I forget one of the most difficult parts of traveling on my own–not just the awful airplanes you have to face by yourself, the lines you stand in quietly staring off into the middle distance, the tiredness, the being solitary in a place that is not your own. Feeling a little lost, sometimes, feeling a little disorienting, that sense of homesickness that can’t be pinned down to a single emotional tone or physical sensation, the way the bed is just not right and the pillows aren’t properly lumpy.
No matter how good your trip is, how wonderful and fulfilling and brilliant and social and fun, I experience this itchiness, a restlessness, a small, hard-to-define unhappiness. It’s not necessarily loneliness, though that is certainly a component of it. It’s not a detachedness, because it happens both when I am alone and traveling and when I have come to visit people I love and I am never entirely alone. But I know what it comes from, and why, and I know how to cure it, but the cure is never entirely practical. It requires that I get back on a plane and fly all the way home and walk into the house and wrap myself bodily around my sweetheart and demand to be pet and hugged and cuddled and kissed until that feeling goes away and I am me once more, happy and touched and feeling like I’m part of the human race again.
I am a physically affectionate person, but the only way I’ve ever been
able to really indulge that part of me that likes to touch, that needs
to be touched and caressed, to have that skin-on-skin contact, that
sense of physical pressure and safety and comfort, is in a
relationship. My friends allow me to pet them sometimes, and I hug and
the people around me accept those hugs, but it’s in a relationship that
you’re expected to be physical, and it’s in a relationship that I can
indulge my need to express my great and boundless love through the
great medium of snugglebunnies.
And part of it is also because I have always been self-conscious about
the size and shape and physical makeup of my body: when I was fat, I
worried that my cuddling the people around me was unwelcome because I
was, I don’t know, contagious? And that being cuddled in return would
end up with the exposure of my fatness to the world, because they’d
discover a lump, a roll, something that would make me tense up even
more than I’d ordinarily tense up when being touched, even by a friend
who was closer than close. I didn’t want my body to be examined like a
tomato and then compared to her own, er, tomatoes.
Now I have to worry about funny-shaped skin making weird-feeling
folds, and friends exclaiming, “Oh my god, you’re a bag of bones!” No
one wants to hear that they are pointy and sharp and unpleasant to
A partner, though, a partner has seen you naked and has seen you
struggling into pantyhose and cursing at stupid zippers and what you
look like in the unflattering pants before you change out of the
unflattering pants because you went out and demanded that your partner
admit, already, that these pants are unflattering, just go on and admit
it, okay? A partner knows your body and has touched and loved every
part of it, and when you’re in your sweetheart’s arms, you know you are
being touched and you know you are being loved, and you can relax into
that in a way that you don’t often get to, in other kinds of
relationships, because of all sorts of social mores and cues and personal
So maybe that’s it–I miss the sense of perfect relaxation. I miss being
touched. And okay, I really, really, really miss doing it.