America generally is a much more touchy-feely place than Britain, and progressive seminary in the East Bay Area might be the touchy-feeliest place of all. This makes me super-uncomfortable, so I've thrown together a brief Guide To Not Touching for my new friends. Bookmark this page, and if you see me and feel inclined to get touchy-feely, consult this guide first.
No unsolicited hugs. Whether we're in church, doing something specifically hippy-dippy, or we just happen to bump into each other, don't hug me. You're great and stuff – this doesn't mean I don't like you – but wanton hugging is weird for me. You don't French all the friends you run into; I don't hug all mine.
No sneaking up. If you're approaching from outside my field of vision, or if I'm really absorbed in something and haven't noticed you, speak to me. Don't clap a hand on my shoulder. It freaks me out and I have to fight the urge to punch you.
No friendly poking or prodding. I get that some people like to poke their friends in the rib, or punch them lightly on the arm, but that's not a friendly thing for me. I find it aggressive and it sets me on edge. Personal bubble, okay?
NO TOUCHING MY FACE OR NECK. Ever. Under any circumstances at all. My hitting you is a reflex reaction to your touching my face or neck; you've been forewarned, and I admit no liability.
No rubbing my stomach. This means you, Tyler.
Ask. If you want to hug me, ask first. Give me space to refuse, and don't be offended if I do. I do like hugs, but they're quite an intimate thing for me and I don't want them every day. On a very special day, I might be up for hugs. Under ordinary circumstances, “Go Team Venture!” is an appropriate level of physical contact for me. If I'm feeling extra twitchy and anxious, I'll want nothing more than a nice distance-keeping Vulcan salute.
I know it seems strange to you physical people, but this is my deal. If it helps, think of me as a brain in a jar – it's what we'll all be in a few years anyway.