The Power of Touch
My cats having a moment, 2009
At work a while back, my boss handed out spa gift cards as a bonus of sorts. I hoarded mine until last week, when I decided to take a day off and get a massage. Several people close to me are massage devotees, but I hadn’t had one in several years. I take pretty good care of myself (or so I think) and haven’t been feeling especially stressed. But this masseur, a stranger, was able to tell me everything about my habits and physical problems based on tensions in my body – many of which I hadn’t even noticed – and advise me on how to fix those tensions. I got very ticklish a few times (it also happens whenever I get a pedicure), and he explained that ticklishness happens more when you’re not accustomed to being touched. These observations were unexpected light bulb moments. Until I reflected on these things, I wasn’t aware of the extent of the current touch deficit in my life.
Singleness often equals serious physical isolation, at least in American culture. As an adult, unless you’re in a demonstrative romantic relationship and/or parenting a small child, you’re probably running a touch deficit. After almost four years alone, I unconsciously take this for granted, but I still don’t think it’s okay or healthy. Family and friends usually greet me with hugs, and my two cats are affectionate companions, and that’s important. But it’s not the same as regular, dependable (non-sexual) physical closeness. Access to a comforting hug when you need one, a pat on the arm, a huddle together on the couch, is good for the soul in a deep and mysterious way. It provides a sense of connection not only to that person, but to all people. It even makes you feel more comfortable with and at home in your own body – especially in marriage, when your spouse is as familiar with your body as you are. It’s a genuine need, even if that need is not being met. I know all this because I’ve experienced it, and I believe God made us to respond this way.
Until I experienced some attentive, caring touch, I didn’t realize how far removed I am from it. That makes me sad. I worry sometimes about feeling increasingly closed-off from others, and now I wonder if lack of physical contact and care is contributing to that problem. As a result, I think I’m going to budget for more frequent spa services. What I’ve always seen as a lavish indulgence now seems like a good investment in my overall health.
I share this to encourage you: hug your single friends – especially the ones who live alone and don’t have a day-in, day-out bond with anyone. Hug your married friends too, because maybe their spouses don’t. Affection doesn’t have to be a weird, hypersexualized thing. It can be a way to help each other be fully human (and alive).
About Brenda W.Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
Posted in health, singleness