While I have written before on the Power of Touch, I’d like to hit it again, with a slightly different approach. And this one’s going to be walking a pretty fine line for some of you, so be forewarned.
As I’ve said, I’m a pretty huggy person. But I’ve been thinking about how our society has some things backward, at least in my opinion. It seems like the overwhelming attitude is that people are expected to be free with their sexual relationships, but stingy with meaningful touch. When two people form a close bond of friendship, whether it is two women, two men, or a man and a woman, certain types of physical contact draw raised eyebrows as to whether their relationship is inappropriate. I’m not really trying to open up the gay/lesbian debate here, I’m mostly just wondering why a frivolous attitude toward sexual intimacy seems to be encouraged, but just touching people is an anathema.
I was kind of surprised that just after I had started writing this post, a friend of mine posted a link to a review about the “Touching Strangers” project. The project itself was not what struck me as odd, it was that I know that this particular friend is not typically a touchy-feely kind of person, and he thought the project was a great idea. Think about it: have you ever caught yourself an instant before you are about to touch someone else, and wondered if it would make them feel uncomfortable, or be misinterpreted by someone else?
Especially in the US, we seem to be very reluctant to touch our friends in a caring way, and I think that is definitely to our detriment. Sure, we need to speak, share time, have moments of communion with one another to really form a strong bond, but sometimes a touch can communicate so much more than words, and sometimes we simply can’t find the words we need. If we refrain from reaching out in those moments, we are keeping our relationship from being all it could be.
Since more and more of our interactions end up being electronic in nature, I expect this will probably only get worse. The fact of the matter is, we simply cannot reach out and touch someone through a computer screen. (“Pokes” do NOT count.) We are without a doubt sensory creatures. And I don’t want to get all morbid here, but we should never let social mores keep us from expressing to someone how we care for them, both with words and without. We never know how many more chances we’ll get.
Above all, the issue is this: intimate does not necessarily mean sexual, and sexual does not necessarily mean intimate (although I firmly believe that it should be, that is another discussion entirely). If we are close to someone, we should not forgo showing them; we should not be constantly worried about what others think. Let me be clear: I’m not saying that you should go around lewdly grabbing your friends. But we shouldn’t hesitate to put a hand on someone’s shoulder, give them a longer-than-usual hug, or <gasp> touch their cheek when the moment calls for it. It is the most tangible way we can say, “I understand where you’re coming from, and I’m right here beside you, for the long haul.”
Everyone should have at least a couple of people they feel this way about. It’s us against the world. I’ve got your back. If you’re married, your spouse should definitely be one of those people, and I’m so very glad that mine is. But it’s not necessarily good for your spouse to be the ONLY person that’s got your back, or that you be the only person that THEY depend on. True, building that kind of relationship takes work, but it’s so worth the effort.