11 November 2010

Day 229: Tenderness

Tenderness by Robert Cormier.  ISBN: 9780385322867.

I think even if you aren't a serial killer or a young woman who uses her body to find "tenderness" that you can find yourself identifying with Lori and Eric's need for it.  Each of them get tenderness in different ways, neither of them particularly healthy, but it is something that every single one of us needs.  There is a psychological and primal need to be touched, and I have found myself desperate for that touch in a way that I understand the extremes Eric and Lori go to, even though I would never go through them myself.

I am not talking about any kind of touch here.  I am specifically talking about the need for tenderness.  I define this as a touch without motivation, or if there is motivation it is one meant only to convey the affection that one human being feels for another and not a prelude to something more.  I think this is something that teenagers in particular have difficulty finding in their lives as parents tend to touch less as sexual development begins and teenagers tend to touch each other more, but in different and not always healthy ways.

I have to admit, I was a bit like Lori in my teenage years.  I definitely sought the attention of men and enjoyed being touched by them, but I think if I had had the simple touch of tenderness I might not have been so eager to give so much, to seek so desperately for affection.  It is confusing for children to go from being touched and cuddled often to an almost complete absence, a near void, of touching.  When we're five our parents are almost always holding our hands and cuddling and when we're eight they're still often affectionate, it's still okay to sit in your parent's lap.  When we're ten we can still get away with cuddling next to a parent during family movie night, but when we get to be twelve things start to change.  We aren't allowed as many public displays of affection, we aren't freely given as many kisses or hugs, it goes from almost too much to almost never in a matter of a few years.

This happens at the same time that friends tend to stop touching as well.  Sure, they are more free and open with their affections, but if you want to hold hands or have prolonged touch, which is something I think we also need, it is much harder to find.  Even if you do find a friend willing to give that sort of touch, there is always the thought that maybe they have other intentions, because it's just that kind of time in our lives when things start to revolve around completely different motivations and we don't know how to react.

I think this is why I find it difficult to comprehend why there are people who don't like to be touched.  On the one hand I understand that it is a very personal thing to touch someone else, but I personally feel unbalanced and unwell if I haven't been touched kindly by another person.  I feel unconnected and unwanted and unworthy of human companionship, because that's what being untouched means.  And I need to touch as well.  I very much need to tell you that I value you as a member of my tribe and my community.  I need to press your hand or squeeze your shoulder or give you a hug, or even kiss your cheek.  I need to let you know that I have tenderness for you, that I love you in a way that has no motivation behind it.  I love you because you are part of my life and you add a richness to it that it wouldn't have if you were gone.

Dear readers, let me be tender with you, and be tender with me and each other, there is already so much harshness in the world, too many bad touches and pushing and shoving.  Let me love you just because you live with my words in your minds, even just for a few moments of the day.  Thank you for letting me be a part of your life, I don't think you know exactly how much it means to me.

I more or less agree with this review from Goodreads.  More book bloggers need to read and review this one, I was disappointed with the lack of reviews!

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