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  • Writer's pictureRyder Lyne

Surprised by Touch

June 14, 2023

The touch startled me. Mike and I were enjoying a tour of Spain and Portugal, delighted by the friendliness of the people and the relative safety of the streets. Then, while in conversation, a man gently squeezed my elbow. There was no threat, no intimidation, just connection. But it sent a bolt through my brain. Incidents with other people alerted me to how long it had been since an unfamiliar person had touched me purposely in American society. And how nice it was to connect with a simple physical gesture.

My friends and I recall the uncomfortable squeezes and hugs from “uncles”, family or friend, that were too frequent in our childhood in the ‘50s and ‘60s. “That’s what men do,” was my mother’s response when I complained. We learned to duck and swerve when Uncle Al came near. I don’t mean to minimize the horror of sexual abuse. But I posit that we have lost something when we codify casual human contact. A touch on the arm can mean “I hear you.” A gentle press on the back, “I got you.” A tap on the hand, “I see you.” Man to woman, woman to man, man to man, woman to woman. We are physical beings. Isn’t physical touch part of our communication system? 

There were many things I loved about Portugal: the pastries, the colors and textures of the land, the lack of guns, the reliable internet, the people. And surprisingly, I enjoyed the occasional touch. 

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