A while back a thirty something friend of mine was sharing a thought he’d had while getting a hair cut. He had just been in to the local Great Clips or whatever and a woman had cut his hair. Now think about this situation for a minute. You’re in the chair and the woman stylist throws the bib on you and goes to work. Two interesting things happen here.
First she is talking to you the whole time. She asks you about your day and do you have to go back to work. She asks what you do and tells you that is a good job when you answer. She tells you some about her, she’s been doing this for years, or she is doing it temporarily and has bigger dreams. “What are you doing this weekend?” she might ask or, “Did you see the Cardinal game?” You are having a random conversation with woman. For some guys I know this would be the longest conversation they have that month with a woman.
Secondly and more interestingly she is touching you the whole time. She is touching your head. She is cutting your hair yes but she is also combing it and measuring it. Several times she brushes up against you with her arm or her body. It just happens – it’s not on purpose or a move of any kind. But still it’s physical touch. Then she gets a look and tells you it looks good – and makes sure you feel the same way. She’s right there, close, in your face.
My friend said this, “What I realized sitting there was that this was going to be the only time this month that I have any sort of female touch in my life”. It is the closest thing to physical intimacy he was going to have. . . until the next haircut.
Is the Church’s best answer to this “Don’t have sex?”
Here’s the thing – we are going to need more than that. This is one of the hardest things about trying to walk with Jesus as a single person. We have to basically forgo physical intimacy. And the worst part is that if you grew up without any (different post for another time) you are really hurting and awkward in that area. This is such a hard deal that we don’t talk about. We’re told all the things not to do – don’t touch, don’t think, don’t even look. So what is it we are supposed to DO with that desire? It’s not just sex we are giving up. It is touch. Sometimes for years. This leads to all sorts of traps, like isolation and awkwardness.
What do you do with your desire for touch? Do you have anyone that you can even say that out loud to?
We’ve got to talk about this and create environments (proper ones) for conversation, community and even proper touch. Proper touch – I laugh as a I type that – what does that even mean? I don’t know but we need to figure it out.
Yes please keep writing!
Off to a good start Justin. I can just imagine the conversation that this post could generate if read outloud in a group setting.
I think that for women this is slightly easier (or at least it is for me) because women are much more comfortable hugging, or putting their arm around each other, giving back rubs, or even playing with each other’s hair or doing each other’s hair. Women are even more likely to get massages or pedicures etc. This all involves touch. It’s like women are allowed to need and enjoy non-sexual touch but men aren’t somehow.
But opposite sex touch is different, and needed, and not even always sexual. I live 13 hours from my family and sometimes I uniquely crave a hug from my dad or brothers. I love getting hugs from trusted men, it makes me feel safe and cherished. I don’t know if that is necessarily sexual or maybe it’s sensual but not sexual or maybe it is sexual but not in a perverse way. I have no idea. But you are right, it’s there and I can only imagine it’s even harder for single men.
I disagree. As a woman, I have held hands with a girl and almost immediately developed strong feelings towards her, though I never pursued it past a best friendship that lasted for 4 years. With a guy, I’ve done the same, but I am in some emotional intimacy with him. He’s not a Christian. I feel safe around him, we get along great. But he’s not God’s man for me.
Justin, thank you for helping me see a glimpse of life from a Christian single guy’s perspective. Wow! You have given me so much to think about.
I read this post a few hours ago, and it has been on my mind ever since. I think single and married people need to hear your message. I think that married people may appreciate the blessings of marriage and not complain nearly as much when they think about the challenges singles face. And i think other singles could derive a lot of strength, comfort and direction from discussing these very difficult issues together.
My heart goes out to you and other single men in the struggle with purity, isolation and lack of feminine touch. I greatly respect your commitment to purity and your willingness to share vulnerably. I don’t have answers for the battle that single men (and women) must face but I pray for God’s power, His wisdom, His provision, His victory and His glory for your life and for other Christian singles. I pray for the church to find a way to address these very real needs and to be the support that singles need.
Thanks for the kind words. There is so much unsaid that needs to be talked about within the community – together.
We ARE the church. You two have been an awesome help. It may be online support system, but those who read this blog are blessed.
Your haircut story reminds me of my Sudanese friend who was male and traveled frequently. He admitted that he didn’t mind being frisked at the airports because it was a rare opportunity to be touched.
I think the lack of physical touch is a big deal to women too. First of all, I for one don’t have a lot of single women around and if I do, it feels a little weird if we are all touchy. Secondly, let’s be honest, it is touch from the other gender that we really want.
Yeah it is definitely the touch from the opposite sex that we want. I agree. And when we go without it for a long time there area a lot of dangers. When you think about it, when we are younger there are a lot more opportunities for it to occur naturally. As we stay single longer it is harder to come by.
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Justin, I have looked all over the internet, and you are still the only person I have ever seen actually address this issue. This has been one of my greatest struggles as a single Christian man. I grew up in a very “huggy” family, so once I moved several hours away for my current job the complete lack of touch really hit me hard. Sometimes it’s so bad just seeing a couple hold hands in public has caused me to start tearing up. At times I’ve wanted a girlfriend not for sex, not even for kissing, but just to have someone who will let me put my arm across her shoulders while we watch a movie. I’m lucky enough to have one female friend who will give me hugs (good hugs, not crappy 0.5-second side-hugs), but without her I’d be completely devoid of touch. Churches look at single men hugging women and think, “He’s just lusting after her”, but is it really so bad just to want a damn hug once in a while?