Meaningful Touch

Touch me.  Ouch.  You were just surprised weren’t you?   Why?  Well primarily for two reasons.  One: its usually hyper-sexual males that say awkward jokes or lines that include the words touch me, and so therefore you typically associate those words with sexuality.  Two:  I used the title “meaningful touch” and the the third word on the blog was “ouch” — you were surprised because you don’t associate the word meaningful with anything painful, and for that I’m glad. :)

You’ve read to this point because you already have your own ideas on what a meaningful touch is, at what times and places it occurs, and between which types of parties is it most applicable or acceptable.  I’m not here to change your mind, but perhaps to tell you a bit about what I have observed regarding a meaningful touch.

1) Touching is, in general, a positive thing and a sign of love.  If you went to a marriage counselor and told them that you have not even touched your partner in months, they would gasp.  If you went to a psychologist and told them that you are scared of touching your child, they would have deep concerns for both you and your child.  Touching is in fact one of the greatest signs of love and is a necessary form of human interaction.

2) There are different types of touches.  Some are reserved for special occasions.  Some are part of daily human interaction.  Some are a sign of approval.  Others tell you that it is OK.  Some tell you that you have done something wrong.  Once in a while you get a touch that you don’t forget.  Its meaning is hard to explain.

What is a meaningful touch?
It can be practically anything.  It can be a pat on the back.  It can be a handshake.  It can be a hug.  It can be a kiss.  It can be something holding your hand.  It can be your friend grabbing your hand as you cross the street.  It can be someone who picks something out of your hair.  It can be someone who takes that eyelash out of your eye.  It can be someone who puts their hand on your shoulder while you are talking.  It is a friend who leans on you.  A rest on your shoulder.   Someone who grabs your hand and tells you something.

What does it show?
It shows a sign of mutual comfort between two individuals.  In all of the examples I gave above, a couple of things are in common: 1) the two people exchanging a meaningful touch must know each other 2) the two people have established some sort of rapport or mutual trust.  3) the two people care about each other.  Let me repeat that last sentence.  The two people care about each other.  Lets think about that a little.  If these sorts of simple interactions that add incredible meaning to our lives.  Remove all of them, and I’d bet we would all get depressed.  We rely on meaningful touches in our life.

Now let me add a bit of humor to the situation and talk about typical male-female interactions and what goes through different parties heads at different occasions during meaningful touches:

Girl in line waiting to buy coffee, random guy puts hand on shoulder, and asks a question about the day.  WEIRD.  Right?  The girl is frightened — turns around wondering “who the hell just put their hand on my shoulder” — she is probably tense.  So if she knows you the first thing you will see in her eyes is “relief” because every bell and whistle in her body just went off thinking “creepo”

Guy in line waiting to buy coffee, random girl puts hand on shoulder and asks a question about the day.
Wow.  He is surprised but not scared.  I think that guys generally get much less meaningful touch than women — and women are definitely or at least typically a bit more sensitive about when and in what social situations they touch men.  Even on the shoulder.  When the guy realizes its a girl after he turns around, he will probably have other bells and whistles going off.  Girl touched me, he says.  Calm down dude, its just your shoulder.

Guy in club, talking to girl at bar.  He touches her hand. Risky, dude.  But your sending a signal.  What is it?  You’re at least saying I like what you are saying, but you’re likely saying more and she knows that.  You, by giving that meaningful touch have just set yourself up for a yipee! moment or a oops! moment.  The casual conversation, is likely over, or is at least about to change directions.  Why?  Because the social setting changed: you’re in a club and girls on on ALERT.  They don’t want to get “picked up” — even if they are looking for attention or for a good time or good conversation, they don’t want to get “picked up” or feel sleazy and you just touched her dude.  Risky, but you have to do it at some point if you like her.

Guy and girl are friends.  They are at school.  Guy sees girl and runs up to her and gives her a hug.
Likely scenario: Smiles.  Now imagine if I changed the venue.  They are in a hot tub.  Like scenario: SCREAM.  Everything is not just person specific, but context specific.  I don’t recommend anyone trying to hug any girl in a hot tub unless you’re really comfortable.  And no, I’ve never tried it either.

