November 27, 2011

I like scarves because they make my neck feel safe

I feel like by now almost everyone in my life already knows this little factoid - and thus tortures me with it on the daily - and for the rest of you, well, now you'll know too. I have a highly irrational issue with people touching my neck. I HATE IT. I will judo karate chop you right in the jugular if you come near it. I really don't know why, and yes, there are some exceptions to the rule. But generally, I am programmed to flinch as though you've thrown a grenade at my face the minute you reach for that vulnerable area between my face and my bod. Which, come to think of it, probably explains why I own like 37 scarves; they make my neck feel safe. And I like feeling safe in a wide variety of fashionable colors, apparently.

Over the holiday, I got a facial for the first time. I walked back to the tranquil room, ready to get my relaxation on, and I lay down as instructed and waited for my facialist to re-enter when I realized something alarming. She was going to be all up in my neck space. I panicked a little, but I thought, it's fine. I can totally handle this. I could not. It was a nightmare. Constant neck touching. I flinched as she touched me the first time, then the second, third, fourth, until she said very sweetly in her heavily accented voice, "You're goink to chave to get over this, sveetie. I'm goink to be touching your neck the chwhole time." Perfect.

I realized suddenly that my shoulders were literally up my my ears and I was white-knuckling the sides of the table like my life depended on it. I was embarrassed by my inability to lock it up and thus, determined - and I did it. Slowly but surely. I made myself put my shoulders back down and unclench the table. I reacted a little less every time she reached down, until finally, I relaxed. And ohhhh, how relaxed I was. It was a positively blissful hour of time. My discomfort at the outset aside, that hour of perilous neck-touching put me in a state of peacefulness unlike I'd experienced before.

So of course it got me thinking, you know as everything does, about vulnerability. I keep looking for a study that states something like, JUST KIDDING! You don't need to be vulnerable to be happy. Go ahead and hide under scarves forever. But the more I look for that, the more lessons I learn that are exactly the opposite; that everything worth having requires some degree of vulnerability on my part. Much like you can't get the full effect of a facial without letting somebody touch your neck [no matter how much it makes you want to scream], you can't really connect or be known if you're not exposed a little. It just can't happen.

Touching is the most tangible form of connection there is, I think, and thus serves as a pretty stellar metaphor here. And this experience taught me something that's probably kind of an important extension to all my other lessons about being vulnerable. Metaphorically speaking, the places I don't want to be touched are probably where I need it the very most. There's something really beautiful about letting it happen, too, I can tell you that from experience. It was horribly unpleasant, because for that window of time I was at risk of strangulation and other such neck-specific foul play, but in the end, letting go of it made for an insanely delightful hour of self-care.

There will always be options to flee, or scream, or punch someone in the jugular when they get close to wherever your vulnerable place is. But you're gonna have to suck it up and let someone touch your neck if you want the best possible experience. And you're going to really hate it, right up until you realize that you don't.

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