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.

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6 Responses to The Power of Touch

  1. Carol says:

    I love that you posted this. I used to be a hugger, but was trained out of it by a relative who didn’t like hugs. I’m better now that I’m not dependent on others to tell me how I “should” act, but it’s still hard for me sometimes to give a hug or even just sit close to someone that we’re touching.

  2. Katharine says:

    “Affection doesn’t have to be a weird, hypersexualized thing. It can be a way to help each other be fully human (and alive).”

    I love the way you put that, and I agree.

  3. I love this! I heard somewhere recently that the average person needs 8 hugs a day. 8! I don’t know anyone who get this, unless, maybe they have lots of children.

  4. Tessa says:

    Yes! I completely agree!

  5. Leida says:

    So glad you posted this. The phrase ‘touch deficit’ is so loaded & spot-on, I almost cried to read it. I’ve often wondered if this isn’t even more poignantly true for single Christians of a certain age, especially those who have committed to sexual purity outside of marriage. In order to maintain, we deny ourselves even the benefit of non – sexual touch from the opposite sex, in order to avoid the possibility of sin. I think we need to be talking more about this in our churches. It’s a challenge most people don’t truly understand.

    Great idea on the spa days, too!

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