Among the many changes I have realized these past couple of years is my desire for touch. I used to be standoffish and disliked public displays of affection, touching only for handshakes or family hugs. When I look back on this old self, I feel quite a bit of pity for a man who was really uncomfortable touching and being touched.

Today, however, I find that touch is hugely important to me. I don’t think this new sense is just about hormones (although they have played a part), but also about feeling unified in body, spirit, and mind. And it’s not about gender because I know women who don’t touch very much and I know men who touch a lot. Maybe the non-touchers feel constrained by their upbringing or their sense of social norms in ways that touchers are not. Maybe in losing my repression I also blurred my boundaries between my sense of self and my community.

I touch everyone now: I touch friends (men and women alike) on the arms and hands and shoulders, and I hug my kids and partner and friends. I notice a very different relationship between my body and my society — much more physical, both in the giving and in the desiring.

I don’t know the answer, but I do know that when you see me, it’s ok to touch (just as long as I get to touch back).