What does the touch look like in your life? Yesterday, I put my hand on my friend’s shoulder during a live presentation we were watching, and they looked at my hand instead of looking at my face. The question here was ‘Why are you touching me?’, rather than, ‘Yes, what is it?’, and that stayed with me. I thought I was getting their attention to have them look in my face so I could quietly let them know I would be going to the restroom. I asked them about the touch later, and I found out it was inappropriate, and unappreciated. I have known them for over three years, known them well, and this situation yesterday is a powerful reminder to me that for some people, being touched instinctively raises suspicions and causes their guard to go up. I am supposed to know this, and act accordingly, my friend’s history prior to our meeting is irrelevant. It is uniquely compounded with difficulty because I am touch-starved. It was ingrained in me from a young age that touch is vital and desired, and that “good touches are always appreciated.” That is a direct quote from my mother, circa 1975.
Now, here we are, and the closest person to me in life would most likely prefer that there is no physical contact. It hurts, it hurts so much, though I try to convince myself it’s not personal. My friend does hug me, even occasionally is the one that suggests it. But, more often that not, it’s clear I want a hug, or I give one. A hug barrier came down around four to five months ago, and I wonder now how many of our hugs were one-sided, or could possibly have been detrimental to them?
My over analytical mind replays that moment. I do not want to be responsible for hurting anyone, especially not someone for which I care deeply, a person I love. We think with our hearts so often, and my heart has ardently believed loving caress was healing, but my brain and my logic now says in this circumstance, distance may be indicative of the depth of my love. It says to wait for touch to be initiated or necessary. My brain tells my heart it can survive change. My brain plays a montage of the loving kindnesses of my friend that all say, ‘I love you’, and reminds me of when I was frustrated with others that violated MY boundaries because they tried to tell me what I should or shouldn’t feel or say. My brain reminds me that I can know without knowing by equating similar, if not the same, circumstances. Empathy is achievable when sincerely pursued.
You may be asking, ‘What about the person that feels they require physical connection? Can they be healthy and happy?’
To be quite honest, I still contend that people need touch, and for an individual that has not experienced psychological or physical traumas, it is positive, and well received. The harsh reality is that we don’t live in a perfect world. The same as a person developing allergy to what is fairly innocuous to most, uninvited physical contact could be an intolerance that becomes abhorrent.
Those of us with an inclination to reach out can accept other methods to express feelings and positive thoughts with one another, and if we don’t know those ways, we can learn them. Consideration is not expiation for those sins of others, but the concept of ‘less is more’ is an adept statement. Exhibiting we are here and ready to love them for who they are, on terms within their comfort, provides peace of mind both for myself and those wearing an invisible sign that reads, ‘Touch Me Not’.
Photo by Alexis Fauvet on Unsplash