Peace Bang tells a story over at Beauty Tips for Ministers about how a parishioner patted her and made some comment about her extra weight. Most of the comments are about the comment. I am rather more appalled that someone feels free to "pat" her.
I am very uncomfortable when people I don't know touch me without my permission. This seems like a reasonable attitude but I lived through the huggy touchy feely 80s and 90s and so realized that I tend to be more "uptight" about this than most.
I remember being at some continuing ed event when to my horror the leader told us to stand up and begin massaging the shoulders of the person in front of you! These were men I barely knew! I consider back and neck massages rather intimate activities. I made a beeline for the bathroom.
I was a voting member of the 93 Churchwide Assembly and by the end of it I was so tired of what seemed to me like assaults on my personal space that at one of the last worship services I just plain did not want to hold sweaty hands with the stranger next to me. I tried to beg off saying "oh my hands are so sweaty" so she pushed me aside and took the hand of the person next to me. So that I was out of the line. And I thought "Well this is interesting. If you do not play the game exactly by the rules, you are excluded"
At this year's Synod assembly we had the ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson tell us all to put our hands on our neighbors head while we prayed. The thought horrified me. I looked at the man next to me (we had not even met!) and said "I really HATE this sort of thing" "So do I" he grumbled. Whew. No head touching while we prayed, thank you Jesus!
Yes yes yes - I know we are all one Christian family and none of us are strangers. I don't think that means we all have to be physically intimate! I shake hands at the passing of the peace. If a parishioner initiates a hug, I hug back. But strangers don't get hugs. Sorry.
At first I thought I was this way because I grew up with a single mom who was not demonstrative. (In fact, after my son was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, I put together a lot of strange things about my mother and I think its very possible SHE has Aspergers) But then I thought it may also very much have to do with the fact that I was beaten and physically abused for many years at a day care center. And I wondered how women who have been sexually abused feel about this mandated touchy feely stuff. Is not the essence of abuse being denied control over who has access to your body?
After that every time there was some required back rub or hug (I guess holding hands is okay) I wrote to complain about it. I always used the "abuse" word. I figured it had more clout but really, whether you've been abused or not, you should not be made to feel like a spoil sport because you don't want some strange man or woman fondling you!
Anyways all that crap pretty much stopped by the end of the 90s. No I don't think it was my complaints. It's probably not a coincidence at the same time we began having a lot of sex scandals and we all went to "Boundary Training" events. So I was a little taken aback by the hands on the head thing from Bishop Anderson. I hope it's not a new trend.
All this to say my body is not public property. And neither is yours.