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Keeping up with Kincaid: what is my love language?

Laken Kincaid
Editor-in-Chief, Laken Kincaid, reflects on their thoughts from the past week.

A statement that I think has to be in a biography about my life, should it ever be written, is one from my mother on how I behaved as a baby. She says consistently “whenever we tried to hug or kiss you, you would push us away. Well, unless it was for pictures.”

While I typically detest children, I must admit I would especially hate being around a younger version of myself. Not only was I afflicted with colic for no good reason other than it just being a part of the grand lore of Laken, but I was an ardent hater of physical touch and confinement. I apparently also only seemed happy for the camera, so add “fake” to that list of off putting characteristics as well.

To this day, my family uses that same excuse as to why I despise embraces, hand holding or any other overt and external gesture of love; they say “you’ve always hated hugs” and leave it at that, potentially to save their own ego. Of course, sometimes, my immediate family members try to squeeze a bit of affection out of me, all while saying “I know you hate this, but I’m your [insert relation here].” My somatic reactions are that of real currency in the Kincaid (and Learmonth if we want to go up the family tree) household.

As with any potential negative trait in my life, I tried to deny this and fervently broadcasted to the world that my love language is actually physical touch! Shocker! When immediately met with laughter at this statement, I would reveal results from an online test that I screenshotted which affirmed this claim. This was often followed by those around me saying I rigged the assessment and needed to retake it in an honest manner.

Well, consider this an affidavit of sorts, but I am writing this as an admittance: physical touch is NOT my love language. In fact, if there was a quiz to establish the quickest route to annoy a person or make them panic, this result would be high up on the ledger. The only thing worse would be receiving (not giving) gifts, but we will get to that.

For a while, I always thought that high fives or enfolding someone in your arms were the sole ways to show that you care and that I was just a broken cog in an overly intimate machine. Even in my pesky middle school relationships that went nowhere past homeroom, I would hug my partners not because it felt natural, but because that is what I observed on Disney Channel and what I watched my peers do in the hallways. They would wear the varsity jackets of their lovers and walk with their fingers interlaced between P.E. and world geography. I sought to fit in, not to showcase my fondness.

This expectation of physical touch being the alpha conduit of emotional expression is potentially also cultural. In the south, it is customary to hug not only your loved ones but even complete strangers that pray over you in a Walmart parking lot. After all, words without deeds are worthless and just saying you appreciate a person has no grounds compared to a kiss on the cheek. I was caught in a riptide, forced to swim along the shore and conform to both the looming status quo as well as the environmental suppositions. This position also imposed a rather deep discontent towards the pedagogy of emotional sacrifice and the institution of marriage, but that is a column for another time.

While there are quite a few differences between residents of Cleveland and those from Crab Orchard, some of which are better than others, I think one of my favorite changes is that there is no assumption that adoration must be tactile in Ohio. Instead, if you are too touchy-feely around the wrong people, you are told to kick rocks. This reaction is perfectly acceptable in my book.

Currently, the primary method of which I want to receive love is words of affirmation. I seldom give weight to baseless comments built on nothing but earning good karma in the eyes of the universe. Personally, there is nothing more rewarding to me than hearing a person that I trust and admire say “I am proud of you.” Naturally, the more specific the assertion the better because it illustrates that the person has spent time carefully cultivating a compliment like an artisan would do with their craftsmanship. For example, one time while marching in a parade, a stranger turned to me and unpromptedly said “you look radiant.” I cherish these words just as much as a work of art.

Very close on this ranking of preferred love languages is acts of service. As a neurodivergent individual who is constantly checking things off their winding to-do list, picking up food from the Inn Between or double-checking on assignments for me is life-changing. One of my favorite ways my mentors and friends alike do this is by watching the current show I am obsessing over, listening to the album of the musical I am in or tuning into my radio show to hear a shout out. These actions show that I actually take up space in a person’s mind and they care enough to allegorize it.

This also comes in the form of something called “pebbling,” which Urban Dictionary describes as “the art of giving people small seemingly meaningless items/gifts as a way of showing your love for them.” I know this goes against my disdain for receiving gifts, but pebbling is different. As mentioned above, it proves that I am more than a fleeting thought or a character that only exists inside someone’s nine-to-five lifestyle. Undoubtedly I despise receiving presents, mostly because the social norms are a bit too complex to grasp. Yet, the small act of showing that you thought about me is worth more than any ribbon wrapping.

All of this comes under the guise that love is not limited to the romantic kind or else I would consistently find myself entirely without the feeling (ENTJ type beat). Instead, these methods of emotional communication span all of my relationships from familial to philia. Along with growing up thinking that love had to be physical, I was also under the impression that love had to always be amorous in nature with friendships and coaching taking a backseat. Yet, I find that with unshackling myself from the binding dogma that endearment is corporal, I simultaneously realize that love is just as strong and important for all walks of life and in all bonds.

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About the Contributor
Laken Kincaid, Editor-in-Chief
Laken Kincaid is the Editor-in-Chief for The Carroll News from Beckley, West Virginia. They are a senior at John Carroll University who is double majoring in political science and communications (digital media) and minoring in leadership development. Laken has written for The Carroll News since the start of their freshman year and has previously served as a staff reporter, campus section editor and managing editor of the paper. They have received 18 Best of SNO awards, a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for Region 4 and two honorable mentions from the College Media Association. They have also been recognized by universities like Georgetown for their investigative reports. Additionally, they also write political satire for The Hilltop Show and feature stories on global poverty for The Borgen Project. In addition to their involvement with The Carroll News, Laken is involved with the Kappa Delta sorority, the speech and debate team, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Improv club and other organizations. They also serve as the news director for WJCU 88.7, John Carroll's own radio station, and as the president for John Carroll's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.  Laken also started their own national nonprofit organization known as Art with the Elderly which they have won the President's Volunteer Service Award and the Humanity Rising Award for. When not writing, Laken can be found doing graphic design for their internship with Union Home Mortgage or working as a resident assistant and peer learning facilitator on campus. Laken also enjoys skiing and watching true crime documentaries. In the future, Laken hopes to become a political journalist for a national news organization or to be a campaign commercial editor for politicians. To contact Laken, email them at [email protected].

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