Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Power and Necessity of Human Touch

“It’s this way,” my dear friend said, smiling over her shoulder at us. Miss Priss and I followed her from the waiting room into a hive of activity. Pedicure clients lined the wall to the left, feet soaking, buffing, sloughing, and toenails filing. To the right were manicure tables and hair stylist chairs, some occupied, others waiting for the next clients. And everywhere students dressed in black moved purposefully, carrying tools of the trade, chatting with clients, mixing mysterious potions, talking with each other, comparing notes.

My friend and the fellow student she’d introduced to us opened a door and instantly everything changed. The hubbub of the cosmetology part of the school disappeared as the door closed behind us. We entered the realm of the aestheticians-in-training. Delicious scents enticed us. Piano music enveloped us. And a sense of calm descended upon us.

Miss Priss and I smiled at each other. We had come for facials.

Within a few moments, we were besmocked and swaddled in blankets atop comfy padded tables, our hair pulled back and protected by towels. By a happy stroke of fortunate timing, Miss Priss and I were the only clients there.

And then the loveliness began.


We seem to be losing the beauty of human touch in our culture. Too often, touching is seen as a negative, something forced upon us, unwanted, perhaps even violent.

Touching is even discouraged. Teachers can no longer hug their students. Strangers lean away from one another. The fear of misinterpretation immobilizes us.

Human touch has been relegated to Displays of Affection Only. And what a loss. We crave touch. Babies from whom human touch is withheld fail to thrive. Those who live alone wither either in spirit or in body and often in both without the benefit – the benediction – of another’s touch.

This fact comes home to me clearly when I’ve served food to homeless men in a church shelter downtown. Many of them, young and old, squeeze my hand in thanks when they come to the kitchen window for second helpings. They don’t have to. Some just say thank you. Some simply smile. Others, however, reach out and grasp my hand, giving my fingers a light squeeze. For a second we connect and then part, both of us a strengthened by even such brief contact.

My friend says that quite a few of their aesthetics clients are elderly and frail. They often express quiet gratitude to her at the end of their treatments. “Oh, thank you,” they sigh, as she helps them to sit up. She wonders about them. Do they live alone? Are they lonely? Who takes care of them? More importantly, who cares for them?

As I lay quietly on the table and my precious friend’s fingertips lightly skimmed over my skin, it came to my mind that aestheticians are in the enviable position of ministering to others through touch. In a time when so many of us are hampered, hindered by fears, suspicions, and, frankly, the concern of being misunderstood, aestheticians and others in such professions freely give us what we yearn for, what we need: human touch.

To each client they say without words, I acknowledge you as a fellow human being worthy of my time and consideration and compassion. They understand and take seriously the gift they have to impart to others. Their hands bestow a temporary peace. A blessing.

Photo credit: <a href="">Tamara van Molken</a> / <a href="">Foter</a> / <a href="">CC BY-NC-ND</a>

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