Hands All Over

It seems my whole life from birth until age 16 was one big growth spurt. This ceaseless continuing expansion of spine and limbs to form a pale gangly parade of gesticulations that became me. It wasn't always a beautiful expansion, that is for sure.

There were growing pains, literally, and I still have stretch marks on my thighs from the years when my ankles seemed to always be running away from my pants.

And during all this time, while I was an active, energetic, and gregarious kid, I was also the most ticklish human being on the planet.

This is not hyperbole.

Every part of my body was ticklish.

Feet - Check
Under the arms - Check
Neck - Holy Cow Check

Being tickled is one of those things I don't quite understand, kind of like the hiccups.

As children, we all get tickled. It is how our parents and relatives get cheap laughs out of us. It starts with coochy coo and all that crap. And then at a certain point it turns into something way more intense and borederline violent.

I don't remember when, but a certain point in my childhood, being tickled went from a funny fun thing to something I hate. Something I dreaded.

I was almost always unsuccessful in getting whomever it was to stop ticking me because I was laughing. And nobody thinks the person giggling is being serious. But people laugh at the wrong time regularly. This is something that would pop up later in my life. Like when I quit one of my many jobs and my boss didn't believe me.

Boss: You're joking.
Rich: No I'm not.
Boss: Yes you are.
Rich: No, really.
Boss: Then why are you smiling so big?
Rich: Because I'm so uncomfortable!

The shrieks of PLEASE, NO, and STOOP usually weren't heeded until the offending tickler was out of breath or lost interest. Didn't anybody else realize being tickled wasn't fun? Why did this keep happening?

Being tickled became something I was very careful to avoid.

Needless to say, I was incredibly unsuccessful at avoid being tickled.

It's pretty much the equivalent of adult gossip. Once one adult finds out that you are ticklish, the news spreads like wildfire, and before you know it you've got strange people at family parties jamming their fingers into your ribs asking you if you're ticklish. This, from my perspective at least, was a horrible way to go about it.

It didn't even give me a chance to lie or to bluff my way out of being tickled. Not that I was a good liar anyway. I've never been a good liar. When I lie I either cry or my voice goes up 12 octaves, sometimes both at the same time. And nobody believes the kid who sounds like a wet train whistle.

It didn't help that I was extremely ticklish and extremely gangly. Any time that I was tickled it was like I had been dipped in water and plugged into a socket. My whole body erupted in a fit of comical spasms trying desperately to get away from whatever was causing me such physical discomfort.

The worst for me though was always my neck. I had a very ticklish neck.

So much so that when my neighbors realized I had such a ticklish neck they coined the term a "Richard Neck." Anybody who had a ticklish neck had a Richard neck. I suppose there are worse things in life to have named after you. But "he of the ticklish" neck is not something that ages well.

At it's worst I would wander around parties at my neighbor's house dodging hands like I was in a sea of deadly jelly fish. It took a traumatic experience for all of the tickling to to, if not stop, at least become less frequent.

It was one of the days when my neighbor across the street was babysitting me. We were sitting on the couch watching TV. I was 7 or 8 years old, a pile of pale sticks. At a certain point the tickling ensued. And I went full possum, curling up into a ball trying to block off all readily accessible points of sensitivity, screaming and giggling and begging my babysitter to stop.

But amongst all the wriggling and writhing, once I had curled up into a ball there was only one direction for my legs to go, and that was out.

I don't know if I kicked my babysitter directly in the head, but it was pretty much the case.

The tickling stopped immediately.

I probably would have felt worse about it had it been my fault (it wasn't, being tickled is the equivalent of temporary insanity) or had I not begged her to stop (it might not have been clear English but come on, people know being tickled is the worst).

It was a hard lesson for all involved.

Over time I grew out of my Richard Neck for the most part. It was an extremely gratifying experience too. Somebody would reach out and try to tickle my neck and I'd sit there, unfazed watching the bitter realization rise up in their cheeks like a barometer of disappointment.

"Oh, you're not ticklish anymore?"

Damn right I'm not, now get out of here before I kick you in the head.

Well I didn't say that, but I might as well have. It was a stake in the ground, a moment of evolution, an inflection point. I had shrieked off my last tickle.

And while I miss much about my youth, specifically giggling into hysteria, I don't miss when the cause was tickling.

Nor do I encourage you to help me relive those days by touching my neck.

If you value your head, stay away from my neck.