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the touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives

March 2, 2010

No. Not cotton.

Yesterday I was standing in the hallway at school with one of my grad school colleagues, a friend who is by far the most affectionate non-Ethan person in my orbit. She is so generous with the gentle arm touches, pats, and hugs, and it makes me feel comfortable returning the love. She’s pregnant, so then there is the touching of her belly, which always brings smiles on both sides. I always feel calmer after being with her, even for a few minutes. It’s like somehow in those little affectionate gestures is the idea that I’m a person and part of something really old, something that predates journal articles and preparing lectures.  It’s lovely. (Sadly, it is also NOT the norm in Minnesota culture–Minnesota has lovely lovely things, but unrestrained emotional expression is not one of them.)

Turns out the New York Times, and some smart psychologists and experts in nonverbal communication have figured this out as well.  Every bit of research mentioned in this article is of great interest to me, but I’m particularly interested in the doctor-patient study. Think about it–the doctor touches you all the time–it’s really the only professional relationship that involves touching. And what this study (or more accurately, what the NYTimes reporting of this study) is suggesting is that we intuitively know the difference between cold practical touching and caring touching. And that it’s caring touching that makes a big difference.  Having a caring doctor is really important.

The longer I’ve been away from New York, the more refined my list of things I miss gets. When I first got here, the list was expansive and ridiculously specific (“I miss the attitude of the people at the post office!”). Now the list is slim and concise. But one thing that remains is my NYC GP–I swear the guy is best doctor on the planet. And I am willing to bet he is high on that caring touching, dammit.

On a side note, isn’t weird how hard it is to find a good doctor?

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