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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Every Single Woman Needs…:#17 To Be Touched

A dear friend of mine and I had lunch a few weeks ago.  She is not a Single Woman but in a committed relationship.  Long. Distance.  We are in similar places in our lives and living a very similar lifestyle.  That means working a similar lifestyle.  Our days look a bit like this:

7:00 a.m. wake up, make coffee and breakfast (Breakfast is optional.  Coffee is not.)

7:30 shower and dress

8:00 get into car and fight traffic to get to the office

8:30 start work day with email and work to lunch

12:00-1:00 Lunch.  (This entire step is optional.)

5:00 say goodbye to co-workers and continue to work

7:30 work some more or go home

8:00 arrive at home and eat dinner (Dinner is optional.)

8:30 shower.

9:00 bed.

REPEAT ALL STEPS 6 or 7 TIMES PER WEEK

So, one of our optional lunch times coincided and somehow over salads the conversation turned to touch.

It is not often that one thinks of it, but it is very rare that the Single Woman is touched.  She doesn’t wake up to warm embraces or have little ones to kiss goodnight.  Girlfriends’ air kisses in greeting are chaste and protective of makeup and do not involve contact.  Handshakes over business deals are corporate tools devoid of feeling.  And she doesn’t live at home with Mom’s hugs and Dad’s pats on the head.  It was only when a friend of mine, seeing me fighting off a cold before Christmas, took the back of my head in his hands and squeezed some of the tension out that I realized that it had been months since I was last touched.  As I related the story to my friend she remarked on feeling the same absence, being unable in her circumstances to be in the same country as her husband.  The poor married woman is finding herself in a Single Woman’s reality!

It is wired into the human psyche to communicate with our world through our senses.  Our sight, hearing, taste and smell serve us well as we make our way through different environments.  But there is no sense so powerful in conveying and sharing deeper ideas, emotion, appreciation, affection, anger and desire as the sense of touch.  A punch in the face leaves no room for interpretation.  Nor does a slow kiss on the lips.  Even a squeeze of the shoulder says more than a page of written words.

Yet touch has developed a bad reputation.  It is inappropriate in certain settings, between certain parties, and in expressing certain emotions.  Used in anger and to convey emotions related to violence it is more often than not illegal.  So powerful, and, by extension, coruptable is this sensory communication that it is often avoided completely.  Especially in the world of men.  Most male friends do not feel comfortable embracing eachother.  Many men cannot show affection or discipline, even appropriately, to their children.  Social acceptance of any casual form of touching has been left firmly in the domain of women.

And so it is the mother of a family that kisses skinned knees, blows noses and wipes away tears.  It is the wife who rubs the knots out of her husband’s neck at the end of a hard day.  It is the sister who hugs the brother in congratulations on his graduation day. The girlfriend takes the eyelash out of his eye.  Women show love, comfort, help and support in this way.  We have not given up on touch.

Unless we are single.  Then the question is, who on earth can we touch?  Who can touch us?  What is proper and what is not?  But the need is there… the need to be hugged, held, comforted, felt.

This is not an invitation to go touching everyone in your life.  Propriety has its place and there are very real dangers.  I do, however, invite girlfriends to support eachother, platonic husbands to show caring.  Hugs are priceless reminders that there is someone out there who values you.  I invite the Single Woman to shower her friends with real embraces, the children in her life with Aunty’s kisses, and the members of her family with a physical, loving presence.

We are still contributing members of the human family with love and touch to give and receive.  Don’t withdraw and shrink back from healthy affection and the power of sharing your love with the people who are blessed with your presence in their lives.

Reach out and touch…