Without a Touch

An invisible gang of boys followed in my wake.

Their piercings and Manic Panic hair were unseen to me.

I didn’t hear their bawdy skater mouths and the jingle of the thick silver chains clipping their wallets to their baggy jeans as they encircled me.

But they ruined any chance of me having a love life from 8th grade on.

My brother and his friends would watch the other boys in school.  Anyone who spoke my name or looked my way was pulled aside in the boy’s bathroom, the locker room, the hallway and told in no uncertain terms that Kim Is Off Limits.

They never told me they were doing this.  They never told me why.

Without a love life to distract me in High School, I grew into myself.  I learned, I tried new things, I found a voice that would not be softened with worry about whether some cute guy would like what it had to say.

Yes, there were others who read me well and gave me what I needed.  A few teachers, my track coach, good men who knew I was a girl who needed space, respect and encouragement to be who I deserved to be after years of silence.

But despite what some assumed, there was never a void to fill.

My brother and those boys were filling it without saying a word to me.

I was adult when my brother revealed what he and his friends had done.  I was so blind-sided, my head literally shook in response, trying to find a way to register this.

Then I realized my brother was peeking at me, uncomfortably awaiting a response.

And I knew.

Every boy they kept from me was another protective hug from them.

Every threat they muttered in my shadow and physical shield of protection they wound around me was a collective grasping of my hand.

Yes, their backs were to me all those years, but it was because they wanted to see who was headed my way.  They wanted to get between them and me, so no one could hurt me like I had already been.

They cared about me enough to protect me where they could, when they could, in the only way they knew how.

I smile when I think of that rag-tag group of troublemakers.  Those boys who thrashed in mosh pits at all-night raves, who were quick to fight or risk broken limbs trying new tricks on a bike or skateboard at the half-pipe.

Beneath the punk bank t-shirts, leather studded wrist cuffs and crazy hair were boys who thought no one was good enough to be with me.  Boys who felt I was family, knew what I needed, and knew I wasn’t going to ask for it.

Boys who taught me, many years later, how quietly love and affection can lay in one’s heart.

They never laid a hand on me, but boy, was I touched.

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This post was written for The Red Dress Club Memoir writing prompt.

The prompt went like this:

This week we would like you to write about how the show of affection has played a part in your memory.

Choose a time when either the abundance or lack of affection (either by you or someone else) stands out, and show us.  Bring us to that time.  Help us feel what you felt.

When I was in 8th grade, it was part of the High School.  As soon as I arrived, I felt a shift.  I felt safe all the time, despite being the youngest class in the building.  I couldn’t figure out why, but just accepted it.

I also never wondered too much about the lack of love life, since my best friend was gorgeous.  Everyone fawned over her, which was fine with me.  She was awesome. Besides, I was a guy’s-girl, and no one ever made a move to change that.  So I focused on school, sports, movies, figuring myself out.

My older brother and his friends didn’t hang out with me despite the fact that we were less than 2 years apart in age.  Yes, we interacted when we were sitting in the same room by chance, or we’d say “Hi” in the halls at school.  But we lived different lives.

That these guys who were treated like crap so often for being “different” found a kindness in their hearts to carry out this agenda of keeping me safe from other guys for years?  It made my personal definition of Affection richer, more accurate.

For me, Affection is the expression of concern and care for someone else, whether they know it or not.  If my brother or any of his friends tried to be all hands-on huggy or whatever with me?  I would have freaked out.  They read me well and took care of me in the perfect way for me, without needing me to know what they were doing.

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If you are new to Let Me Start By Saying…welcome!  I have some more short memoir posts here.  Or check out the About Kim page to learn more about me.  For some funny, check out my Favorite Posts page.  Thanks for visiting!

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Comments

Comments

  1. says

    Wow. I loved this so much, as from the opening lines, I wasn’t expecting it to go the way it did. I don’t have brothers but can still relate to so much of this post, which is a testament to the clarity and strength of your words. Very, very cool.

    • says

      Thank you for saying all this, Abby. It means a lot that someone who didn’t experience a similar past can feel what I felt.
      I knew this would be my response from the moment i read the prompt. I, one who does not get weepy, got misty-eyed just thinking about it while it was writing itself in my head. It meant a lot to me. What those guys did for me, and getting the story out.

  2. says

    I have so many chills from your words. The love, the understanding, the MATURITY, the way we might not know know someone’s story or motivation- all captured in your smooth words. Beautifully done.

    • says

      They were pure awesome.
      I saw a couple of them at my father’s funeral a year and a half ago (after not seeing them for over a decade), and the way that they looked at me, chose their words…I just felt a connection to them.

