Permission to Touch

12694843_10206724520889788_1593744844446308582_oWe do this to our girls.  For their own protection, we say.  And maybe there is some real harm we save them from.  But at what cost to them?  What price does our world pay?

We tell them touch is dirty, hugs are easily misinterpreted for something ugly, their bodies are dangerous, boys are bad.  But what about the boy that needs a hug from the girl growing up with him next door to help him through a tough day at the mercy of playground unkindness?  What about the brother that finds the world so hard and cold he turns to fighting with others rather than get the need for touch met curled up in the arms of his big sister as she reads him to sleep at night?  What about the other girls who learn they need to focus on being better, looking better, getting better grades, doing better things than her rather than holding her hand and dancing in the rain?

We do not tell them they are a beacon of light to us and other children, that beams of beauty and healing flow from their fingertips and into the veins of those they touch.  We do not show them that their kindness makes the world a better place by simply being here.  We do not teach them that their bodies are made with soft rounded edges to express the welcoming gentleness of their souls within.  We never give them permission to learn love as a clean and essential thing, to use touch to bring power to the world.

Instead we cover their budding forms with drapery and block the power of their purity from view.  To protect it, we say.  We need to do this, we say.  We stifle the very sunlight and oxygen they need to grow strong and healthy.  We flout the purpose beauty has, which is to be seen.  We pour their liquid innocence into a cubed plastic trays and put it in the freezer.  As if beauty could ever be killed.  As if we could really protect their souls from being hurt.  As if love could ever be ugly.  As if the dry edges of hard cold could be better than the wet heat of heartbreak.

Yet there are those who crack their shells open and learn to build fences instead of walls.  They let themselves be seen and trust themselves to monitor the distance between their bodies and others.  There are those who create boundaries balanced with the boundlessness of their hearts.  Large light shines around the edges of the little bowls they were first hidden under.  Silver linings warm even the darkest of their interactions.  Electricity strikes when their palms touch the businesslike hands of others to seal the deal, to welcome the discussion, or to end the meeting.  Their black-ice pantsuits hint at the curves of hearts still beating hot red blood deep within.

We do not teach them, but our girls learn that they can be love and light in their world.  They are women now.  The only permission they need is their own.

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The Universal Language

Monkey Manicure… note her own pink nails!

I have done a fair amount of travel in my few years.  On these journeys I have learned that there are differences in culture that make us unique – the kitchen is different in Jamaica from the one in Alicante, the roads are different in San Francisco from those in London, bathrooms in Cuba are different from those in Halifax, and the nightclub in Cayman is very different from the one in Newcastle.

But there is one room that is the same the world over.  It is the nail salon.

Today I am sitting in a leather armchair in La Ceiba, Honduras.  Myce and Nena are with me, feet propped on the knees of the usual suspects.  Sure, there is no massage chair here (I never use it anyway) and the foot soak is detached from the chair (but what difference does that make?) but the level of comfort and the sense of being pampered is still alive in here.  There is nail dryer and acetone, cotton balls and nail polish, gossip and overpriced curiosities in a glass case where the cash is taken.  The same in every nail salon the world over.

Sure, here I pay US$10 for both a mani and a pedi that could easily cost me $100 at home, but when I leave here I will feel the same as I did leaving the Vietnamese nail salon in Florida, the Korean salon in Nottingham, and the Jamaican salon in Cayman.  Ladylike and relaxed.  Polished.

Perhaps the universal language isn’t love.  There is so much pain in love and so much misunderstanding in the emotion that it leaves far too much of a gap.  It isn’t music either.  Rhythm is lost on the old and melody on the young and lyrics are here and there everywhere in between.  But there is a universal language.  For the women who get rubbed and buffed and polished and go home to men who appreciate and admire and children who learn from them both, there is a universal language.  The lady at my feet speaks not a word of english and my spanish leaves much to be desired but there is no misunderstanding between us.  We speak the universal language.  Nail polish.