By Kathleen Guthrie Woods
I had a great life. I’d started and was running a successful business. I had a tribe of smart, funny, and supportive women friends. I was healthy and fit. Furthermore, I was coming to terms with the possibility that I would remain single and childfree, and I was becoming more confident that I could create a fulfilling life for myself, by myself. I had everything I needed and I was happy.
During an extraordinary two-week period, I took care of my 15-month-old nephew, Jake, while his parents traveled. We danced, we laughed. He threw tantrums, I stressed about keeping the house together and keeping him from getting hurt. Everything was somewhat under control. Then one night, while I was in the kitchen washing the dinner dishes, he came up behind me, threw his arms around my leg in a tight hug, kissed the back of my calf, then toddled back to the living room.
“Thanks, Jake!” I managed to get out before tears locked up my voice. A current of love surged from my leg and throughout my body as I sobbed into the soapy water. I was struck by the realization of how touch deprived I had been for so long. Sure, friends greeted each other with a light hug and peck on the cheek. It wasn’t even the passion of a romantic relationship that I longed for. It was the daily human interaction, the hugs and kisses, the gentle caresses, the genuine affection, the skin-to-skin contact, something moms get (and have even been heard to complain about).
At that time in my life, I had none of that in my home. What made me a bit scared was that I hadn’t even noticed. It had become my “normal” and I hadn’t thought anything of it until Jake reawakened the need in me.
When I got back home, I brainstormed how I might create more physical affection in my life. I ruled out engaging in one-night stands and, well, hiring male escorts, both of which lacked the “genuine” aspect I needed. I thought about scheduling more frequent massages. I lavished my dog with belly rubs, which helped some. Was it enough? Would it be enough?
The one answer that made sense to me was that in order to receive, I needed to give. I could visit elderly residents of retirement homes, providing them with conversation, attention, and gentle touches. I could become more huggie with my friends, especially my single friends. I could offer to babysit, giving my mom-friends breaks they needed and getting some cuddling time with the children who inhabit my circles.
Are you aware of this need in yourself? If you’ve come up with creative solutions, please share them with us in a comment. Meanwhile (and I know this is just a tidbit), please consider yourself cyber-hugged.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.