Recently, I’ve seen articles about “touch deprivation.” With young people constantly all over each other with displays of public affection, I thought we had become a “touchy-feely” culture, but maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps young people hug and touch each other without thinking about it, but the “old folks”? Not so much.
I was aware of the “touch deprivation thing” while I was working. My pharmacy served a large senior population, and it was not common to see older couples hold hands.
I recall one incident when an older couple wanted anti-itch hydrocortisone cream. The husband wanted to buy a product called Cortisone 10, incorrectly thinking its strength was 10%. His wife wanted to buy less expensive generic hydrocortisone cream. What was the difference? Both were 1% — the strongest strength available without a prescription. The husband could not be convinced that the Cortisone 10 was only !% in strength. It fooled many customers.
They argued loudly for a few minutes until the woman motioned to me to help them solve their dilemma.
The husband immediately put his arm around my shoulder and begged me to convince his wife that she was wrong. I moved away a bit to be out of his reach. He then took my hand until I pulled it away. What did the wife say or do? She saw it but ignored it. She probably thought, “Better you than me”. I wondered if they ever touched at all. I felt sorry for both of them. This wasn’t the first and only “touchy-feely” incident I experienced. Many men crave touch and aren’t getting it. What about women? “The girls” hugged each other at the drop of a hat. Although female touch was not their ideal, it was better than nothing.
More recently, I’ve noticed a new procedure for men when they are introduced to each other. It used to be that they just shook hands, but that has evolved into a half-hearted “shake and hug.” Younger men seem to like it, or at least are okay with it, but older guys? They quickly let each other know that an old-fashioned “shake” is all they want.
I’ve noticed that older men visit the nail salon not to get a manicure but a pedicure and a lower leg massage that goes along with it. Is he single or married to a woman who can’t be bothered to touch him? This week, I waited for my nail technician to finish massaging an older man’s legs while he sat with his eyes closed, obviously luxuriating in a touch he doesn’t get from a wife or girlfriend. The technician whispered to me, “He has a lovely wife”. I have never seen a young man get a manicure or a pedicure. He gets all the touch he can handle from his contemporary girlfriend (s).
I’ve often wondered why long-term married couples often become strangers to each other. The reasons can be many, and it doesn’t matter. If that’s your situation, be brave — reach out with a loving touch, even if it’s a “hit and run” touch that lasts no longer than a millisecond. Be a hero by daring to touch and say you still care. A heartfelt hug or “I love you” can open a door that has been closed far too long and rekindle feelings that have gone to sleep. The passage of time is no excuse not to touch the one you said you loved so many years ago when love was new. Try it — you and your loved one will like it.