    • says

      They are spread all over the country, the globe. My brother still keeps in touch with some of them, esp on FB, so sometimes I can peek into their lives. One died a couple years ago at age 34/35. I still think of them all. I saw a couple of them at my father’s funeral 19mo ago, and it was like Old Hat being near them. They kept telling me how good I looked (like “doing well” look-good, not “you’re hot” look-good) and asking if I was happy. *sniff*

  3. says

    Wow, I thought this was going to take a much darker turn–I’m so glad it didn’t. Your writing propelled me through your story. You are lucky to have had such a protective brother, and lucky to understand how special you are to him now. Well done.

    Cheers.VB

    • says

      Thank you. I didn’t even realize I was making it seem a bit dark at first, but I get that now.
      I needed to know what they were doing at the time I found out. It was such a relief to know that he really did care back then.

  4. says

    This was a touching story even if it was about a bunch of tough guys. You wrote it in a way that allowed me to see into their hearts. Well done. Thanks. Stopping by from TRDC

  5. says

    When Hubby and I talk about having another child, this is what I picture if it were to be a girl… with 3 older brothers, she would have serious roadblocks to get through before she would ever date LOL
    Great post!!

  6. says

    Now that is true love and affection! I just want to hug them all…what a great group of guys. Well told memory…makes me wish I had my own set of soft-hearted body guards :)

  7. says

    Loved this. Loved it so much. I can ‘see’ those boys so clearly. Having sons of my own, I am all maternal and want to hug them. Boys are such strange creatures – often withholding obvious, tactile affection but offering so much more in other ways. Bless.

    I had an older brother and I am certain he made similar threats. Sadly, I was boy-mad and his threats were no match for my flirtation… Poor boys, they never stood a chance.

    But I do love that my brother tried…

    • says

      I think all of my brothers were troubled by how to protect me, and did their own things without a word to me. I’m so glad I found out, even if it was much later. It is nice to see their sweetness.

      I love that you were too flirty for your bother to stand a chance – lol!

  8. says

    I loved reading this. My heart hurt for you for not knowing why no one ever went out with you… and then it softened so much as I saw that the revelation you were given was powerfully impacting to you in a positive way. I’m so glad you included your personal thoughts after the prompt here. So much about you in this entry and in the notes section afterward. I would love to know if your relationship with your brother, and any of his friends that stuck around until now, has been deepened with you knowing how they loved you in this way.

    • says

      My brother and I live on opposite coasts, and have only seen each other a handful of times in the past 10 years. I hold no ill will, but the way he and I deal with Life has moved us in different directions. I also no longer live near where we grew up, and he lives even further than me.
      I feel a connection to them, an appreciation, all of them, despite their being scattered all over the globe now. I just don’t know whether they can feel it. i hope in a way, somehow, they do.
      I know word has ‘gotten round’ that I’ve done okay for myself, I’m happy and have kids and a great husband. They all seem pleased with that. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t ask about me, I don’t think. So that’s good.

  9. says

    This was amazing! I love how you thought outside the box with affection not having to be a physical touch. The way you described their actions as hugs and hand-holding – brilliant! So glad you found me through TRDC so I could find you. :)

    • says

      Thanks – it was annoying to be so darn dateless in high school. But when i realized what they allowed me to become, that they did so much for me without ever telling me? Every dateless night was 100% worth it. I wouldn’t be who I am today, in the great marriage I’m in today, if it weren’t for those boys protecting me.

  10. says

    I found your website originally I think from the Suburban Snapshots blogroll. But I found THIS post after you posted The Lightning Bug link on Facebook. I enjoyed it very much, and thanks for the “writer’s” link!

  11. says

    I loved this post when you shared it with The Red Dress Club. As soon as I read that first paragraph, I was reminded just how much I loved it. I still want to hug that amazing group of boys. And your last line…seriously, amazing. I don’t think I commented on that the first time around, but really, it fit the piece perfectly.

  12. Sandra aka bunny mommy mom mommeee iwantyou says

    wow…that was the sweetest short i’ve read in a long time. loved it…loved it…loved it. i saw the dudes, saw you and felt the silent way they loved and took care of you. wonderful. please submit that to any/all mags. fantastic!

    i would have liked your bro…maybe even swooned over him. like you, i had beautiful girlfriends and i, too, was a guy’s girl. my life would have been so different if my brother was around to shelter me – as he did when i was little. my bro would have beat the living tar out of my HS boyfriend who physically abused me. but, such is life. instead i waited for the opportunity to walk out, to take care of myself. i wonder what i could have accomplished cause it took YEARS to overcome the trauma from that relationship.

    thanks for sharing! awesome writing. please submit to mags! it needs to be published.

    • Let Me Start By Saying says

      Wow, what a reply! Thank you!
      They were all so Too Cool For School, which makes it even sweeter. Which is why I did a double-take when I realized what my brother was telling me, when he finally told me.
      Sorry you had an asshat for a HS boyfriend. May he get what he deserves.
      Thanks for such kind compliments about this piece – glad you liked it!

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