The kind of skin you can see through

3 04 2019

“Don’t touch me!”

That was pretty much my mantra throughout my teen years and into college. No hugs, no kisses, no thank you.

There’s no trauma beneath that, just an angry, depressed and otherwise-articulate kid who couldn’t figure out any other way to set boundaries, be they physical or emotional.

As I got older I eased up, and today can reasonably tolerate and even enjoy non-romantic physical affection. (Except for holding hands: hate that.) It’s been years and years since I’ve flinched at a friendly arm flung around my shoulder.

Which is good; flinching is socially awkward. Also, given that I live in a city in which I am often snug up against others on the train or bus—although most of us have the decency to pretend we each have our own space—it’s probably for the best I don’t freak when I don’t have at least 36″ between me and the next person.

You know what this is leading to, right? Fuckin’ Joe Biden.

I’ve certainly enjoyed the ‘Uncle Joe’ of the Obama years, the Onion bits about Camaro Joe and the guy who’d ‘get out over his skis,’ but it was always a scam—hell, I enjoyed it because it was a scam.

Oh, sure, he might really (really) like gettin’ up close ‘n personal (in that hoarse-whispered Scranton ‘Joey’) way, but the man was a senator from the state of banking and credit for decades and ended up VP and, jesus, you gotta be full of knives if you’re going to get anywhere in DC.

Especially if you’re going to be as folksy as Joe.

In fact, that folksiness was, if not all, then certainly also about the power. He was the one who pulled you in, who cracked the slightly-off jokes, who caressed your shoulders, and, uh, sniffed your hair—not you. He may not have been mean or nasty, but he was in charge. He liked being in charge.

There’s no point in disentangling motives: the power granted him the leeway to be touchy-feely, and the touchy-feely-ness perpetuated the power. It’s not complicated: he likes both.

I never met Biden and don’t know how I would have reacted had he leaned in, uninvited, toward me, but I’d like to think my inner teenager would have reared up and snarled.