"The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men's Lives is a Killer" by Mark Greene



“How often do men actually get the opportunity to express affection through long lasting platonic touch? How often does it happen between men? Or between men and women? Not a hand shake or a hug, but lasting physical contact between two people that is comforting and personal but not sexual. Between persons who are not lovers and never will be. Think, holding hands. Or leaning on each other. Sitting together. That sort of thing. Just the comfort of contact. And if you are a man, imagine a five minutes of contact with another man. How quickly does that idea raise the ugly specter of homophobia? And why?”


“Contact with male friends is always brief, a handshake, or a pat on the back. Hugs with men or women are a ballet of the awkward, a comedic choreography in which we turn our groins this way or that. Shoulders in, butts out, seeking to broadcast to anyone within line of sight that we are most certainly not having a sexual moment. We’re working so hard to be seen as sexually neutral that we take no joy in these moments of physical connection.

Not only do we men distrust others in this muddled realm of physical touch, years of shaming and judgement have left us distrusting ourselves. Did I enjoy that too much? Am I having taboo thoughts? This distrust leaves us uncertain about touching another human being unless we have established very clear rules of engagement. Often we give up and simply reduce those rules to being in a relationship. We allow ourselves long-lasting comforting touch with our girlfriends or boyfriends. The vast universe of platonic human touch is suddenly reduced to the exclusive domain of one person and is blended into the sexual. That’s a lot of need to put on one person, however loving and generous they might be.”


“If men could diffuse their need for physical connection across a much wider set of platonic relationships, it would do wonders for our sense of connection in the world. As it is, we can’t even manage a proper hug because we can’t model what was never modeled for us.”


“[A]t the root of all these flawed rationalizations is the fact that most American men are never taught to do gentle non-sexual touch. We are not typically taught that we can touch and be touched as platonic expression of joyful human contact. Accordingly, the very inappropriate over-sexualized touch our society fears runs rampant, reinforcing our culture’s self fulfilling prophecy against men and touch. Meanwhile, this inability to comfortably connect via touch has left men emotionally isolated contributing to rampant rates of alcoholism, depression and abuse.

And what if the lack of platonic touch is causing some men to be far too aggressive toward women, who, as the exclusive gatekeepers for gentle touch are carrying a burden they could never hope to fully manage? Women, who arguably are both victims of and, in partnership with men, enforcers of the prohibition against platonic touch in American culture? The impact of our collective touch phobia is felt across our society by every single man, woman and child.”


“There are many reasons why full-time stay at home dads are proving to be such a transformative force in American culture.

One powerful reason is the awakening of touch. As full time dads, we are presented with the absolute necessity to hold our own wonderful children. We are learning about touch in the most powerful and life affirming way. In ways that previous generations of men simply were not immersed in. Once you have held your sleeping child night after night or walked for years with their hand in yours, you are a changed person. You gain a fluency and confidence in touch that you will never loose. It is a gift to us men from our children that literally has the capacity to transform American culture. Accordingly, now, when I am with a friend I do reach out. I do make contact. And I do so with confidence and joy. And I have my own clear path forward.”


“Learning how to express platonic love and affection through touch is a vast and remarkable change that has to be lived. But it is so important that we do it. Because it is central to having a rich full life.”

I’m gay, but I don’t see any reason whatever to think that my parents are to blame. I’m the oldest of eight children. When I was growing up, my mother had an cross-stitch that she had made hanging beside the door as we exited our home. It showed a picture of a nest, and was accompanied by the words “There are two important gifts that we give our children. One is roots, the other is wings.” My mother’s entire parenting style is summarized in this simple proverb. Even though she was insanely busy when I was growing up (and she’s still insanely busy now) I always knew that I was loved, that I was supported, that she was proud of me and that she was there for me no matter what I did, believed, or chose. Even though my father was busy trying to provide for a family of eight, I had a tremendous amount in common with him. We did things together, he recommended books to me, took me on skiing trips, and taught me how to build a deck. I’m close to all of my siblings, male and female. When I compare my relationships with my family to the relationships that my friends have with their families what stands out is not that my family of origin was lacking, but that it was exceptional.

I owe it to my parents to state this, clearly, plainly, and publicly. I’m not angry at the producers of “The Third Way,” but I’m a little disappointed. I tried to make sure that I offered them an alternative narrative, the necessary material with which to say “Sometimes someone with an absolutely f***ing fantastic family ends up gay. And it’s not because she was sexually abused. It’s because…honestly? We don’t know.” We don’t know. The Catechism has the humility to state this plainly and and honestly, but for some reason the Catholic media struggles to acknowledge that this might be true. We want a scapegoat, someone to blame for homosexuality, and in the post-psychotherapeutic cultural landscape parents are a perennial sitting duck.

So today I’m giving a shout out to all of the parents of gay kids. A lot of you are great people. Fantastic people. Ordinary saints. People like my folks.

Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s your fault.

the indispensable Melinda Selmys (via wesleyhill)

Haikus from a wedding:

You married today
And left tears on my shoulder
“Would you like these back?”

I’ll recall your dad
introducing me, “their dear
dear friend,” forever.

I almost forgot
the music. I just wanted
to hear your new name


Ran back to the marsh,

where spring has not forgotten

to also return.

We don’t give other people credit for the same interior complexity we take for granted in ourselves, the same capacity for holding contradictory feelings in balance, for complexly alloyed affections, for bottomless generosity of heart and petty, capricious malice. We can’t believe that anyone could be unkind to us and still be genuinely fond of us, although we do it all the time.

I Know What You Think of Me, by Tim Krieder. (via timoni)

90% of the world’s problems go away if we all internalize this information and apply it uniformly to our daily lives.

(via mdt)