PEOPLE moan about Sunderland being a backwater but they don’t know how lucky they are.
While we are last in line for good things like jobs, money and health, we are also, simultaneously, last in line for all the mad, bad and dangerous pap that starts in London before infecting everywhere else.
I’m thinking specifically of Cuddle Workshops. Yep, I kid you not. In these modern times total strangers are getting together to touch each other.
Not in a way that might lead to pregnancy, but more in a therapeutic “let’s be closer to others and release inhibitions” way.
This is my worst nightmare come true, since I have a passionate objection to touching anyone I’ve known for less than five years.
It’s not that I’m against affection, or being nice to people – after all, I say plenty of nice things. I’m not stingy with the compliments.
I just find it really hard to successfully orchestrate anything less formal than a handshake.
The few times the universe has forced my hand have ended badly.
I once met a rather vertically challenged woman who wanted to hug me for some reason and I ended up looming over her like an anxious eclipse and pressing her face into my meagre lady lumps.
She looked distraught and even wiped her face. To this day I’m not sure what she thought she was wiping off.
Another time, many moons ago, an attractive man tried to hug me in greeting and I stamped on his foot and pushed my hair into his mouth by accident. He viewed me with caution thereafter.
Cheek-kissing is the worse though. It feels fraudulent to me. Since they’re not real kisses my brain always trys to overcompensate by making loud Mwa noises come out of my mouth to punish the eardrums of the person who is gently air kissing me with stylish, European flare.
The root of my panic lies not in childhood.
I wasn’t starved of love or brought up in an orphanage and beaten with pan handles.
I was, in a Lady Gaga manner, born this way. Even as a little dot I was fiercely inclined against being cuddled. I simply would not stay still long enough and used to squirm and wriggle away till whoever was trying to be nice to me gave up and picked on my brother instead.
So I am pleased to live in Sunderland for many reasons, and not far from the top is the hope that this city will never be daft enough to host a cuddle workshop.
And if you meet me, please, please do me a favour.
Shake my hand, say hello, but I beg you, don’t try and kiss me on the cheek and don’t try to hug me. Please, please, it’s a No.
If you must invade my personal space then you can pat me on the head in an encouraging manner and tell me you like my shoes – that would be fine, I would like that.
Just don’t push it and ruffle my hair.