Random stranger is crying on the street.  Another random stranger approaches put hand on shoulder and says “I promise you it will be ok.” HERO!  Think about it for a second.  They don’t even know each other, but the chance of that meaningful touch getting rejected: almost zero.  Why?  Its sincerity is obvious.

That is the biggest lesson that I want you to walk away from this blog entry with.  Meaningful touches are only meaningful when they are sincere.  The more sincere they are the more meaning they will have.  Sincerity to express a variety of emotions, yes: depending on the relationship, and depending on the context.
Touching clearly yields powerful emotional responses.  In this blog I’ve scared you, I’ve made you go awww, I’ve made you think about romantic moments in your own lives.  So keep on touching :) But be sincere, and I promise it will be reciprocated.

Writing about love is like dancing about architecture

I like the color yellow.  Do you?  Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.  Maybe when you see the color yellow you see something different, and maybe we are actually experiencing the same color.  See, thats the point.  When we look at a color, it is an experience, but describing that experience is very difficult.

Lets try it out.  Think of a color.  Now tell me what that color feels like.

Stop looking at the shoe to the left.  What?  Speak up, man, I can’t hear you!

No, in all seriousness, describe to yourself in words what that color feels like.  You’re probably stumbling for the right adjective, and if you are finding words, you are probably comparing that color to some other object.  To me yellow makes me feel like “warm” like “hot chocolate in the winter” like “sand in my toes” like “squinting while driving because the sun is in my eyes”  (well obviously because the sun is yellow, dummy.)  Right…. you get my point. Why are yellow cars “flashy” but yellow shoes are “trendy”  Why is a red tie “sexy” but red socks are “dorky.”  Why can’t guys wear purple undewear? Ok I’m diverting from my subject….  The point is that describing a color is subjective. It depends on context.  It depends on who is looking at the color, at what time they are looking at the color, and in what context they are describing the color.

And guess what?  so is love!

This is why writing about love is like dancing about architecture. Because no matter what I say, I am right, and I am also wrong.  I might be connecting with you depending on your mood when reading the words I’m writing.  If I wrote in pink you would have a fundamentally different feeling about what I am writing than if I was writing in orange.  You just got a little more mellow than when I was writing in pink didn’t you?  How about red?  Ooooh.  Red.  Red is the color of love isn’t it? Well, if you do a google image search on the text string “love” you’ll find a lot of RED.  Why?  Because I said so, OK?  Well no, not really.  Mostly because we have been told to think of love when we think of red.


I’m digressing again.  Here is my point.  If I asked you the same question about love that I asked you about colors — “tell me what you feel when you think of love?”  You’re going to tell me about experiences, about objects, and about feelings.  I won’t even go into trying to put feelings into words, because believe me I’ve tried, and in fact, I am trying — its even tougher than putting love into words.  Love is going to be different things to each of us.   Duh!?  Obviously.  (reader thinking: I read this long to get to that obvious point?) Love IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT FOR ALL OF US.  What that means it that while its perhaps the most important boding force we have on this planet, it is also almost impossible for us to agree on a meaning, for us to express exactly what it feels like to another, or for me to sit here, in my cozy chair while eating a spinach salad in a cafe in Berkeley, CA to tell you how you should write about love.

Write about it however you want!  Dance about it however you want.  Sing about it.  Make love about it.  Eat about it.  Listen about it.  Hug about it.  Make out about it.  All day long.  Go on a hike and tell someone something nice.  Give your mom a hug.  Jump in a lake and yell out loud because it feels so good.  Drink a cup of coffee from Seattle and tell me you love it.

Just dig deep and YELL it out!

Don’t let it muster. If you feel it, tell me (or rather the one you love), because they will love you back for it.

So, I have a blog about love right?  (the answer is yes, as you are reading it).  So I am going to tell you what love feels like to me.  Well rather, I’m going to tell you how, in December 2006, while sitting in a London apartment and expressing myself on paper, Love felt like to me at that time, in that place, and without any particular person in mind.

The Dance (Written in London, December 2006)

I wish I could be with you.
Hold you tight.
Be in my sight.
A finger past your hair.
Your skin is so fair.
A tickle of your toe.
A dance in the snow.
A tumble down the hill.
We both took a spill.
Rolling rolling on and on
Waiting waiting for the dawn.

