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The art of loving touch

It’s been a big week, feeling all the feels. I’ve been avoiding the course I’m doing because even though I want to go deep, I don’t really want to go deep. I’m scared of what I might find there. I’ve been rebelling against all advice given to me throughout the course. When she suggests wearing colourful, flattering clothes that make you feel like a goddess, I dress in black. When she asks questions that make me have to travel into dark corners of myself, I clean the entire house. Cook meals for the whole week. Say yes to every possible activity that passes by. Anything, everything not to go there.

Yesterday I went to a haka workshop. Three hours cut into two parts: the masculine and the feminine. First, we learned to stand, speak and dance like the warriors we are. That was easy for me, and lots of fun. I love being loud, I love being fierce.

The second part was a bit more… Vulnerable. The women in the group had to trust the men to lead us as we closed our eyes and they held us by the shoulders, guiding us through the room. I didn’t expect it, but I hardly dared to move forward. Taking the tiniest steps, feeling like any moment I would bump into something.

Next up: loving touch. The men lined up next to each other, eyes closed. The women could give them a loving touch, with no intentions other than showing them love and care. Very powerful stuff, even though it felt so natural for me to do this. Supporting, loving, holding, hugging, mothering men. The mother inside of me enjoyed giving love and care to complete strangers. It’s a natural thing to do for a lot of women, I think.

But then it was our turn to close our eyes and line up. Open to receiving a loving touch by the men in the group. No intentions, no agenda. Just a touch to let you know you are loved, held, cared for. I was surprised at my reaction as I cried all through the exercise. And I wasn’t the only one. Many women were letting the tears roll down as they experienced a male touch with no intentions whatsoever. For some this was the first time they received a gift like that from a man.

It brought me to tears thinking this is what it has come to. That this is not done in our society. To be there for each other in that way. Why does a hand on the knee or a gentle touch have to mean something more? Why can’t we all share this gift of touch without fear or expectations? There is so much stigma and trauma connected to touch. I wish it could be different.

Touch used to play a big part in how I expressed myself, I guess I was quite naive putting my hand on a man’s arm while listening to him speak, or touch the knee of a sister who needed comforting. Sometimes, both men and women thought I was expecting something from them while all I wanted was for them to feel held and loved. The absolute last thing I intended was for them to feel awkward. I didn’t want to cause confusion so I blocked that side of myself off completely. No more touch.

The problem is, I started seeing touch the way they were seeing it: a sign, an expectation, a motive. So as soon as a man would put his hand on my shoulder or stroke my hair, my alarm went off. Watch out! Sirens! He just wants one thing from you! His touch is filled with intentions!

Of course I’ve been weird about touch since then. Of course all of this came out when I was feeling the caring touch of a stranger, not knowing what to do with myself, not knowing how to receive this as exactly what it was: a hand on my hand, a hand on my shoulder, a hug, with only one point on the agenda: feeling loved.

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