“Reach out and touch somebody’s hand. Make this world a better place if you can.”- Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson

The lyrics to the song made famous by Diana Ross is an apt description of Epiphany Jordan’s new book entitled Somebody Hold Me: The Single Person’s Guide To Nurturing Human TouchIt is a warm and fuzzy, fully embracing journey for anyone, regardless of relationship status. She is clear from the onset that people who live alone, or who are single, whether by choice or chance are less likely to experience consistent, safe, nurturing, non-sexual touch, by consent. Her introduction reveals her own sadness at the ending of a relationship that left her missing regular touch, albeit, offered by a partner who was not comfortable in his own skin.

According to the 2010 Census, nearly 50% of Americans checked the “single” box. That would include divorced, widowed or never married. What do people do other than simply cast aside the human need for contact? Since our skin is our single largest organ, skin hunger is just as vital a need as food hunger. When babies don’t receive it, they fail to thrive. So too do adults. Depression, anxiety, loneliness, and suicidality have become cultural plagues. The hormone oxytocin spreads throughout our bodies when we receive nurturing touch that has all kinds of physical and mental wellness implications.

Jordan’s book offers delightful alternatives to suffering alone or seeking sex in the absence of platonic touch or if desired, in a romantic relationship. She cautions the reader that the book is not meant to be about pickups or improving one’s sex life, but rather about enhancing communication skills.  She goes on to explore the history of touch studies and their implications for the ways people choose to interact. She cites two studies that coincidentally I researched when in grad school and I wrote a paper called “Counseling Practitoners’ Use of Touch As A Therapeutic Modality”. The first was Harry Harlow and the rhesus monkeys in which a cloth surrogate ‘mother’ who didn’t provide food for the babies was preferred over the wire ‘mother’ who did. The second was Sidney Jourard who observed the number of times people in various countries touched each other in public as they were speaking. Not a huge surprise that in the United States, people touched each other twice in an hour. She also quotes psychologist Virginia Satir who reinforces that “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Consider how many hugs you receive a day, if you are in the single census category.

Full disclosure. I am single/widowed. I have many loving, touchy-feely friends and family members who are happy to hug it out with me. I am the facilitator of a workshop called Cuddle Party™ which she references in the book and  I have cuddled thousands since being certified in 2006. I offer FREE Hugs events where I take to the streets with a sign that says I am a willing hugger. In the past five years since I began the adventure, I estimate that I have hugged thousands of people worldwide. Even so, unless I am engaged in either of those activities, I still don’t meet Satir’s quota.

Jordan takes the reader through the various and sundry options, including massage, 1:1 professional sessions with specially trained and vetted cuddle specialists, casual cuddling gatherings with friends, workshops, and being brave enough to ask people in their lives for the kind of the touch they desire. Specific how-to conversations are sprinkled throughout and self care practices are outlined for at-home experimentation.

As part of what might be considered ‘alternative communities,’ she uses the gender neutral ‘they’ to refer to various people with whom she has had interactions.  The languaging might seem left of center for some readers, but it makes sense, given the perspective of touch needs not being relegated to any one gender orientation. She also describes her experiences at Burning Man which is an annual love fest in the desert of Nevada where people gather to live in community for nine days.

Jordan also dives into the realm of consent. In the era of #metoo, it is even more important to ask and receive a verbal yes before touching anyone. Trauma-sensitive touch is crucial since more survivors are becoming aware of the ways in which abusive or coercive touch has impacted their lives. She guides readers on how to have boundary setting conversations that are an essential aspect of making touch safe.

This well-researched book will (no pun intended) touch a place in you that desires and deserves connection and will nourish you, body, mind, and spirit.

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