Do you ever have people burst your personal bubble? Someone will lean in too close to tell you a secret, but they accidentally (or purposefully) bump a bit more than you’d like, and then you have to awkwardly step away to restore the balance. There are different levels of closeness as well, for a stranger should certainly keep a greater distance than a loved one, right? Yeah, I apparently have big bubbles.
I am not fond of being touched in general, especially by strangers. I have coworkers that like to pop me in the shoulder jokingly or former teachers that like to [creepily] put their hands on my back to “see if I’m on track with that problem.” These seemingly innocuous touches are like raw electricity into my skin. The lightest caress of my knuckles makes my elbow tingle and my shoulder feel wiggly. A hand on my back will flip my stomach over and about. Clothing can even violate my personal bubble. I wear very specific clothing that fits a certain way, thus not causing undue distress through the day. I often wear a coat or fleece jacket for the extra weight (it feels like a hug). I am not concerned with looking fashionable as long as I look presentable. My clothes are clean and in good repair, but I won’t win any contests.
My personal bubble extends to noises, smells, sights, and other senses. I shut down if I become too warm. My hair feels hot if the lights are too bright, even if the lights are LEDs and emit no heat. I have an exceptionally keen sense of smell, and sour poultry or milk will ruin much of a day for me, even the slightest whiff. I just won’t be able to dig myself out of the funk to which such a rank scent will drive me.
The Man bears the brunt of my personal bubble preferences. He so often tries to hold my hand or put his hand on my leg when we’re driving somewhere. I push him away, uncomfortable with the heat and pressure, however slight, his hand makes through my jeans. It isn’t that I don’t want me to touch me, it’s that I can’t handle the sensation. At the grocery store, he’ll want to hold me. I haven’t figured out his need for affection while shopping for food, but I have had to explain to him many times that when we’re in the store, “I’m shopping, I’m menu planning, I’m cooking and listing ingredients, I’m comparing labels and prices, crunching numbers, and moving food into the cart. I am not anywhere near affection right now.” If he does try to be affectionate, we might as well leave the store. My brain’s little hard drive gets fried, and it is impossible to reboot. He has to wait until we’re out of the store, or he has to ask me directly, “is this an okay time to hold my hand?” He has to be prepared that I’ll say no, not take it personally, and move along. It kills me to say no, but I simply can’t have my personal bubble burst and still keep shopping at the same time.
Though I have boundary and sensory issues, when I’m not actively doing something, I do like hugs. Hugs are wonderful.
Sheldon (remember him?) eschews physical contact entirely. The most intimate we’ve seen him get on the show is holding hands with his girlfriend--only because she insists, and only on date nights. The one time he was affectionate was right after Penny gave him a special Christmas gift. That was a most memorable moment on the show.