A GLIMPSE OF ORTHODOX JUDAISM: Why I Don’t Touch Men
Because touch is sacred and my body is sacred. And sacred things should be saved for sacred moments.
My love language has always been touch. Always.
The warmth of my mother’s arms as she shielded me from the evils of the world. The safety of my father’s hand as he guided me across busy streets.
Touch meant more than just affection.
It meant safety. It meant belonging. It meant that I was home.
It still does.
The brush of fingers against skin could be such a small thing; it could mean Nothing. It could be professional, helpful, or platonic.
The brush of fingers against skin could be such a huge thing; it could mean Everything. It could be comforting, therapeutic, or sensual.
And for most women, it’s instinctual. When a male sticks out his hand to shake yours, you look him in the eyes and extend your own. After all, that’s how well-mannered children are raised. Handshakes are not only the polite thing to do, they’re the foundation upon which all relationships are built.
Handshakes are normally proffered without deliberation. They’re accepted without a second thought. But for me, there’s that slight hesitation:
Because I don’t touch men.
So, for a split second, I stand there awkwardly. Do I just stick out my hand and get it over with? Do I tell him that I’m allergic to those of the opposite gender? Or do I grab my skirt, dip into a half curtsy and reply with an, “it’s an absolute pleasure to meet you but, for religious reasons, I don’t touch guys”?
Yes, I’m even conscious of something as small as a handshake.
If I have the time and the confidence, I explain that I’m shomer negiah (lit. observant of touch). And that touch between the sexes is limited to family members or professional purposes. If I have the time and the confidence, I explain that physical contact is something that I have built an incredible sensitivity towards.
That, yes, I’m even conscious of something as small as a handshake.
But sometimes, I don’t have the time. And sometimes, I don’t have the confidence.
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