A thought came over me today, as I was hugging a colleague goodbye. Touch. We as a culture, are very careful about it. We’re not a touching culture. Shaking hands, hugging, are foreign concepts to us, that we took on when we absorbed other cultures and became more global.
And I get it. We’re very conservative. The Catholic roots, the idea of propriety and the horror of a misconstrued gesture. Of jealous husbands or wives seeing their significant other with their arm around a friend and thinking there must be something funny going on. Even standing too close can be the start of an argument, since it’s not just their eyes that they’re thinking about, but others’ as well.
I am not very touchy. I do not like doing the “beso” that comes with greeting almost strangers because it feels a little strained. My handshake is quite limp for not shaking hands until I’m offered one. I pick the people I touch to be honest, because I think this is something that should not just be for the sake of social niceties, but a respect of personal space.
I think we can benefit from touch though. There is nothing like getting hugs from a friend you’ve missed and not seen for a while. That feeling of sitting next to your grandmother as you sit and eat a meal together. Your favorite uncle’s arm around you, asking about how you’re doing. It’s a comfort that comes with talking, and when well done, helps us connect and have memories that are multidimensional, since we not only know the roughness of their palm, but their distinct scent, cologne mixed with a hint of sweat after cooking a meal, or that fresh, just got off the bath and jumped into the car smell.
So I am now finding the balance for the standoffish way I can be with other people, without invading people’s comfort, and it being a thoughtful, nice gesture each time. Being more comfortable with doing so in our family, where we aren’t the type.
So what do you think about touch?