Jul. 22nd, 2016

Do Not

Jul. 22nd, 2016 06:58 pm
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My grandfather likes touching me. No, not in the way you're thinking. He'll grab my foot when I'm sitting on my bed. He'll poke my arm when I'm eating in the kitchen. And, apparently, he'll tickle my neck when I'm at a crowded art exhibition.

First of all, I hate being touched. There is a very short list of people who I don't mind being touched by, and an even shorter list of people from whom I will actively seek touch. The majority of my family doesn't make the cut of either list. My own father doesn't make the cut of either list. Of course, I have to tolerate things like hugs from my family because otherwise I am a Monster, but most everyone knows by this point that touching makes me uncomfortable.

I have had many adult talks with my grandpa about not touching me. He always brushes me off with a:

"But I'm your grandfather."

So I went to my grandma. She brushed me off with a scoff and a:

"But he's your grandfather."

So I went to my parents as a last ditch effort, and I continue to go to my parents. I continue to beg, plead that someone, somewhere just get this man to stop touching me, but wouldn't you know it? They brush me off every time with a:

"But he's your grandfather."

You know what? I'd like to think that him being my grandfather should've solved this problem the first time I spoke to him about it. After all, a grandfather should care more about the comfort and feeling of personal safety of his granddaughter than his own entertainment, right? And the touching really is for his own entertainment. He thinks it's hilarious to see me jump, hilarious when I slap at him and whine at him to get away, hilarious when I spend the rest of the day flinching whenever he gets near me out of fear that I'll be touched again. It's a joke to him. No matter that, again, I have explained to him very politely and seriously that it makes me insanely uncomfortable. I don't care how "innocent" the touches are; I don't like it. It's my body. That should theoretically be more than enough to stop the touches.

It clearly isn't.

My little sister has been at art camp for the past month. As today was the last day, all of the students chose a few pieces to put on display at an exhibition. I went with my parents, sister, grandpa, and a few (irrelevant) cousins.

I hate crowds. They make me anxious and paranoid and the worry that I'm going to be touched by a stranger at any moment does not help. While this may not seem relevant, I also hate bugs/spiders touching me. It's necessary to make that known.

I was surprisingly okay at first, despite people crushing in toward me on all sides. The place the show was being held was open enough (for the most part) that I didn't feel trapped or claustrophobic, so long as I stayed close to my mom.

(This may sound horrendously pathetic for a 22-year old, but anxiety is a bitch, okay?)

That is, until my grandpa decided it'd be a wonderful joke to come up behind me and tickle the back of my neck.

Not only did this mimic the feeling of a bug on me (throwing my fear response into overdrive), but as soon as I realized what had actually happened, my brain caught up to the fact that hey, I was surrounded by hundreds of people in an enclosed space and anyone could touch me at any time, either accidentally or on purpose. I was completely at the mercy of the crowds.

I didn't want to have my back to anyone, but that's kind of difficult in an art exhibit. After all, it'd look a little strange having my back to the artwork. I tried to shrink in on myself, hunching down and keeping my arms wrapped around my middle, but it was too late. This "innocent, playful, joking" touch threw me into the third panic attack of my life, and god was it embarrassing.

I had already made a fool of myself during the actual event, as I had yelled quite loudly, "Don't do that!" at my grandpa when I first realized what happened. But now here I was, arms tight around my stomach, fingers of one hand pressing bruises into my clavicle as an attempt to distract myself from the shadow of panic, breath short and panted, tears gathering in my eyes, threatening to spill at any moment.

My mom eventually noticed and, in typical fashion, had absolutely no patience for it. She thought I was doing it on purpose to get attention on my sister's special day. No, actually, I was horrified and my own horror at my actions was only making things worse. I knew people were staring, wondering, judging. But that knowledge only made my breathing more labored, forced the tears to drip from my eyes.

My mom dragged me out of the exhibit and to a chair near the front. There were still too many people. They were all watching me and now that I was in a quiet area, they were all listening too, as my mom ripped me apart, threatened to leave me alone. I could barely talk at first, but the fresh(er) air of the open area eventually calmed me down, thankfully before she could make good on her threat and actually leave.

But not before she gave me my favorite excuse once again:

"He's your grandfather."

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Cammie

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