Susan Anderson

If I were to hear from folks that I’ve touched or hugged, how many would tell me they were offended or that I was invading their personal space? Is my behavior a manifestation of the Joe Biden syndrome?

As an adult, I’ve often shared a friendly or sympathetic touch, maybe a pat on the arm or shoulder. If the situation warranted it, even a hug.

My mother was that way, too, and my dad, though he was more likely to do so with family or close friends.

We're huggers

My older brother is a touchy-feely kind of guy, too. There’ve been times that I’ve seen him put a friendly arm around a person other than a family member or close friend.

I’ve wanted to warn him that in our current culture his physical contact may not be so welcome. But he’s so innocent about it. So very “wanting to be friendly.” I figure he’ll get the message when he gets smacked or someone’s daddy punches him.

Especially in my younger (thinner) years, I received unwelcome attention in either very overt or merely suggestive conversation, rarely physical touch. There was a period when my self-confidence was so low that I accepted those verging-on-rude overtures as compliments.

Now I see that was wrong and simply reinforced bad manners in those “gentlemen” (sarcastically speaking).

Does anyone have sympathy for poor Mr. Biden? His public apology for his lack of awareness seemed genuine. He comes across as a friendly and affectionate older gentleman, a grandfather or uncle type. That’s likely how he sees himself.

He says he’s just trying to make a human connection, to show people that he cares. And because I’m also a “touchy” person, I doubt I’d have been offended at his behavior.

Of course, it would be helpful if he’d be more in tune with how people respond to his friendly ways.

Watching the videos and reading about his interactions with women I wonder – with those unwanted touches, did he not feel them tense up? Yet couldn’t the women have moved away, or at least afterward expressed their discomfort so that he’d been made aware of it and could have apologized?

Questionable timing

I understand that the immediate situation might have been uncomfortable and the receivee of the unwelcome touch may have been embarrassed to speak up.

Yet now it seems unfair, after so much time has passed (over 10 years in one instance) to accuse him publicly.

To Biden’s credit, there have been no reports of inappropriate sexual contact. That would be a different situation, and totally unforgiveable.

Is it different with women who touch? Four times I searched the web for variations of “do women get accused of inappropriate touching?” Every time but one, the only hits were about Biden.

Women are accused of sexual misconduct and unwelcome advances, but not nearly as often as men. Perhaps it’s rare for a woman’s friendly touch to be misinterpreted. After all women are generally more emotional, more sensitive, generally less aggressive – and like Biden, affectionate.

Please understand

If I seem overly friendly, it’s out of caring and concern. If you feel offended or that your personal space has been invaded, please be forgiving.

After all, I’m just a touchy-feely kind of gal afflicted with the Biden Syndrome.

Susan Anderson lives in Opelika and writes a feature column for the Opelika-Auburn News. She can be contacted at

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