Monday, May 10, 2010

Untouchables Anonymous

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This afternoon I arranged to get a massage. I tend to do this on a regular basis. At least one time a month. It has become my drug of choice. In between massages I drift through this world, untouched by human hands. I'm a touch junkie.

I'm thinking of starting a new support group. Untouchables Anonymous. We will gather is church basements, sit in folding chairs formed into a circle, and speak of our longing for skin on skin connection. There will be ground rules for the meetings. No touching of course. The purpose of these meetings will not be to find that touch, but to discuss our needs for it. We will share when we last had the touch we desired, and what was the significant event that put us in our predicament. We will discuss the ways we seek this intimate connection. We will try to describe what this touch does for us.

There are many reasons why people find themselves in physical isolation. I don't mean like some agoraphobic, who lacks touch due to never leaving their home, although if they can make it the meeting, they too are welcome. We come to this place for many reasons. It is not my place to try and figure out each person's reason for the lack of touch, only to learn from their stories.

I of course am a member of this group due to the death of my husband. He died September 13, 2009. That is my date of reference. It happened in the early morning of that new day. I had spent the prior night holding him, stroking his face, trying to soothe his difficult breathing. He could no longer communicate with me, but I could sense his acceptance of my sensual touch. Our skin had a history together. The coming together of his and mine was life giving. It created comfort and warmth. Our skin had a memory, and it could be found to instantly relax when joined in close proximity.

At times our skin had electricity. How does a substance change like that? Like the synapse within our nervous system, our skin could intensify our emotions. Where there was once pure gentle familiarity, at times became almost painful ecstasy. When Michael was near, the hair on my neck would stand on end. Each follicle would rise, and become a conductor for this heightened electricity. This process was like a fix, and I was powerless to it.

In my situation, I knew of Michael's impending death. So I suppose I could have cut started cutting down on the skin to skin contact. I could have planned out this intimate isolation, slowly weaning myself instead of going cold turkey. I wonder if there are withdrawal centers available where we to get that touch, then slowly decrease it until the lack of it does not create such a strong longing. We could learn to live without it, living a life of physical sobriety. For now, I will have to follow my risk reduction model, scoring a nice massage when I can scrape up the money.

Hi, my name is Dan, and I am one of the untouched.


  1. "physical sobriety" - now there's an interesting way of describing my current status. (-:
    I haven't really touched or been touched since Don died. We touched a lot - couldn't walk by each other without some kind of contact. Like you, I held Don a lot in the final week even when he was in ICU. I could tell he was reacting to my touch as the various monitors would show a change in his status when I was touching him.
    I don't consciously miss touch now - my desire for it seems to have died with Don. However, it's funny - I was hugged by a couple of people when I left to head north this year and it felt interesting as I had not been hugged by anyone for a very long time. Also, a friend held my hand for a couple of minutes during a visit in the winter. I had not held hands with anyone since Don died.
    Now, I just pat and hug my dogs - they like contact and are always coming up to have their heads patted. I don't know if I will ever actually long for physical contact with a human again. I seem to be going in the opposite direction these days and seem to avoid touch. Perhaps that's a good thing if it seems unlikely that I will ever be in a relationship again (seems a strong possibility in my case).
    By the way, I was severely agoraphobic as a teenager! I would only leave the house at night to walk my dog until late into the night. It was Don that helped me to lose my agoraphobia. I've felt twinges of it returning over the past year, but my travels seem to have helped me to fight it off. I hope it does not return now that he's gone as it's a terribly debilitating condition.

  2. dear Dan, such longing, and i understand. my Dragon and i held hands when walking. his hands were ever steadying me on some precarious perch for me to take a photo. on my leg in the car. and the night he died, which for us was sudden and seemingly so harsh, i was in his arms in bed. our legs were tangled. my head on his shoulder, just above his heart when his body started jerking violently with his seizing from the heart attack. i will never forget that last touch. my failed CPR trying to save him.

    touch is so important. i think the massages are a wonderful idea. i hope you can relax a little through them and let your mind wander to happier times and places. meditate which i believe you do anyway.

    i know you will miss Michael's touch always. there is no help for that. i ache for my Dragon and have fallen to tears knowing what i am missing. it was a sudden, as you say, cold turkey, removal of him that i was not in any way prepared for. your massages are probably like putting a band-aid on an amputation but still, i hope it helps.

    and if i lived closer, i would attend your untouchables support group. think of the t-shirt ideas we could come up with.

    peace to you.

  3. Dan,
    When I was first widowed, I read a blog where another widow who was further along than I, talked about her "skin hunger". I was still numb and I didn't totally appreciate what she was writing about. But I do now. Cold turkey is exactly what happened to me. Going from always touching the one who loves you unconditionally to touching his cold, lifeless skin to nothing, has been a grief experience in itself. I'd also be a member of your untouchables group, if we lived in the same city. It's something people really can't understand unless they're living it. I'm sorry that we all understand it...

  4. me too - sign me up. Sudden loss of skin memory, sudden everything. A few times, especially in the beginning, my body relaxed as though he was here. I know he was here - because - my body relaxed. I love "skin history together." I think, though I didn't know I would need to remember it, our last physical touch was my passing him the bug spray as we walked through the woods to the river. Mostly, though, I remember his hand resting on my leg as we drove out there. Crap. I hadn't cried yet this morning.

  5. Wow, this one hit me where I live... or where I used to live, anyway. I sometimes feel like my sensual self died with my husband. It's only been 2.5 months, but already my skin hunger (great term) is verging on starvation. I shudder to think what this is going to feel like six months or a year from now.

    Mike and I were always touching each other. As someone else commented here, we couldn't walk by each other without touching. He gave the best hugs in the world, rubbed my shoulders, kissed me many times every day... And because his death was sudden and unexpected, I had no idea all that was about to be stolen from me. After six years together, we still made love about five times a week... but the last night he was alive, I was too tired. I'm going to regret that for the rest of my life.

    I'd like to join your group. "Hi, my name is Lira, and I am one of the untouched."

  6. Hi Lira. Welcome to the group. We are a sad bunch. Starved for that touch we once had, but now crave.

    I appreciate you sharing your comment with us. Please feel free to do so whenever you are so moved.

    I'm so sorry for you loss. You are in such an early time with your grief. I remember it feeling completely overwhelming. Take care of yourself.