The other day I was at my local hair salon, I leaned back at a sink as the shampoo girl washed and conditioned and rambled on about her boyfriend. Shampoo Girl was massaging my scalp and I was nearly nodding off in blissful goosebumpiness, when a funny thought flitted through my sudsy head: This is the most human contact I've had since . . . since . . . my last hair appointment!
Under my closed eyelids, my eyes rolled in a moment of self-professed pathetic-ness. In a society where bed-hopping is practically a national pastime and people literally half my age make out in the food court at the local mall, the fact that I can count the time between mere hugs with weeks and sometimes months feels downright freakish.
It's not just the absence of kisses and caresses that feels strange. There are times I miss the most basic human contact—a hug, a hand to hold, a literal shoulder to lean on in tough circumstances. The kinds of physical gestures that communicate a common bond, and say, We're in this together. The kind that bring feelings of security, comfort, and unity in our increasingly independent, isolated society. The kind we singles often miss out on.
I grew up in a fairly tactile family. My dad would wake me up by rubbing my back for a few moments while I regained consciousness, and I'd often watch him rub my mom's shoulders or feet in the evening as we watched TV. There were always hugs goodnight. In fact, that's one of my favorite parts about going home as a grown-up—the return of goodnight hugs.
It's such a stark contrast to my typical touch-less existence. Usually I wake up in my solo apartment and don't talk to anyone, let alone touch anyone, until I get to work. Even Mr. Right, my finicky parakeet, won't let me touch his bright blue feathers. Obviously there's no physical contact at the office where I work, and barring any hugs hello or goodbye at any random coffee or dinner get-togethers after work, I often return to bed completely touch-free. Only to repeat the same the next day—or until my next hair cut.
Such is one of the unique challenges of the single life.
And this reality flies in the face of countless psychological studies that have been conducted over the past 40 or 50 years. Research conducted with babies, monkeys, the elderly, and people with chronic or fatal diseases show that positive human contact leads to improved mental and physical health. Some of these studies even go so far as to say that it's nearly impossible to be a healthy, secure individual without regular good physical touch. And the findings about the ill-effects of positive-touch deprivation are startling.