers, or people I train with.
2. When I have done it with people I didn't know, it's been as part of physical theatre workshops, where you start with exercises to develop trust and a mental connection, often in pairs, generally more structured, and generally only involving fairly minimal touch at first.

This class just dived straight into a very personal level of touch, with no chance to develop a connection with people first. Which is probably just what's expected in contact improv, as compared to physical theatre workshops, but yeah. Deep end.
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From:tatjna
Date:May 10th, 2013 01:53 am (UTC)
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Perhaps I should try one of these physical theatre classes. I like the idea of developing trust and connection before diving into the touching, and structure is useful if you've no idea what you're doing - and also to give warning of any potentially triggering things upcoming.

I'm kind of relieved to hear you say that, actually. I was wondering if maybe I'm just not cut out to work with partners, but maybe there's hope.
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From:rivet
Date:May 10th, 2013 02:51 am (UTC)
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That sounds crappy and unpleasant <3
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From:kehleyr
Date:May 10th, 2013 01:24 pm (UTC)
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end up being their granny mascot LOL

I'm sorry you had such a bad experience at class... and the following panic attack... those are not pleasant at all!

I guess the only cure is to willingly put yourself in that position again... but try and gradually work up to someone touching you... perhaps talk to the teacher if it's possibly to do all the moves they do but be by yourself when they pair up for a few lessons/classes. And maybe you can participate in a few lessons down the line when you feel you know what goes on in a class.
*offers hugs*
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From:pundigrion
Date:May 10th, 2013 02:44 pm (UTC)
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I'm in the same camp as you. I don't like being touched by stranger either and I am pretty well known for awkward side hugs even with friends. Exams and cramming into crowded mass transit I can deal with because I know it is coming and where.
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From:vernacularity
Date:May 11th, 2013 04:59 am (UTC)
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To me that seems like the teacher is lacking an amount of suitability,just expecting people to be OK about it?

I dislike any touch longer than needed for something like walking past someone on a bus.

Strangers are actually OK in that anonymous sense. When dancing eg nightclub it is not. I especially dislike the uninvited and assumed long touch eg those enforced greeting hugs at places like Kiwiburn where people just won't fucking let go until I actively take a step backwards.

OK so anything useful in that? Maybe just that it is all part of the "hang on what am I consenting to?" side of things? I think there is a problem that the people who are comfortable in it just too often take it for granted that you should be too. Yeah it's an explicitness of consent thing, maybe the method of getting someone to partner up should be waving a hand in front of their face or something a bit less invasive than an anonymous hand from behind?

I will say I HATED a dance lessons class I took once with a girlfriend. One of those ones where you have to keep swapping partners and constantly be holding and touching some stranger with no choice in it. Absolute hell on earth.

Oh with the capoeira are you sure you can handle the looking like idiots?



Edited at 2013-05-11 05:07 am (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:May 12th, 2013 08:09 pm (UTC)
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I think there's an idea that if a person is ok with one kind of touch, they should be ok with all kinds of touch. Of course we all know that's not true, and for me the triggers are around consent. I was expecting to consent before being touched, and discovering that I wasn't going to be asked for consent (or that they thought my consent was implied by my presence) really set me off.

I'm not really surprised when I think about it - it's not until you're on the other end of unwanted touch that you really realise how important that consent is, eh?
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From:torbenite
Date:May 11th, 2013 03:55 pm (UTC)
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If its any comfort I don't like strangers walking behind me at all, never mind touching from behind. I am always aware of how far back they are and if I sense them encroaching I will whip round and glare.

I guess this stems from all the violence we have grown up with in South Africa. *rolls eyes*

Anyway Its amusing to see the reactions of people in places like New York when I do this. They normally get quite a fright.
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