"Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth."
Of the five love languages, physical touch is my last. I'm not a hugger, but I do give in to hugs if someone else is because with huggers you don't always have time to avoid it. I've had plenty of weird embraces so I resign myself to hugs instead of smashing faces awkwardly in an attempt to get away.
And I'm not a cuddler.
But I'm learning that touch is more important than I realized. Not only have I been avoiding it, I've been taking it for granted.
I've changed my mind about touch.
My sensitivities aren't just emotional or environmental in nature. Almost 10 years ago, before my husband and I married, my body decided to ease life's stresses with hives. I spent a year rotating doctors. Every allergy test said I wasn't allergic to anything, but my skin screamed in rebuttal. Hot, itchy, swollen welts would form on my back and arms, the inside of my legs, as lash marks - as if I'd been beaten with an invisible whip.
I didn't want to avoid physical touch but I also didn't want to keep scratching my skin bloody.
"Touch has a memory."
I remember how it feels.
My grandma passed away two days ago. Reflecting on memories of her and thoughts of growing older, I found myself concerned as to whether or not I could live years without being physically touched. I'm not sure a hug or a hand to hold or a kiss on the cheek was ever something my grandma went a day without. But I suppose it's possible some people experience this.
I look at my own mother and closing my eyes, I can feel her hands - the softness, the strength, the way her skin moves if I were to rub it back and forth with my own fingers. I remember how she'd brush my hair, or clean out my ears with Q-tips. I know her touch without feeling it.
I remember when Mat held my hand for the first time, our first kiss. I remember the butterflies, wondering when he might do it again. I learned his touch, and his presence. I know him when he walks into a room or leaves it. And if we are apart, like right now - me in Texas for my grandma's funeral - I need only quiet my senses and I feel him as if he's right beside me.
I wonder if this is what it was like for my grandma, living 13 years beyond my grandpa.
“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”
Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles
Touch is about connection.
There's been a lot of talk in the past 24 hours of what ifs with my own parents - about death, about those who'll go on to live without us. Mat and I may not always be together in this lifetime, and while I can't imagine my life without him, I certainly don't want to risk forgetting what he feels like when I touch him or he touches me. Nor do I want that for him should I die first.
It's become a knee-jerk reaction for me to move away from physical touch so I remain comfortable, my skin protected - even though I ingest an allergy pill every morning to keep my skin from tingling. Physical touch may not be my love language, but I'm beginning to think it's less about how I do or don't show or receive love and more something I need.
I'm committed to remembering, and I'm not going to waste another minute.
"Our first experience of life is primarily felt in the *body.* ... We know ourselves in the security of those who hold us and gaze upon us. It's not heard or seen or thought it's felt. That's the original knowing."
Don't let someone pervert the beauty of touch in your life. If you or someone you love is being touched inappropriately, report it. It's not okay.