How Going to Wesleyan Ruined My Life

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 | 2 Comment(s)

Or more accurately, how being a dance major at wesleyan ruined my life.

i loved college.  loved it.  i experienced as much as i could, and even managed to go in a biology major, and leave with a degree in dance and psychology.  So how could such a positive experience lead to such ruinous ends.  I'll tell you.

As a dance major, there are certain degree requirements you must fulfill.  One of these requirements involves the constant participation in multiple different dance practice classes each semester.  Plus, as majors, you both lead rehearsals for dances you are choreographing, as well as attende rehearsals for dances you are a dancer for.  This is all the minimum, with additional opportunities for dancing being available through various campus dance groups.

I'm not trying to paint a "those poor dancers" scenario, but rather emphasize the amount of time that was spent in the various dance studios.  Dancing.  On any given day, i would have anywhere from one to four different dancing sessions.  That's a lot of movement . . . and touching.

Now i know its very easy to take this to an extremely sexual place.  And, as a major, i assure you i have either heard or created all versions of the sexualization of dance.  And, as a matter of fact, one of my most loved and respected dance mentors, a 60+ year old devout Christian, in a modern dance class declared, "dance IS sex!"  And, as always, she was right.  But, in this instance, i not talking about the sexual aspect of the human contact, but rather the tactile and emotional aspect.

When you are dancing, and rolling around, and massaging, and hugging, and throwing, and jumping and lifting each other, you (i?) get an almost womb-like comfort from all that human contact.  You want community?  Try contact improv.  You haven't felt community til its inadvertently flung you ten feet into the air, and then let you slide down its back to the floor once again.    While you may spend the learning process flailing about like a jelly-fish in a killer-whales mouth, the comfort you can gain from the human energy transfer can be incredible cathartic.   And so every day of college, i spent a good portion of my time in the metaphorical womb of my loving dance community.

And then there was the student body itself.  Back in the day, my day, Wesleyan was not hipster, but rather hippie.  And i never shook any of my friends' hands.  ever.  we hugged.  we hugged when me met for lunch.  we hugged when we got home. we hugged when we met to go out. we hugged when we drank.  and sometimes we more than hugged.

But, taken as a whole, the amount of physical contact i received on a daily basis in college was truly staggering.  and that became my baseline for human contact.  my intimacy meridian.  that, in turn, has caused me to suffer greatly.

Out of college i moved directly to new york city, downtown brooklyn to be more exact.  That was July, 2001.  New York is the photographic negative of wesleyan.  Where i used to be unable to avoid human contact and constant companionship, now, i had to call, confirm and schedule opportunities to see familiar faces.  And, while it may seem paradoxical, anyone whose lived in nyc can attest that for some reason, being smushed against the cold sweating flesh of a wide array of strangers during rush hour in the subway has the exact opposite affect of all other skin to skin contact.  It is the very definition of isolation.  You are dying inside alone, sandwiched between human barricades.  Suffice it to say, nyc and i were not a match.  And while i did manage to leave the city on what i would consider my own terms, i'm not moving back there any time . . . anytime.

Then i moved to the mountains of Japan.  Very much a no touching country.  Extremely no touching.  Hugging a native Japanese person (and these are my good friends i'm talking about) is like trying to coral a giant sea eel.  They squiggle and, with their arms outstretch in semi-circles in the correct pre-hug pose, they subsequently assault you to fury of tiny gentle pat-down attacks.  The contrast of squiggle and jabbing additionally makes them extremely difficult to get a good hold of.  And if you are thinking that this just makes me sound super creepy -- all grabbing them and stuff, i would argue that what is actually happening is more akin to the hug equivalent of the "dead-fish" handshake.  Fun fact, true to their country's strict separation between public and private, Japan does have a paradoxically  high rate of unprotected sex among their youth, but i have no personal experience to speak from in this area.

Fast-forward past my time in boston (where there was a good deal of hugging surrounding a certain 2004 baseball victory) to my present life in Amherst.  This is a pretty touchy-feely town.  I hug a good deal of my friends.  Not all, but the majority.  During any given day, i am practically certain to simply run into people i know and socialize with, all whilst going about my daily routine.   And i love it.  love it love it love it.  But what i'm realizing . . . more and more . . . is that wesleyan ruined my life. 

Cause i'm still south of my intimacy meridian.  Even in this almost ideal bastion of community, i still want more hugs.  I feel like the goddamn cookie monster of intimacy, where i want to (metaphorically!!!!) shove that human touch down my non-existent gaping felt (pun) mouth-hole -- pieces of the love crumbling to the floor below.  Like i said, this whole wesleyan dance major thing has turned me into a monster.