Go Easy on Touching

Hey, touching is pretty great, don’t get me wrong. It’s such an easy way to communicate a sense of warmth, and at the risk of sounding sappy, sometimes there’s just no beating a good hug. Handshakes, pats on the back, maybe a little shoulder rub, plus the entire wonderful world of sexual touching… these are all things that make life better. So far be it from me to wag my finger at touching.

Still, when in doubt, don’t do it. Because the thing is, for people that don’t mind being touched — in general or by you specifically — it won’t make much of a difference if you greet them with a hug or a simple “It’s great to see you.” Ahh, but the people who are averse to being touched… you don’t want to cross that divide. There is no turning back.

Have you ever been unwillingly touched by some random, sloppy drunkard at the bar? You know, that guy on his way out of the bathroom and back to the Keno machine, and he just had to stop and slime your shoulder with a hail mary pick-up line or asinine question. That’s the kind of touching makes you want to shower immediately, and some people feel that way much more easily than others. If you get in the habit of over-touching, it’s a matter of time before you meet this person and creep them out. Look at it this way: When was the last time you heard someone complain, “That guy is cool, but he just doesn’t touch me enough.” Never? Probably a reason for that.

This is how sexual harassment suits can happen, for example. Everyone might get a real kick out of your ass-slapping ways, until you find the one that doesn’t… and all the happy-go-lucky warmth in the world won’t save you then. I’d say it applies to dating, too. I would much rather enjoy the crazy sexual tension of limiting contact until the time is right than feel like I’m being molested by some bull in a china shop with no sense of timing or tact (that can be fun, but not for long).

So maybe go easy on touching. Some folks really aren’t into it. Try hard enough and you can make people feel pretty strongly with the right words, and you’re less likely to seem like a creep. And just like with shouting (see #20) touching is the kind of thing that will get way more bang for the buck when reserved for more momentous occasions. Weddings, births, deaths, grand accomplishments, ferocious sexual encounters — touch to your heart’s content. Otherwise, play it cool. A well-placed wink and smile can go awfully far.

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© 2012, Ian Mathias