Friday, April 3, 2009

The Power and Influence of Touch

President Obama is attending the G-20 conference, but there has been a burst of talk about his wife, Michelle, meeting Elizabeth II, the Queen of England.

And it's been all about touching.

From Yahoo News ...
LONDON – Michelle Obama's meeting with Queen Elizabeth II began with a handshake and ended in a hug.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman who asked not to be identified because of palace policy said he could not remember the last time the queen had displayed such public affection with a first lady or dignitary.
Apparently when hob-nobbing with royalty such an action touches on the boundaries of de rigueur.

From the Washington Post ...
"Protocol seems to be dispensed with when the Obamas come to town," said the Times of London, which noted that the queen seemed particularly comfortable with the first lady and "put her hand on the back of Mrs. Obama, who did the same for a few moments."

Funnily enough, the no-real-tempest in a British royal teacup made me think about the tendency of people to touch or not touch people with disabilities. Living down here boob-high to the world, I often get patted gently, mostly on the shoulder or arm, and most often in church.

I suppose a person could be sensitive about it, not so much because we do not deign to be touched but rather because it can seem to be patronizing, to infantilize our presence in the world, something that could only be made worse by exploring the netherworld of superstition where it appears those of us with spinal damage are the prime targets.
  • Touching the hump of a hunchback brings a gambler good luck.
  • To dream of a hunchback means that you will face an unexpected reverses in your fortunes.
To touch, of course, crosses the last boundary between "Me" and "You," and so in that respect, it may be a good thing.

Perhaps that's why I do not mind much any longer when someone touches me, quickly, briefly.
  • "Devils can be driven out of the heart by the touch of a hand on a
  • hand or a mouth on a mouth." -Tennessee Williams.
  • "Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other." -Rainer Maria Rilke

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