Thursday, 2 September 2010

A Foot Massage Parlour

Vincent: Have you ever given a foot massage?
Jules: [scoffs] Don't be tellin' me about foot massages. I'm the foot fuckin' master.
Vincent: Given a lot of 'em?
Jules: Shit yeah. I got my technique down and everything, I don't be ticklin' or nothin'.
Vincent: Would you give a guy a foot massage?
[Jules gives Vincent a long look, realizing he's been set up]
Jules: Fuck you.
Vincent: You give them a lot?
Jules: Fuck you.
Vincent: You know, I'm getting kinda tired. I could use a foot massage myself.
Jules: Man, you best back off, I'm gittin' a little pissed here.
(Pulp Fiction)

I was watching The Libertines reunited on telly the other night and noticed something that I thought was super cute. Carl grabbed Pete around the neck and sort of hugged him in this friendly-brotherly fashion. This act caught my attention because it was so natural, so emotional and somehow very… not British.

If I happen to sit next to my mother on the sofa, she would often rub my feet or back. (This is one of the reasons I keep her here for ages whenever she visits)
Husband says it is like sitting in a massage parlour. He thinks it is very bizarre that my mother happily massages my feet or hugs me so often. ‘Constantly gropes you’, he corrects. Whatever!

You see, English people do not usually cuddle or kiss, or hug each other, unless it leads to sex.

And, thinking of that, I suddenly realized that, having been married for quite a long time, I have never really seen my mother in law hug Husband. Yes, she would give him a kiss hello, or a kiss goodbye, a happy birthday or a Merry Christmas one. But not just a hug. And, I would like to point out, that husband is very close to his mother. But not so close that she would massage his feet, which I have to admit, I would find somewhat disturbing.

OK, I get the foot massage aspect. But what about a hug?

‘I am middle-aged! We grow out of that!’ Husband said. Why should anyone have to ever grow out of being hugged by their parent?

It never occurred to me before how weird our touchy-feely attitude must appear to the Brits. My mother and I might walk arm in arm or hold hands in public. I wonder if we look like a slightly odd lesbian couple. But it is not only Azeris who like to hug a lot. My American girlfriend is very different from any of my British friends. She would snuggle up to me or happily walk arm in arm. In fact, I remember sitting on the old sofa in her Baku apartment, rubbing each other’s feet, drinking Bailey’s and watching Friends.

I can’t even imagine what reaction I would get from my British girlfriends if I suddenly reached over and started rubbing their feet, or decide to snuggle up to them on a couch. (Not that I have any urge to do so). I bet it would paralyze them with fear. And, having lived in the UK for ten years, I forget what it is like outside the British norms. Having my mother visit, or going to NY to stay with my American girlfriend shifts something in my head and forces me to reprogram. And yet, living here has clearly had some impact on how I view personal space. Whenever I go back home, I get alarmed when people stand too close to me in shops, reaching over and pushing forward. I find it strange when my cousin tries to hook her arm through mine while taking a stroll in a park. And I definitely don’t want to massage anyone’s feet, unless....well, unless they belong to my little girl.


  1. Peruvians kiss each other a lot, especially as a greeting or a good-bye. I didn't notice how unusual may that be to other people until I attended the Global Voices Summit this last May.
    So, I kind of know the feelings you shared with this post.

  2. haha :) my Mom must be British then (via Ukraine), she never hugged me & still doesn't. My child on the other hand is hugging it out with all of us all the time. So is her Dad, who also gives excellent foot rubs.

  3. I come from a touchy-feely culture, and kiss and hug all the time, but must confess that I find the idea of foot rubs a bit weird :-) I wonder how this habit emerged...

  4. Hmmmm Did any of my grand grand parents commit adultery with a Brit and passed me the genes? I hate to be touched by anybody (except by my son and my better half of course); How unlucky for me that French kiss, hug and touch a lot. You hardly remember what a person's name is and there he or she is - approching to kiss you on the cheek. URRGH - Very disturbing. Always like to hug you and other good friends though

  5. Also Greeks are very cuddling among close relatives.