Friday, October 06, 2006

What I Crave

"'We found that holding the hand of really anyone, it made your brain work a little less hard in coping' . . . any sort of hand-holding relaxes the body. . . . Perhaps [that] is why so many people crave it."

This article from the NY Times punctuated my craving for the simple pleasure of human contact. Living alone in a City known for its impersonal attitude (something I actually like) can be physically and emotionally isolating. I can go great lengths of time without any significant personal touch from another person aside from shaking someone's hand in a professional setting, accidentally brushing up against someone in a crowded elevator, on a crowded sidewalk or in an over-capacity subway or a fleeting hug hello or goodbye from a friend I've met for dinner.

I am a tactile person. I love cuddling on a couch - whether it is romantically with a boy or with a family member. My sister hates my cuddling tendencies. Sometimes she tolerates it but often she will balk when I sit close to her on the couch or if I latch onto her arm when we are walking - unless it is bitter cold like last Thanksgiving when we were running last minute dinner prep errands.

But what I often miss the most is holding hands. Do not underestimate the comfort, security and thrill that can come from someone you love (or even just "like") reaching for your hand. But I think the article is right - hand-holding can be very complicated. I generally wouldn't want to hold hands with a boy I didn't want to kiss and very few boys have ever held my hand before kissing me. Funny how those steps get reversed. And an unwanted hand holding is excruciatingly awkward!

I remember going to a movie in law school with a couple of guys in my class. I was sitting between them in the dark theater. At some point during the movie one of the guys reached over and held my hand. I don't remember what I did but this was not something I was seeking out and I remember feeling awkward and distracted and paranoid that the guy on the other side of me would notice.

Even worse, a couple of years ago I was on a blind date when the guy tried to pull my hand out of my coat pocket in an attempt to hold it. My hands were in my pockets for a reason. We had not even made it in the restaurant yet and he was reaching for intimacy. I told him I am not touchy with guys I don't know. He persisted but I held my ground.

I think public hand-holding is important and essential to a relationship. I had a boyfriend once who had very little to no experience with this but was open to training. Despite his often gruff outer shell, he held my hand walking down the street, on the ski lift, in the car, at a restaurant, even at my parent's house (the hardest for him). However, he created the Home Depot Rule - he would mockingly explain that Home Depot was a no hand-holding zone. Something to do with it being a "manly" kind of place. Then one evening we were at a baseball game with a couple friend of his. I jokingly asked him if the Home Depot Rule also applied to baseball games or if this was a hand-holding friendly forum. The wife of his friend laughed and asked what we were talking about and I explained his rule. The boyfriend was embarrassed to reveal that he had a soft, romantic side in front of his mountain biking, mountaineering, adventure-seeking buddy but was shocked to have his friend's wife reveal that they held hands all the time: in the car, on walks, at the grocery store, in bed, at baseball games . . . even at Home Depot.

I miss many things about not being in a relationship (and many of them are also touch related) but hand-holding represents a different level of intimacy. I love it when I witness a hand-holding moment between my parents - when my dad will reach over and squeeze my mom's hand and they exchange a look. I envy my grandparents who are approaching their 60th wedding anniversary in December who still hold hands when they share a couch. My heart melts anytime a child trusts me enough to offer their hand to me for guidance and security.

I think the article is right - holding hands does make the brain work a little less at coping because holding hands is a physical affirmation of emotional support.

I miss holding hands.


tiff said...

Again, Alyssa, this is beautifully written, and you've given me a lot to think about. I might have to write about this myself....

Autumn said...

Excellent article, and I too would really like to know how the whole kissing, hand holding thing got reversed.

Brooke said...

I read this article and it totally depressed me. This is what feminists sometimes call, "Backlash." Meaning it is an article that makes you feel bad about being alone. It pretty much says that married people are alot healthier. But alas, I crave it too.

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