A post in which the blogger thinks too hard about tapping someone on the shoulder while being tapped on the shoulder.
Content note: this is a sex-free and kink-free application of the concept of paper mache/monodirectionality (based off of the concept of a stone identity). Complex conditional touch aversion ahoy.
Today in choir class, the different sections of the ensemble were doing an unusually bad job of keeping time and staying in rhythm with each other. We don’t normally have this problem, but today was a bad day, I guess. So to work on the issue, the instructor had us each keep time by tapping on the shoulder of the person to our right.
After the whole song-and-dance of getting/giving personal clearance and dealing with the minor social awkwardness of being instructed to touch each other, we began the song again, tapping and being tapped on to the beat. Initially, this was just fine for me, but around the middle of the song there was a rough patch where suddenly even this minor, simple form of touch felt… bad-wrong.
That’s what I want to explore for a bit here.
It’s difficult to explain the change in sensation, so I’m going to start from what I know:
- In general, I don’t really mind the prospect of touching people or vice versa, depending on other things
- At the start of it, the only difficult part of this process was keeping time correctly in synch with others
- Whenever I noticed a discrepancy between the tapping I was feeling and the tapping I was doing, I made sure to adjust to match the former
- And then… it’s like a switch flipped. Or like my tolerance had been used up. Or something.
I don’t really know how to describe the sensation that resulted. It’s not like being tapped on the shoulder inherently feels awful. But for a moment there, I felt weirdly… trapped? stuck? overwhelmed? Think of a scaled-down form of Chinese water torture. The repetitive little taps were distressing not because of any innate quality of theirs, but because of they were a certain combination of continuous, palpable, and outside of my control.
…which is strange that that bothered me, all in all, because it’s not like I hate being touched ordinarily.
I have to figure that outside input activates in me some need to be static, or that giving output deactivates my ability to process input comfortably, or else I just really hate being tapped on the shoulder more than I thought.
Granted, I’m overanalyzing a very brief slice of time here, but it stands out in my experience since, in general, I don’t touch people a lot.
It’s not just that it was difficult to concentrate on both sets of beats and make sure they matched. It’s that, while I was keeping time for the person on my right, the taps on my left shoulder began to feel more and more unpleasant until I tried to suppress the feeling by ignoring them altogether. It really did feel… viscerally alarming?
…which sounds melodramatic, I know. But it was enough to make me want to yank away.
I’d known for a while that I have a rather monodirectional brain. This was, I guess, just an unexpected confirmation.
Based on abstract descriptions of paper/stone/paper mache, though, I would’ve anticipated that this processing style would have manifested itself differently. Going still when being touched, maybe, or losing the ability to keep responding in kind.
Not… whatever the heck this was.
Maybe it’s because I started keeping time on the person on my right side before the other person started on my left. Maybe it’s because I was so focused on the output that the input felt… disruptive. Invasive. Too much to handle.
At least we weren’t asked to perform the exercise for long.