The value of a friend's hug and other benefits of non-sexual touch.
When we're hungry, it's simple — we eat. When we're thirsty, we drink. But what about when you just want to and need to be touched? There are no touch cafés. Touch doesn't come as a gift with purchase at the Lancôme counter. And if you're not in a romantic relationship, how do you fill up your touch tank to full?
There are often not enough outlets for affection in platonic relationships. Friends provide emotional support, memorable nights out, advice and adventures, but few friendships are so close that it's comfortable and acceptable for you two to, say, snuggle on the couch together, or hold each other in a longer-than-usual embrace — one long enough to communicate sincerity but short enough not to be awkward.
The line becomes especially blurred if you're of compatible sexual orientations, because, oh my god, then it must mean you like each other.
But wanting to be touched is a basic human need. (Without it, we're so much more susceptible to depression, stress, anxiety, loss in self-confidence and loss in drive and motivation!)
And sadly though not surprisingly, we live in a touch-deprived culture that's comfortable with touch only if it has sexual meaning, if we're celebrating, if someone is consoling or being consoled, or if it involves raising our kids.
Outside of those exceptions, our culture looks at touch as suspect. We assume something's wrong, or make meaning where there isn't any.
So, if none of those situations apply to us at the moment — if we are single, happy and not particularly close (physically or emotionally) to family — how can we meet our touch needs without that uh-oh factor?
Yeah, of course there are inappropriate ways to meet touch needs, through hookers, massages with happy endings and the like. But how about giving new meaning to things most of us already do every day?
How about hugging, but without an agenda and where no one's holding on too tight or for too long?
The average hug is 1.7 seconds long. And after about 4 seconds, most people become squeamish.
Why don't we eliminate the space between our hearts, stop burping each other with those manly pats on the back, and embrace for — gasp! — 5 seconds, maybe even 10? That time is nothing compared to how long we spend writing emails, updating our Facebook statuses or how long it takes to check-in somewhere on Foursquare.
How about massages — from friends or professionals — with no strings attached? How about encounters — like hooking arms with your girlfriend when out shopping — where touch has no specific reason or communicates no specific intention other than hey, this just feels nice? What is so awkward and socially uncomfortable about that?
Isn't it also possible that, since we are trying to survive in a touch-deprived culture, part of what the dating scene satisfies is our need to be touched? We need touch to thrive. And as backwards as it may sound, we are being told that to do so, it's more acceptable to jump into bed with someone than it is to sit closely next to your best male friend on the couch with your head in his lap.
Because it's not as socially acceptable or natural to go to even one of your closest friends and ask to be the little spoon, is our simple need to be touched fueling the mindset that we're not okay unless we have a man?
Are we so desperate to feel loved that we settle or fall for the wrong people?
Perhaps like the 1980s AT&T ads proclaim: we just need to reach.
This article was originally published at Excelle. Reprinted with permission from the author.