What It Is Wednesday: Lack of Touch


When was the last time you touched or were touched? Gonna get close to the bone here, but I know my single female friends will appreciate it. There’s an article making the rounds called “Being Single Is Hard.”  It’s about touch and how the lack of touch is the hardest part of being single.

It’s been on my mind the last few days, and today I got an unexpected and enthusiastic hug from an old friend I hadn’t seen in decades. She was my neighbor in college and the real little sister to my “adopted” big sister. We saw each other in the lobby before running off to catch up over lunch and the hug was spontaneous, something that usually happens only around my writer friends and hippie friends.

We don’t hug much at work. Too much of a chance of gossip if you touch someone’s shoulder in kindness, let alone in hormonal fervor. Too likely you’ll ruin a career if you squeeze the hand of someone who’s having a hard day, just to let them know they’re not alone. We’re very careful about that kind of thing, you know. It’s weird to run into an old friend in the workspace and stand and hug them hard, eyes closed, rocking back and forth, telling them you’re so sorry about their loved one’s passing, and everyone stares at you like you’re a leper. Or like there must be some secret lust in your heart. How dare you have a “real” moment of raw emotion in public! So let’s just say there’s generally no touch in the work place because the stakes are too high, even for platonic friends.

It’s different at writers’ conventions where I can walk out of an event smelling of 40 different perfumes mottled together into one big stink bomb. Or at pagan gatherings and hippie festivals where there’s Reiki and energy work and laying on of hands and body painting and dancing and cuddling together by a bonfire. But for the most part, in my daily life, touch is not a part of it. When my old friend hugged me today, it was the first time anyone had touched me or I had touched anyone in….

A week ago when my dear friend and regular lunch buddy said goodbye after an hour of venting about evil bosses, and we both headed back to work. No. No, wait. We usually hug goodbye but that day we just waved and followed up our conversation by text over the next day or two. So….

Before that. Before that was…I don’t know. Maybe Tonya looking gorgeous? James at his promotion reception line? Marina saying thank you? Not the kids–I’ve not seen them lately. Maybe my mom last month? I can’t remember. Certainly some time in the last 3 weeks. Probably my lunch buddy. But I don’t know. No, wait! Two people I adore left and I gave them farewell hugs. Yes! Two weeks ago. Hey, three hugs in two weeks! That’s some kind of record!

I don’t even think about it much anymore. Or didn’t until this article came out and picked up so much resonance with my single female friends. That’s not to say I’m used to it but I’m more used to not being touched at this point in my singleness than to being touched, enough so that if I’m ever in another relationship, I’ll probably implode.

Ironically, I had an O-my-God-hot 22-year-old pestering me today, so I could have been enjoying a nice long…foot rub…tonight. Nothing against foot rubs but, that kind of touch would be empty to me at this point in my life and I’d rather do without. Seriously. In spite of my reputation as a cougar, if there’s not a strong emotional connection, I’m just not interested. It’s a choice, and it’s my choice. I’ve become an all or nothing girl, and I think most of us need affection a lot more than we need sex.

Especially sex without affection. There are a lot more effective ways to get your cardio done.

So yeah, I guess you could say that lack of touch is the hardest part of being single. It’s harder in the beginning, I know. I remember that sensation of having spent a long-term relationship with my arm deep in ice water and feeling only a deep ache, and then sudden having my arm free and the feeling coming back like pins and needles and explosions and barely able to stand that long buried sense of strong feelings coming back into my life.

I can’t really blame being single for lack of touch though. I’ve been in committed relationships where there was little to no touch and even less affection. I do think it’s harder to be living with someone and go weeks without a kind word or touch. Being single can be an acceptable excuse for lack of touch, but it’s really painful to explain that you are committed to someone who never touches you and doesn’t seem to be aware of your presence except when your absence means things don’t get done in your mutual living space. Lack of touch is what keeps a lot of people in miserable relationships, though, however sparse it is. Or what entices them away from an affection-less bond. Or what draws them into relationships with people whose touch will never be anything more than skin deep.

If you look around at the singles near you at work or in your community and stop and wonder when the last time was they touched or were touched, it’s sad. You can offer a hug–and bless you if you do–but you can’t ask them how long. No, that would be shame for them, wouldn’t it? Like they’re defective?

Yes, we singles are told to wait. Wait, wait, wait for that perfect person for us. Meanwhile, “work on yourself.” Ah, but while I’m working on myself (as I so often have been) and on being a better version of myself, I wonder if there’s a guy out there doing the same or if I’m going to outpace him with all this self-work! Do I have to completely change myself to be acceptable for a relationship? And really, I’m not seeing a lot of guys who have it together for me to catch up to and very few who recognize that they need self-work, too. Most I know just find somebody new to bandaid over the old scratches and bruises and don’t figure out what caused the aches and stings to begin with.

I think part of why people don’t talk about lack of touch is the shaming we get constantly if we’re not coupled up. It’s always presented as though I’m defective, though occasionally I’m told I’m too picky. I have specific tastes and you know, I’m just not going to be satisfied for long with someone who’s ordinary or close-minded or can’t carry a deep conversation. And I’ve chosen (for now) to live in a place where there’s not a lot of what I like around. But well-meaning friends can go on for days about how much they wish I’d find a man, as if I’m home pining my life away with nothing to do. The hint is most definitely that I’m not spiritual enough or not connected closely enough with God/Gods/Goddess/Deity/Law of Attraction to bring the right person to me and when I get it right, I’ll be rewarded with some perfect guy. That I need to wait (I do, which is why there’s not a barely-of-age hottie rubbing my feet right now), to be content being alone (I’m actually pretty good with that), work on myself (dare ya to keep up with me), don’t settle (duh), don’t be too picky (but don’t settle?), lower my standards (hell, no), keep the faith…. Some of these friends are well-meaning, and others are so miserable in their own marriages that I wonder if they just want to have someone to share the misery with them.

I might actually be getting hugs and kisses on the cheek from some of these friends but they harp on my relationship status enough that I probably stay physically farther away than is necessary.

It boils down to this: I don’t know if I’ll ever have another partner, but I won’t settle just to have a partner. It’ll be someone who is an exponent for me, not someone who divides me up until there’s nothing left. I’m good without a partner, good or bad. I’m great with a great partner, and I don’t want anything less than a great partner, someone who can be a wonderful complement. I don’t “need” anyone, and I’m strong enough that I don’t let lack of touch drive me to do something–or someone–stupid. But what I miss most about having a partner–even a less than stellar one–is the hand-holding, the hugs, the pecks on the cheek, the cuddling on the sofa to watch a movie, his head in my lap while I play with his hair until he falls asleep….

So if you see me out and about, feel free to give me a hug. You might need one as much as I do.

Key Takeaway: If you can freely hug someone today, hug them, because not everyone gets to have this often.


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