The sun.
A day of fun.
A twinkle of orange and red.
I remember everything you said.
Days and years
smiles and tears
Don’t leave, stay near
without you I fear
The dawn to night
You’re out of my sight
But I know you are there
You are for my care
No sight no smell no touch
I dont even need that much
You are all I need
You are all I greed

A twinkle on your dress
Of the dance floor we mess
Around and around
We slip to the sounds
Years one and years two
I was made for you.
years three and years four
All I want is more
Until the end
If God wishes to mend
I am for you if you will be for me.
Forever to dance in glee.

Intuition. Love. The light on the wall.

As a child, intuition was like the lightbulb that pops up when a character gets an idea.   Some books talk about intuition and the difference between two parts of our minds.  Our rational mind and our emotional mind.  How do we get those light-bulb feelings?  Is that the same thing as a “gut” reaction?  There are entire books written about each word of each of the above sentences.  For those interested, How we decide, and Stumbling on Happiness are both good reads.  For the super enthusiastic, that want to learn about decision making and are willing to watch a short clip, I’d highly recommend this TED talk.

What we do know is that part of what makes us human is the ability for our brains to jump to a conclusion about something without really even thinking about it.  I look at you, and I know I’ve seen you, but I haven’t yet figured out how.   You ask me who sings this song, I tell you, but I can’t remember when I heard it, or how I know. Or, regarding love, you meet someone and you’re drawn to them.

What the hell does that mean anyways?  I’m drawn to them?  I don’t know but I love it when it happens.  For no particular reason, I know where the light is on the wall.  What do I mean?  Well let me tell you a little story.

There have been repeated experiments with intuition and decision making.  One of the better examples of the anomaly of intuition involves a blind woman and a flashlight.  A medically blind patient who cannot distinguish light from dark, is asked to face a wall.  The scientist shines a light on the wall and asks the woman to point at the light.  The scientist typically has to calm the patient down, explaining that no they are not trying to offend them, but they would like them to try to find the light.  Want to know what happens?  The blind patient finds the light.  Not every time, but more than what is left to chance. (statistically significant)

Whats the point? How does this relate to love? Love is like intuition.  We don’t know why it happens, but when it does we can spot it from a mile away.  A blind person could spot it on the wall.
We’ve all heard the magic of marriage.  “you will just know when its right.”  What?  How will I know?  When will I know?  We don’t like this answer — it feels like leaving one of the most important things to us up to chance.  “It’s ok honey, you’re time will come.”  Right, Ok.  I agree it’s not just chance, we have to work at it.  But point is, we work for an indefinite amount of time until “the time is right.”  What happens at that moment?  For one the universe has aligned in your favor, and all of the Gods are blessing this moment.  For another, your gut is just telling you so.

  • “This one is a keeper.”
  • “I know you’re scared, but dammit, stick around, because this might be it.”
  • “Put yourself out there.  Love is worth it.”

You’re probably also fiddling with your hair, or if your a guy, your leg might be bouncing up and down.  Some people’s palms get sweaty.  Sometimes we blush.  Sometimes we just stop talking altogether because someone just stole the air from our lungs.  Maybe we want to run away.  But we’re happy.  We want to dig deeper.  Our gut tells us so.  These physical reactions are in fact our biological response to our gut telling us so.  This is the language of our gut when its talking about love, or at least interest.

We get a flurry of thoughts where our intuition, our instincts, our gut is just telling us it’s right.  For those of you who have found it, congratulations.  Hold on tight, because from what I’ve heard you’ve just finally reached the roller coaster and the ride is about to start.  For those who are still looking, don’t worry, I promise you, what will come will come.  OK, thats not that big of a promise, but I can say that if it is what you want, you are highly likely to find it.  Its just odds.  Half of the world is man and half of the world is woman.  You are beautiful, and you will find someone who agrees with me.  Your job is to be patient.

Stay hungry.  Follow your heart.  Listen to your intuitive mind.  Love will follow.

Why we love dark chocolate

Among other things, I am a dark chocolate addict.  I typically buy dark chocolate that is >70% cacao.  I like eating it with coffee, with tea, and especially after dinner.  When I’m buying it for someone else, I typically combine a good bar with a good drink.  It mellows the flavor and lets you take a break from its loveliness just for long enough so that when you take the next bite your feeding your addiction again.

