Have you noticed how many people you touch in a day?  I’m talking about handshakes, hugs, kisses, pats on the shoulder, anything.  Often, I’ll go through a day without touching anyone at all — I’ll go through multiple days without touching anyone.  But only when it’s happened for a long time do I start to wonder how that corresponds to my emotions.

I’ve only noticed this in situations when I’m lonely, but lonely can be difficult to describe. I have friends right now, but no best friends close by.  And I only hug my best friends.  I’m not really a touchy person — I either have to be attracted to you or best friends with you in order for me to let you touch me.  (Or you have to be one of my close family members.)  So even when I have friends, when I’m having fun hanging out with people, I’ll go days on end without touching anyone.

And the human sense of touch is important.  Too often I think it’s sexualized.  I consider it intimate, yes, but not sexual unless you make it such.  But I also think it’s important emotionally.

Think of a hug.  It could be someone giving comfort and someone receiving comfort.  It could be two people (or more) happy to see each other.  It could be a method of saying goodbye.  Or it could just be something that feels good.  But unless it’s a hug I don’t want, it always raises my spirits, makes me feel just a little bit better from what I was feeling before.  So how does not getting hugs impact my emotions?

I was really upset a couple weeks ago.  Crying huddled in my quilt, not wanting to do anything, feeling like total crap upset.  And at one of the points when I wasn’t crying, I went to the kitchen to get food and met up with my friend Tan.  (I live in a communal house, and the way it’s set up, the kitchen is THE meeting place.)  And she asked how I was doing and I started crying again and she was like, “would you like a hug?”

Normally, I wouldn’t hug Tan because we’re not good enough friends for me to want to do something that feels so intimate.  But at that point, with family and best friends far away and across an ocean, yes, I wanted a hug.  So she gave me a hug and it was a little bit awkward but it also made me feel just a little bit better.  I wanted to be like, no, no, I want lots of hugs!  But again, we’re not good enough friends for that to be anything but awkward.  But I started thinking about hugs and touch and how people give and receive energy from each other.

I’m not sure what my conclusion is, except that I think as human beings we need physical connections.  And each person is different, but when we’re not getting our quota of touch then it makes us feel just a little bit worse.  Maybe not enough to make a difference in our lives, but perhaps enough to influence it just a little bit.

What do you think?


About mybodymystory

Looking at things differently. I write about my personal experiences with society, especially regarding what messages I, as a woman, have received over time. I write about my body, not the body the media thinks I have or wants me to have. I write about my responses to sex, relationships, and political issues. This is my story of my body. There are a lot of things I write about that I believe overlap with other women. Come check out my story and see if you agree. Feel free to disagree, just be respectful about it.
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5 Responses to Touch

  1. I’ve just discovered your blog and I really like the first few posts I’ve read. This one in particular I had to respond to as I feel it is such a critical issue, particularly for men.

    I really value touch, and I’m quite a tactile man. But society is threatened by tactile men and (unfortunately, as a lot of recent media attention has shown) for good reason too.

    The line between being tactile and abusing trust is thin and blurry. So for me I take the easy route out and emotionally cut off in public.

    But where does that leave me?

    Alienated, cold and cut off.

    Copied below is a really good article I read recently, which kind of sums up how I feel on this issue. I thought you might be interested to see it too.


    • Thank you!

      I love the Good Men Project, most of the essays are really thoughtful and I agree with them on so many points. Actually…I’m pretty sure that’s how I found your blog.

      I really like the essay you linked. One part bothered me though — the part where he talks about the women in men’s lives not being there when men open up. I’m sure he’s right about some women, but I loved it when my ex would do things like complain to me about his day because it made me feel more comfortable doing the same with him — I can’t be vulnerable in a relationship if I don’t feel like the other person is being just as vulnerable back. The problem I found was that I wasn’t sure how he wanted me to react when he needed my comfort — I generally reacted how I would have wanted him to react to me, but I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing and he didn’t seem to be able to tell me what he preferred me to do (whereas I could have told him vice versa). So that could have introduced awkwardness where there wasn’t any. I see that as a symptom of the entire problem, not one person’s fault, but it does make the whole situation even more difficult.

      I have a question for you, though. What do you mean by “emotionally cut off” in public? I have a pretty big “space bubble” and, as I mentioned above, don’t touch people unless I’m really good friends with them, but I wouldn’t consider calling it “emotionally cutting off” in public — because otherwise I feel like we’re talking about the same thing.

      • There were parts of that article that bothered me too, and particularly the bit you highlighted. I think it was a general observation and as such lacked nuance, but it did come across as overly aggressive and perhaps divisive. And let’s also not forget, that while US / UK cultures may not be too many miles apart, this was written by an American, primarily for an American audience (I think), so there may be divergence in experience there.

        As for “emotionally cut off” I think I perhaps used a poor choice of words.

        I avoid being tactile, even with people I know reasonably well, as I don’t ever want it to be misconstrued. So I always take my lead from other people and will only ever reciprocate rather than initiate. And I think that’s a shame, because it is denying me a large part of one of the joys of the human experience – that of touch for the sake of empathy, compassion, connection and warmth.

        So perhaps not so much emotional disconnect as sensory.


        • Well, I am actually part of that American audience – I’m currently in the UK but only for a year. But I’m not a guy, so that could be a perspective change.

          Thanks for clarifying, that makes sense.

        • Well, I am actually part of that American audience – I’m currently in the UK but only for a year. But I’m not a guy, so that could be a perspective change.

          Thanks for clarifying, that makes sense.

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