Physical contact – a touchy subject

Over the past few months and years, I have become increasingly aware that I have very specific boundaries when it comes to touch. I’ve always been easily startled and insanely ticklish – anyone who has ever poked me, tickled me, tried to tuck my label in without warning or given me eyedrops (a long and painful story) will vouch for this.

Actually, my ticklishness has been a source of great amusement to some. Namely my sister, who used to like poking or tickling me while recording the noises I made, and my mum, who used to like massaging me. Or rather, putting her hands to my neck and watching me fall to the floor. Until I got too big.

Touch sensitivity is very common in people on the autistic spectrum. Some people don’t like certain clothes. Some don’t like certain textures. Some don’t like any touching from people at all. Personally I’m not that extreme, but perhaps it would be more straightforward for others if I was, given my complicated touching rules that I am disclosing for the first time…

– No tickling or poking. I will not pay for the consequential medical treatment you will probably need.
– If there is a less than 100% chance I remember who you are, no touching, please.
– Believe it or not, I actually like hugs with people I know. If we are greeting or about to part, or if one of us is sad, hug away!
– Outside of this, I like any other touching to be kept to a minimum at most.
– If you are an immediate family member or very close friend, take that last point with a pinch of salt UNLESS…
– I am getting overloaded, frustrated or worked up about something, in which case, U CAN’T TOUCH THIS! MC Hammer’s words, not mine.

A bit stuck up? Possibly. Which is why I never normally rattle off the above points to every new acquaintance. I’m not saying it’s ok to be that finicky about touch. I understand it’s normal for someone to try to put a new person at ease by touching their arm. It’s just how I feel.

I think this is partly why I relate to cats so well. The reason so many people love dogs is that they like an animal that’ll smother them and anyone with physical affection. Whereas I’m more like the cat that makes a beeline for cat haters. Not because they want to antagonise them, but because they are drawn to people who aren’t constantly staring at them and trying to touch them.

I’m not saying I’m drawn to people who don’t like me. I just connect more easily with people who also have their invisible boundaries that get taken down bit by bit and who make friends one step at a time.

And if, just to play devil’s advocate, you encounter someone on the spectrum who over-does physical contact, try breaking down the above guidelines. If you are that person, let’s just say you would do well to remember them!

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