But we don’t only like dark chocolate because it tastes good.  Lots of things taste good.  Not many people would deny a cup of their favorite ice cream, or creme brulee, or if we move to other food groups: an amazing fillet of salmon with rosemary potatoes.  There is something more to dark chocolate.

Yes, sometimes chocolate chills us out after a meal, but most of the time, when we think about what we’re told about chocolate, it has to do with Love.  With sex. Chocolate makes us voracious.  If it isn’t working, we want to eat more.

Chocolate gives us that same feeling of sitting on a hammock in warm spring breeze, while in our head living the fantasy of being the star of the show on a dance floor with the opposite sex eye-balling us to death, with a wink, and with big pink letters telling us what they are all about ;)

Ok maybe I took it a bit too far.  Point is we associate chocolate with a good time, and typically with a good time with the opposite sex.  Not many food groups get that honor.

Truthfully, there are both psychological and scientific reasons why chocolate has this association.  For one chocolate, especially dark chocolate has traces of Phenethylamine, which in short is a stimulant.  The type of stimulant that is found in antidepressants.  Not strong enough evidence? It also contains dopamine — which is a compound released after you work out, after you win the lottery, after you have sex.  Still not good enough?  It was chocolate that enabled a woman to steal johnny depp’s heart.

If you don’t like chocolate, you’re probably too worried about the sugar, or perhaps you have another fix that you like more.  Either way, I hope you’ve found your food group that has a strong association with love.  And when you have — buy it, eat it, and give it away to someone you love, or like :)

Should we blush on Valentines Day?

In a short word-of-mouth survey I ran on V-day with my friends, it seems that about half of us like V-day and the other half do not.  There seems to be this conflict of “why do I have to show love just because America tells me so vs. I want to do it, regardless of whether its V-day or not.”

I’m going to take it a bit further.  I’m an advocate of Valentines day.  Yes, it hurts a little when I don’t have the ability to express love to someone else on V-day (i.e. I’m single), but I know that if I wasn’t single, I’d be super excited about the idea.  Ok, I’ll also admit that there is a bit of pressure to “impress” on V-day.  To go that extra mile, and I can feel that pressure.  But you know what else, its worth it.  If you really love someone, its going to be worth going that extra mile.  You will love doing it, and they will love that you did it for them.  They will love you back for it.

We have lots of days we celebrate in America.  We celebrate football.  We celebrate our presidents.  We celebrate our parents.  We even celebrate weird traditions like Halloween.  I’m damn happy we celebrate the most important thing to all of us — LOVE!  I think love deserves a bigger and better celebration than any other day.  Today we call it Valentines Day.  It’s opportunity for us to express that word to another in a form that is comfortable to us.  So perhaps its the “form” that upsets us — America telling us what “form” Love should be — how it should be expressed: “flowers, fancy italian/french dinner, chocolates, etc.”  Yes — that is kinda lame — it could be romantic, but only if that is “you” — if you are conforming to America and expressing love in the way they would want you to, because your too scared to express love in the way you naturally would, that is lame.

So cheers to the day of Love.  To the day when we work to create a smile.  When we put a little thought to remind ourselves how much we like love, and we like loving.  When we do something special with someone else.  Is it lame that everyone else is doing the same thing on the same day?  Personally, I don’t think so.  I think its great.  You know when a goal is scored on a soccer match and everyone just immediately starts screaming, and so you feel that amazing “GOOAL!! — get out of your seats and start jumping” vibe?  That happens because everyone else is also screaming.  It isn’t nearly as exciting watching it on TV from your home specifically because you’re not around that vibe — because you can’t “feel” the screams.  V-day is an attempt to create that same sense of excitement around Love.  That requires a movement involving a lot of people, and thats why on V-day we all do it, and for some of us, appreciate it.

Maybe we’re not doing a good job of creating the right vibe in this country, and maybe that what we should be getting grumpy about, but I’d say, if that upsets you then get out there and start changing it.  Get out there and create your own vibe.  Get out there and do your own love.  Get out there and tell your special someone that you Love them in the way that feels most natural to you.  

