It’s well documented that hugs, cuddles and other less obvious types of human physical contact stimulate oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone. For the sake of clarity I’ll just add that I’m not talking anything kinky or weird involving a giant Donald Duck costume, simply those fleeting touches like a reassuring squeeze of the shoulder or a pat on the back.
We’re hard-wired for that to occur, apparently and you can see how it makes the difference in all sorts of relationships. It’s the glue that binds couples in relationships and probably plays a big part in binding owners to their pets, except in the case of stick insects and hissing cockroaches.
It’s a physical thing that creates warm feelings. So I’m wondering whether that’s what happens when people clean their cars and when you decorate your house.
The guys out cleaning their cars on a Sunday as a matter of unbreakable tradition are bonding with their treasured vehicles. The BMW isn’t likely to come back with “oh baby more on the wheel arch, oh yeah” but these guys are showing similar levels of care to that of a mother and her baby, evidenced by the way they have immaculate garages in which to closet their little treasures at night.
As far as homes go, you are caring for your home in a physical way when you sand those skirting boards and brush on that eggshell paint. Why shouldn’t it trigger the same bonding hormones as stroking a cat on your lap?
I remember our first house – a three bed detached 1930’s job bought from an old lady who was moving to a bungalow. It had a long back garden ideal for veggie-growing, big rooms and terrible wallpaper. So the wallpaper came off, revealing walls with all the solidity of a digestive biscuit.
Capt Sensible and I filled so many holes that the walls were mostly Polyfilla in the end – and of course required many many coats of emulsion to hide the “snowstorm” effect. Where the walls were just too bumpy and pocked to emulsion, we put up our own wallpaper.
It was a large wavy pattern of slime-green, beige and dark brown – with a generous two foot pattern repeat. The multi-coloured waves waved from ceiling to floor like psychedelic oarweed. It was on the wall behind the sofa so you didn’t have to look at it too much, which was just as well as it was a hallucinatory kind of pattern. If you had a bit of a temperature, it would definitely oscillate. I chose it. It was cooler than anything in Habitat.
It was the first wallpaper I ever hung. My ultra-patient, careful, millimetre-accurate wallpapering – use of plumb-bob and everything (with a pattern like that, you can’t be “out” at the corners) was definitely a kind of bonding.
It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I defended it against all criticism.
“Who the hell chose that wallpaper? Someone with strabismus?”
“You must have at least *considered* changing that wallpaper…?”
Or occasionally just “Whoah….. jeez. Just let me sit down. NO NOT THERE – somewhere I don’t have to look at that wall…”
I’d tell people that it was a courageous state-of-the-art, kind of wallpaper. When we sold the house, seven years after moving there, it was still up. Some traditions just need to be respected and upheld. We were duty-bound to leave some hideous wallpaper for the new people.