I have been mulling over the sense of touch for a couple of weeks now–trying to figure out a short story character of mine, someone who has not had human touch in weeks. I’ve been thinking about this essential need for human connection, and the essential human need for physical touch, in great silence. Not on purpose really, but because the whole topic of touch rarely comes up.
I mean, people talk about smell and taste over the course of something as common as a meal (“That smells good! That tastes good!”). The same goes with hearing (“Great music!” or “Do you hear that?”) But touch? It doesn’t really come up…especially the deep human desire to BE touched. Yes, that includes being touched emotionally…but I’m talking about physical touch: a hug, a squeeze on the shoulder, a playful push, or even a pat on the butt.
This desire to be touched–it makes one feel vulnerable to admit to it. It crosses boundaries of propriety to ask to be touched (nevermind the misunderstanding such a request can cause!).
Like I said, I was thinking over all of this silently, when Wildguppy wrote about touch too, today. And now I feel a liberty to write about it here.
Those of who are lucky, are touched everyday. We wake up next to someone, our legs and/or arms intertwined. We easily brush our elbows against each other. We have someone to hug goodbye each morning. We lean against someone while on the sofa, watching television.
I mean, even if my husband is out of town, I have little doggies that snuggle up against me every chance they can get.
But there are people who go days, or weeks or months, without being touched. A widower who has suddenly lost his wife. Or in the example Wildguppy wrote about, a homeless person.
Or even those of us, used to being touched, can find ourselves in a place without touch.
I went to Hedgebrook not too long ago, which I found to be an altering experience–I was taken out of my normal daily setting and transplanted into an otherworldly kingdom, one fraught with peaceful ponds, nibbling rabbits, the rare but incredible view of Mount Rainier, a forest so beautiful I will never forget and way too many banana slugs. I lived in a cottage in the woods, along with 5 other women in their cottages, equally sequestered away in solitary, for the purpose of writing.
Despite the myth of writing colonies as a great place of unending creativity and visits by the Muse…I encountered writer’s block. And I became endlessly lonely, nevermind frustrated. I felt myself withdrawing from the world.
A little over halfway through my visit, I went for a massage–I decided to pamper myself. The minute the masseuse put her healing hand on my shoulder, I just about burst into tears. How long had it been since I was touched? I had not realized.
It had been too long. I was surprised by the sensation of touch again, and I was surprised at way touch was such a core part of my wellbeing.