Happy Valentines Day.

The lengths men go

Yes, men like to chase women, and Yes women like to be chased.  Overstatement? Absolutely.  But some part of what I just said you all can relate to.  We’ve all chased or have been chased.  And we all love it and hate it at the same time.

I thought I really understood what it meant to chase a women until I saw this video – and I like the other 8,000 (literally) people that left comments on this youtube video were incredibly surprised!  I never knew someone would go to such lengths in the chase.

If I was going to write a blog post about why someone chased, I would have to write pages about men vs. women biology, natural selection, evolutionary process, and social psychology.  Alas, I’m not going to bore you with those details.  But I will say this.  Most of the time we all appreciate honest, straightforward communication.  The problem with a chase is that is implies a “catch” and few of us enjoy the feeling of being “caught” — so my comment is about the psychology of the chase.

Don’t think you’re chasing, and try to prevent yourself from feeling like your being chased.  Instead just understand that when one individual “likes you” they are going to try to express that.  This applies to men and to women. Judge them by what they do and what they say instead of worrying about the “chase” and the “catch”.

Stay hungry, but be honest and straightforward.  We will appreciate that.  Relationships, regardless if they are romantic or not tend to evolve organically otherwise they tend to fracture and have to reboot.  If you’re chasing or being chased, its difficult for that process to happen organically.  Thus try to your best to not push either party too hard — just be yourself and be around that person when the opportunity presents itself — that will insure the most organic process and thus the most natural result.  What gives me the right to give such advise?  Absolutely nothing, but this is my blog, so I get to say what I want :)

And as for the guy in the video — I’d say you can tone it down a bit ;) She will get the same idea without you turning yourself into MacGyver, The Incredible Hulk and Sylvester Stallone in one video shoot.

a+b x (S – F)

In my pricing class, our professor today tried to explain a concept of conjoint analysis by explaining this equation:

Happyness in Marriage = a + b * (S – F), where S = The amount of Sex in a month, and F = The number of fights in a month.  A + B are constants, so for simplicity I will ignore them in this blog post.

This might sound insane, but I think this seemly crazy equation deserves some thought.  Ok, I know I’ve just pissed you off.  This is NOT what I’m advocating for, but it IS WHAT MODERN PSYCHOLOGISTS / MARRIAGE COUNSELORS think about.

What I”m saying is that if you are having a problem with your marriage and you go to a marriage counselor undoubtably one of the questions they will ask is “how much sex are you having?”  Its a metric that at least in modern science takes into account a lot of the things, that if you and I were to respond to the question we might say things like:

  • commitment
  • mutual respect
  • fun together
  • romance
  • doing service together

Which all together is some part of what our equation of love would be. The sum of those things, each weighed differently depending on the person, along with a number of other attributes.  The list obviously is infinitely flexible depending on your own personal preferences, but I think we’d all agree that few people would disagree with the above points.

A psychologist or marriage counselor isn’t discounting these things when they ask “how much sex are you having” They assume that if you aren’t having enough sex, that one or more of the above things probably isn’t working out.

The other part of the equation is S-F, where F = number of fights in a month.  So here modern science is saying.. hm…

1) so maybe you’re having a bunch of sex, but you’re also fighting a bunch too… so you’re not that happy.

2) Or maybe you’re not having much sex, but your not fighting either, so your neutral.

3) Or worse, you’re not having sex and your fighting a lot, so you must be unhappy.

Ideally they hope that you’re

4) having a lot of sex, and not fighting, as this would be indicative of extreme happyness.

Pretty funny the way science works doesn’t it.  We live in a world where we try to quantify everything.  Love can’t be quantified, but it can be measured.  Sex, Fighting, yah, its two parts of love. But if that was all there was, then I could be married to someone that I spent no time with besides having sex and this equation would tell us we are an ideal couple.  There are words for those relationships but I won’t name them here.  Point is that relationship wouldn’t do much for the couple, and would do even less for the world around them.

I love science, and there is A LOT of science behind love.  I’ll blog about some real science behind love a later day.  For now lets just agree that sex and fighting are two important things that we will all do when we’re married, (ideally more sex than fighting) but marriage is much more complicated than that…