May 2, 2017

How a Vowelless Word Healed my Heart.

“Tall, dark and…modest 😉 Genuine, cwtchy and looking for a princess :)”

Whether it was this dashing Welsh prince’s Tinder profile pic that first caught my attention or the evidently misspelled word that appeared to be missing some vowels, is hard to say. Regardless, they both piqued my interest.

It turns out the word cwtch (pronounced kutch—rhymes with butch) wasn’t misspelled at all, and, in my opinion, is one that needs to be adopted into every language. The beauty it conveys…pure magic.

A few years ago, I landed a contract recruiting position trading the comforts of home to embark on a three-month journey on the road. Six weeks in America, a couple in England, and one fateful train ride later, I arrived in Aberystwyth, Wales. The city where my love affair with this near-vowelless language and it’s quirky, yet poetic, words began.

It’s funny, I have always felt a connection to the Celts, with Ireland being my first love and now Wales following suit. There’s something about these countries that call me home—the beauty of the land and, more importantly, their people that have touched my heart deeply. It wasn’t so strange that now language was added to that list.

Upon swiping right and finding myself matched with the Welsh prince, moments later, a message arrived. I quickly learned that he was actually in a city four hours away, but I had to know more about this “cwtchy” thing and why he felt it would make him Tinder’s greatest catch. As soon as he began sharing his heart, I was mesmerized. I was falling in love…with the cwtch.

In his gorgeous Welsh accent, the prince first shared the less romantic notion of a cwtch: a cupboard or a place to safely store something. Then he went on to share its other meaning. “In English, it would be best equated to a hug,” he said.

“However, it goes far beyond just wrapping our arms around someone. It translates as offering another a safe place or haven—one that is found in our arms,” He explained.

Silence followed. I was speechless.

This concept was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. Not just comforting someone by hugging them, but actually offering them a place where they could escape to—one safe from whatever they required protection from.

Perhaps it was the lack of sleep on this crazy journey I was on—or the several pints of cider that I had just consumed that was doing a number on my mind. This just seemed too much for me to wrap my head around and I needed to hear it again.

“Okay. So basically you’re a real ‘huggy’ kinda’ guy, then?” I pressed.

“No, Kal. Cwtching is amazing. It’s something us Welsh do the best! And being cwtchy—well, I hope I get the chance to show you, actually [winking emoji].”

At this point, with the seemingly innocent words that flowed so beautifully from his mouth, I wondered if this was the greatest line in the history of the world and whether he would become the first Brit to actually play me for a fool. I snapped myself out of the trance his melodic voice put me in and quickly came to my senses.

“I think I should let you know, I’m not that type of girl, prince—like for real.” I challenged. “As lovely as this cwtch thingy sounds, I can promise it won’t land you this Canadian gal!”

He sounded sincere as he went on to explain that I had it all wrong about both him and the cwtch, stating that he wasn’t after anything but the chance to meet a lovely Canadian girl. Oddly enough, the place where this man lived just happened to be my next stop in Wales.

Within days of me arriving, the prince and I met. Everything about our initial connection was so easy. Yes, there definitely seemed to be a spark and he was very handsome and incredibly gentlemanly—opening doors, doting on me in every way—but there was more.

From the moment our eyes met, I felt safe. Getting in a car with a stranger isn’t something I typically do, but I didn’t even give it a second thought when he said he’d pick me up at six for our first date. It doesn’t happen often, but some people have that effect on us—we just feel safe. We aren’t even always aware of it at the moment, but that feeling is undeniable and in its absence, we long for it again. That feeling was threaded through our conversation, which didn’t allow for a second of silence.

We laughed until the tears poured from our eyes over cultural “differences”—why on earth the man drank Coors Light with so many delicious local pints to choose from I’ll never understand—yet also shared intimate details about our past relationships and everything in between. It was like we were long lost friends finally catching up.

Our first date did lead to a second, and it was one like I’ve never experienced before. It consisted of two virtual strangers, engaged in a cwtch and lovely conversation for nearly four hours.

No, not a night of mad passion where we couldn’t wait to rip each other’s clothes off, but a fully dressed, most beautiful night of innocence where I experienced a type of intimacy that I never had before.

Although the Welsh prince coming into my life was no accident, our innocent romance ended there. It quickly became clear that we were better suited as friends. However, my love affair with the cwtch continued to blossom and I was fascinated as to why. I didn’t feel the same affinity for the word “hug,” or any word for that matter. How was it that I actually had developed feelings for a string of letters?

Reflecting back on how I lived my life for the 10 years prior to arriving in Wales, I found my answer. I experienced a heartbreak and a loss—which I was equally responsible for—but at the time was beyond anything I was prepared for or knew how to accept.

It devastated me and I withdrew from anything that even remotely hinted at a relationship with a man. After taking plenty of time to heal and understand what had gone so wrong, I thought I was ready to get back in the game. I even did get back in the game…or so I thought. But man, did I absolutely suck at the game.

Even when I kicked off a three-year period of being mostly out of the country and meeting worldly men from every corner of the globe—unintentionally—I remained very detached. The times someone had my attention, they either lost it shortly after or were completely unavailable.

What had been missing from my life was any sense of feeling safe with a man or having the ability to trust one, but I came to understand that it wasn’t the men I chose or even losing the man I once loved. Due to my inability to trust my gut when things had begun to fall apart in my past relationship, I had wrongly assumed and internalized all of the blame when it failed—and it took a toll.

My inability to trust myself had left me yearning for the safety of a place where I could trust, and in the cwtch, it had been found.

The combination of an attraction, vulnerability, and being in the arms of a man who I barely knew, while sharing intimate details about our lives was intense. In those moments, the cwtch tore down the walls that stood firm for nearly a decade. Because I had not allowed myself to be this emotionally available since my last relationship, it was a pivotal shift for me. The cwtch represented everything that had been missing from my life for so long— emotional intimacy and a sense of comfort with a man. Feeling like I could just be me, all while feeling safe— feeling euphoric.

My fascination and love for this enchanting word has taken me on a remarkable journey. Dancing back and forth between exploration and self-discovery, my beautiful life in Wales (sans-prince), allowed the warmth of my new Welsh family to infiltrate my jaded heart. The serendipities that followed were even more remarkable and further tore down my walls. They guided me back to where I belong, which all led me to share these words with you now.

The cwtch and I continue our dance, as I delve more into this concept of feeling safe—to help others, myself, as well as a place I can offer someone special in the future. As it stands, there is no Welsh prince in the cards for me, and my brief Tinder experiment has long been put to rest. I remain hopeful though.

Who knows…maybe someday I’ll find my Irish king.



Author: Kalyani Santher
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Halley Hadfield

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