I was talking with a friend this weekend and, after we’d exhausted all usual topics – work, promotions we won’t be getting, her dates, my dry winter – the topic of boyfriends came up. After 6 months of nothing, I’m quite used to an estrogen driven life. Sure I catch the occasional taco with a guy friend, or stumble over an ex (Denver is too small), but largely these days my life is kind of testosterone ‘lite’. I can’t remember the last time I had a date in Denver, with someone who lived here, so I’m somewhat used to it. But what I can’t quite get to used to is the complete and utter lack of touch.
No, not that kind of touch.. just, well, touch.
When you’re dating or living with or married to someone, your days are spent touching. The casual hand hold, sofa slouch and even just a hand on your back as you are passed in the kitchen. Think about it.. when was the last time you were touched? If you’re with someone, I bet it was hours or maybe days ago (hey I remember arguments resulting in the Berlin wall down the bed). But you touch all the time.. platonically, ironically, sexually, or just to get into the bathroom dammit.
In the 90s’ ‘Romanian Baby Attachment Disorder’ was defined when studies of infants adopted from the orphanages showed a startling inability to form attachments with their new parents. As institutionalized babies, they didn’t receive adequate touch, and therefore never really learned how to connect. The studies found that just being held or touched by anyone on a regular basis, helped mitigate the disorder later in life. Lack of touch literally fucked them up.
Now I’m no Romanian baby, but I kind of understand where they were coming from. As humans we’re a social group, and touch is a vital part of being alive, of feeling connected and well, noticed.
As a single person living alone, the only thing that touches me lately is my dog (no, not the pervy kind). Throw in a British upbringing and a history of firm handshakes over hugs, well, touch isn’t something that I’d actually really thought was that important. Until it went away completely.
When my friend asked me about the last time I was touched, I had to think… 6 months ago? And suddenly felt unaccountability sad. No person has touched me in 180 days? That’s got to be unhealthy right?
Growing up I spent more than my fair share of time in a headlock, linked arm with someone or even just sitting on someone’s shoulders to see the band better. We held hands, pulled each other around and often found ourselves slumped against each other. But as we age in the West, its less and less acceptable to touch people as you go about your day. We shirk away the guy in the airplane seat next to us, the person in line who bumps us, or even the guy who hands us our change. We seem afraid of touching each other. Sure, we hug our friends on occasion and we might get a punch in the arm from a cute guy (or maybe that’s just me?) but largely we reserve our touches (no, not the pervy kind) for those we love.
180 days without skin on skin, or even skin on thermal? God that’s depressing.
‘Oh poor you!’ my friend said as she gathered me in for a hug.
Nothing like a charity hug to make you feel even more like a loser.
Maybe this is what I’m missing lately.. not the dating or the dinners, the sex, or the kind words.. maybe what I miss is the touch. The casual leg thrown across mine, the arm on arm contact or just a hand on hand. And that’s harder to find than you’d think. I tried to touch a guy friend of mine on his arm a few days ago as we walked (platonically) around the park. He reacted as though I’d just proposed marriage. And babies. And had declared love for him. My embarrassment at his horrified reaction made the walk home excruciatingly painful. Guess I won’t be hanging out with him any more.
The next step could be one of my boomerangs, but I can imagine the text messages;
‘Do you want to hang out?’
‘Y? U hot for me?’
‘How about some Gatorade fueled lovin’? You know you want it’
‘Actually … ‘
‘….I kind of… want…. to hold your hand?’
Form a queue ladies and gentleman, form a queue. In the meantime I’ll be booking myself a massage.