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I met a friend of mine last week. She is a very enthusiastic person, to the point that you can’t help but be in a good mood around her. It’s almost as if her enthusiasm is contagious. We met at an “ultra lounge” in an upscale part of Portland called the Pearl District. A place that up until recently, I would have been uncomfortable going into. It was great catching up with her after an almost 10 years of not having any contact.

The thing that struck me was her enthusiasm. During the conversation, she was very animated. Like myself, she talks with bold hand gestures. Unlike me, she has a habit of touching you when she speaks to you. I liked the fact that she felt comfortable enough with me to do so. We had a great reunion. I think she shows she is comfortable in her own skin and with me. I wish I had that ability. I don’t know if she even realized that she was doing it. I don’t remember having this reaction and experience with her in the past. I don’t think she actively avoided it, it was more that I put out the vibe that I was receptive to it. In fact, I don’t remember people in general doing this to me when I was heavier. I am not sure it has anything to do with my weight or not. At the size I was, you put out a general “unhealthy” look. I didn’t look like I had just gotten out of doing time in a Turkish prison, but I am sure I didn’t look like the picture of health either. People read all sorts of things in how you look. I know I am guilty of this as well. People want to associate with a healthy looking person. This is why Marlboro uses the cowboy to sell its smokes. Good looking, capable, boot wearing, 6’4” healthy guy riding the range and sucking on a cancer stick. No one wants to see a guy speaking through a voice box hacking up a lung pitching cigarettes. As humans, we want to be around healthy people.

It always meant so much to me that people would make that connection, and it always made me feel like one of the “normal” people. I spent a lot of time just trying to fit in which wasn’t easy, considering my size. It seems to happen more and more as I have lost weight.

I have never been an overly affectionate with my friends. I really wish I was. I always wanted to be able to be comfortable with that, but I never wanted to put someone off. I was never a guy to hug or just touch people during a conversation. One of my biggest fears would be to go to touch someone and have them recoil.

I used to work with a guy that would walk up behind women we worked with and massage their shoulders. He was so unaware of body language, it made me uncomfortable to watch him. These ladies would do everything but pull away from him. They would cringe, and I would watch as they went out of their way to avoid him. I don’t think I have his creepy factor. (At least, I hope I don’t, but that’s something that you wouldn’t really know about yourself.) This guy wasn’t a real deep thinking Socrates anyway. He gave the impression that at any minute he would reach down and cop a feel. I think he felt like he was god’s gift to the ladies. He was a guy that I would diagnose as suffering from high self esteem.

Eventually, he lost his job and I lost track of him…not that keeping track of this tool was high on my list to begin with. After he left, people commented on how glad they were that he was gone. I am not sure what happened to him, but I’m guessing he spends his day at home dressed as a clown, cleaning his guns.

I have known people that are able to make you feel very important when they are speaking to you. I think that’s a rare skill. The human touch can play a big part in this and it can be such an amazing way to connect. I would like to make that connection, but I don’t want to risk acquiring the creepy reputation.

I can vividly remember people moving to avoid me when I was lumbering along. You could see it in their eyes, it was a look with a scrunched up face like they just smelled the cat box. Then, they would move aside in an obvious way. I am still very aware of the people around me, and am very careful to be vigilant when I move.

I have noticed that in general, people are now more open. I get a quick smile from most people when I am in public, and people don’t move away. So far, I think that’s one of the best changes I have encountered.

Paul

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