During the last Rainforest World Music Festival, I got to know this girl Jo.
Jo and I eventually ended up becoming pretty close friends. It's been many months since then, but we still meet up whenever we can.
During one of our "mindless soul-baring sessions" not long ago, Jo told me something I didn't realise that happened on the night we first met.
To paint the picture here, we were at the beach where a small group of revellers who attended the music festival were congregating.
There was an open fire, drums beating, people dancing. It was a relaxed atmosphere and everyone was just out there chilling out, having fun.
A common friend of ours spotted Jo and introduced us to each other. It was the first time I've met her, so I did the normal thing by making a small talk and socialising.
But while I was doing that, my hand was unwittingly placed behind Jo's back.
No, I'm not grabbing her arse or anything. Just comfortably placed on the small of her back while she yelled into my ears, because hey, there were drums there and it was loud!
It wasn't until months after that incident that Jo told me she was actually feeling uncomfortable that I was physically touching her that night.
Seeing as how I was a total stranger and it was only the first time we met, she thought it was kinda inappropriate. And when she revealed that to me, I felt like crap! There was nothing malicious at all about that hand behind her back, but I felt bad because I was making her feel uncomfortable.
Suddenly, I felt like a sexual molester!
I mean, I thought it should be ok that I was touching her, because everyone that night was in a relaxed social mood after all. We're at a music festival! And after she was introduced to me by our friend, I wanna get to know her better. As a friend.
But then again, she could be right. It was only the first time I met her and I shouldn't assume that she's ok with physical contact. Like me placing my hand on the small of her back for the whole conversation. Everybody has different boundaries when it comes to physical contact and just because I think it's ok doesn't mean she'll be fine with it. I can understand that.
But then again! I don't know lah. No one has ever told me what is right or what is wrong also. How am I supposed to know when to touch or when not to touch, right?
What exactly is the protocol when it comes to guys touching girls?
I think I'm terribly confused because I was brought up in a strict family and a conservative Chinese school; then suddenly I was thrown into a more open Western society in Australia where I was introduced to the world of hugging, cheek-kissing and stroking.
Then suddenly I was thrown back into Kuching where one half of society are brought up with conservative Eastern values, and the other half are brought with the more affectionate Western style of socialising. Now I'm getting all confused when to initiate physical contact and when to keep my hands to myself.
Of course, people would be tempted to say "Just keep your hands to yourself lah! Stay on the safe side." But... I don't think that's a normal thing for people to do!
Sure, there are cases where I choose to be on the conservative sides. In a professional environment at work or when I'm meeting some respected figures, a handshake is usually the most I would go. But in a social environment like in a club, a party or a music fest where we're out to get to know new people, I think we should be able to do more than that, right?
I think we human beings are like pet animals. Guys or girls, we like to be stroked and touched and played with sometimes. Sounds kinda wrong, but it's true.
It's a form of bonding. I am always closer to friends I have hugged or touched, compared to female friends with whom the only form of physical contact I had with was a handshake.
But then some human beings are like tigers. We can touch, but if we're not careful we will kena bitten by them.
Are girls nowadays that uncomfortable of being touched by a guy they met for the first time?
Or am I just too scary?