There is something that intrigues me. I am not quite sure when or why this happens, but I feel like most of us are victims of this. We fear showing too much affection.
Why is this? Why do we hold back? When did it start?
Although most adults ration their affection, there is an exception I have noticed: people love to love on babies. It is common for strangers to walk up to babies and speak to them. To tell them how pretty they are. To ask if they can hold the baby. Okay, maybe not everyone shows so much affection toward just any baby, but imagine the baby is your child. Your niece or nephew. Your grandchild. Your best friend’s baby. Do you hesitate to hold the baby? Do you tell the baby how beautiful and smart they are? Do you pet, cuddle and coo with the baby? For most people, there is little hesitation. Most people are much more openly affectionate with babies and young children than other adults in their lives.
While showing affection to children is wonderful, absolutely necessary and a very beautiful thing, why don’t we show that same amount of love and affection to everyone in our lives? Why don’t we tell our friends, family and lovers how beautiful and smart and perfect they are? Yes, I know we say it, but not as openly, freely or frequently as we do with young ones.
It has taken me years to get comfortable with being openly affectionate. I regularly tell my friends and family members how much I love them, why I love them and how greatly I appreciate their presence in my life. I hug them. I touch their arm when I speak to them. I gently rub their back when they cry. Yet I know that sometimes I still hold back. The fear grips me that it might not be reciprocated. That it may be perceived as insincere if I say it too often or show it too much. That it might be mistaken as romantic interest rather than the simple affection I intended to convey.
When did simply showing affection become so complicated and convoluted?
Regardless of the fear. Regardless of the assumptions others may make. Regardless of the outcome. I vow to be openly affectionate. I will try my best to show my affection for others as freely as I do to that of young cooing, cuddling, adorable, perfect little babies.
What do you think? Do you hold back? Do you know why?
I think that all your reasons match up with mine more or less. Also, those who have not discovered their own identities need to do so before they can honestly show love and appreciation for others.
thanks for sharing. I have thought about this many times as well.
Your comment: “those who have not discovered their own identities need to do so before they can honestly show love and appreciation for others” is so incredibly true”.
I am always glad to share. Thank you for reading! And for “liking” 🙂
I’ve actually discussed this before with various people, as I tend to notice the difference a little bit more because of cultural reasons. My friends and family in Spain, for instance, think nothing of a good hug for an aunt or uncle in conversation, of kissing a brother on the head when celebrating a victory at a bar, or even kissing a new acquaintance met at a cafe goodbye on the cheeks when saying goodbye. My ex-girlfriend of very many years was Greek, and since both of us had been raised with similarly Mediterranean values, we found many things to be similar in our families, like little hesitation in embracing a sibling or a cousin to kissing each others’ father and mother on the cheek when greeting and parting ways. My Russian ex-girlfriend was sometimes told by some of her friends that it was a bit strange to them how freely she’d sit on my lap and kiss me in a crowded cafe. She laughed it off in a wonderfully care-free way and dismiss it simply, “Americans are so wonderfully proper!”
It’s certainly a marked difference in the States. People see it as a bit odd when I kiss my father on the cheek when saying goodbye, or when I used to kiss my ex-girlfriend’s father on the cheek when saying goodbye. I don’t embrace many of my male friends. My most recent girlfriend felt like a cold fish to me at first because I didn’t think she even liked me or that we had much of a connection since she wasn’t in the habit of holding hands, kissing in public, or embracing me when we greeted. She’s a born-and-raised southern Californian, who technically was my first American girlfriend, so we finally worked it out: I said, “I need someone affectionate, or we’re not going to work.”
Affection is a culturally-established norm, as is our perception of it. Svetlana’s comment about Americans being “wonderfully proper” is a popular view in other countries, at least in Europe. I have friends from Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal with whom I’ve shared the funny stories of the American guy who goes abroad and thinks the Spanish girl is in love with him because she kissed him goodbye, or the American girl who thinks the Italian guy overstepped his boundaries by trying to kiss her when they were introduced. Sometimes it can be amusing, sometimes it’s a little inconvenient, but I personally embrace it. I was raised primarily in Connecticut and New York, so I know to give people their bubble of space on the subway, that a handshake or high-five will suffice at the bar, and that not everyone needs an embrace often, or ever in some cases. I cherish the affection when it’s proper, though, and I’ve noticed romantic relationships are less awkward with Europeans than with Americans. It’s great being able to turn it on or off, though.
As my friends who were with me can vouch, anyone is fair game if Spain wins the World Cup again! On the everyday basis here in SoCal, it’s been enjoyable using the taboo of affection to flirt, shock, or surprise people, so it has its benefits. After all, Americans are wonderfully proper!
“Affection is a culturally-established norm, as is our perception of it.” – How very true indeed! Your comment is spot on and I am half tempted to copy/paste, quote you as author, and let it be my next blog post.
Hey, sir! Where can I read more of your writing?
Oh and et’s continue to shock the Americans with our affection. Deep down, I think most people take joy in it – even if they appear to be shocked.
Thank you for your well spoken feedback! xo