I read an article the other day that, despite its slightly click-bait-ish title, made some interesting and valid points about the perils and paucity of ordinary physical contact, particularly as it relates to men. The article, "How a Lack of Touch is Destroying Men" is here:
It speaks of the overarching mistrust in American society of physical touch by men -- the inherent suspicion/fear that any man, every man, will revert to sexual touch given the slightest opportunity; and about how as a result, men in general are cut off from initiating any physical touch lest it be perceived as sexual instead of platonic.
What a terrible way to live.
In refraining from contact, men miss out on the small elements of human interaction -- to lean on another person, to put a hand on an arm, to sit so that shoulders touch. Moreover, women are put in the role of gatekeepers, to say "no," to withdraw from or refuse touch, lest a platonic gesture be misinterpreted as having sexual overtones. It is a tremendous challenge -- for men and for women alike -- to try to show a sign of affection or care without it being misperceived. We have only limited success.
I was a sophomore in college, and was chatting with a new male acquaintance who lived in my dorm. We'd been talking for a while, and during the course of the conversation, when he made particularly amusing points, I touched him briefly on his forearm as we laughed. The second -- or was it third? -- time I did so, he looked at me and crossly said, "Why do you keep touching me?"
That was the day I learned not to touch someone unless we were dating. It took me over twenty years to find peers whom I was comfortable briefly hugging again.
There is so little I can do about this ridiculous "Do Not Touch" stance in the world around me, except to try to find a way to somehow couple every small touch with a reassurance of its benign nature. Fortunately, as I age, I am much less likely to be perceived as a possibly sexual human being (for middle-aged women are usually treated as asexual creatures), and thereby I am more likely to be allowed to bestow a platonic gesture of tenderness or warmth.
Perhaps this is one of the benefits of very young, or very old, age -- to be able to touch people, unquestioned.
Although I am not particularly fond of getting older, perhaps this is at least one thing to which to look forward.
In case you need this sign, it can be found here: