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June 12, 2014

The Power of Touch

I loved this:

“Often a bedmate became your best friend. Not just married couples, but sons sleeping with servants, sisters with one another, and aristocratic wives with mistresses. Darkness, within the intimate confines of a bed, leveled social distinctions despite differences in gender and status,” Ekirch says. “Most individuals did not readily fall sleep but conversed freely. In the absence of light, bedmates coveted that hour when, frequently, formality and etiquette perished by the bedside.”

We sleep together not because it’s fiscally responsible, but because we are affectionate beings. Our minds need rest, but our minds also need camaraderie and intimacy and whispering. Anxiety and stress seem less intimidating when discussed with a partner while wearing pajamas. It’s important to talk about our days lying side by side, discuss children and household situations, gossip about neighbors and colleagues, plan for tomorrow in the confines of private chambers. We cuddle. We laugh. At the end of each day we remove the onerous cloaks we’ve donned to face the world, and we want to do this lying next to our best friends, to know we’re not in it alone.

“We are creatures of attachment,” Crespi says. “We like to have someone close, to be in proximity to other people.”

Even when they snore. Especially when they sleep sideways.

At Villa Cassandranita, our little nuclear family (Mom, Dad, two sons) were somewhat unusual in that all four of us are introverts. This makes us somewhat less apt to want to deal with other people 24/7 and somewhat more likely to value time alone.

The Editorial Staff know it made long deployments easier: enjoying solitude definitely makes the inevitable loneliness and longing for your significant other easier to bear.

But I'm still a big fan of the invisible language of human contact. I held my babies a lot, mostly preferring to carry them than to put them into a stroller. We had a backpack that I used until our boys got to be about 30 pounds: the ability to tote a toddler while mowing the lawn or doing light housework was invaluable. I could talk to them as they watched what I was doing over one shoulder, or reach up and reassure them if they became restless or fretful.

Even tiny babies communicate through touch. Though it happened over 30 years ago, I've never forgotten the first time my firstborn - only 6 months old - tried to comfort me. As I stood there, holding him as I sobbed out my loneliness and frustration, I slowly became aware of a tiny hand rhythmically patting my back.

My baby was comforting me as I had comforted him innumerable times when he cried - by gently patting my back. A small miracle I will never forget.

And then there are those times when even in a relationship between adults, words aren't terribly effective. But a touch of the hand or a quick hug conveys love and connection, even at times when we don't understand each other all that well.

"It's OK. We may not agree, but I'll always be there for you." All without a single word spoken.

Posted by Cassandra at June 12, 2014 04:25 PM

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