Holding hands: it’s definitely not just for teenagers
I moved to the UK three months ago today, but UK Muse and I are still in a long-distance relationship. No, it’s not eight months between visits anymore; in good months we’re getting a weekend overnight every other week, which, let me tell you, feels pretty fucking luxurious. But in bad months it might be one night a month. We still rely on multiple Skype calls a day to feel connected in the approximate way that we like.
And we still talk about when we are going to get “skin time.” Not face-to-face time, because we get that just fine on Skype, but skin time.
This includes, of course, our between-the-sheets shenanigans, but that’s not all or even most of it. We have both been surprised by how much we crave… holding hands. That’s it, so simple, but when we see each other, after a few weeks apart, our hands slide together first, fingers intertwining, and I feel like our intense hand-lock is even more obvious and obscene to the passersby in the Manchester train station than a 30-second standing snog would be.
Kissing and hugging and warm under-the-duvet squirming, this is all skin time that we get so little of. But holding hands is something different. Maybe it’s because you can communicate so much while holding hands.
It’s an inexact communication, to be sure, but with context everything is very clear. The intense squeezing pulse is the inside joke or the warning in a group convo, while a prolonged tightened grip is the tactile translation of suddenly realizing that OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU SO MUCH and having to express it before I implode.
In moments of repose, hand holding becomes hand stroking, to arouse or reassure or just to outline for oneself the skin of one’s lover, to refresh one’s memory of this soft, beautiful boundary. When passion descends, a good hand-hold transforms into a powerful vise, to twist the other person up against the wall. And of course, when the grocery store is thronged, holding hands ensures that you won’t lose each other while maximally irritating the people around you by being “that couple” even in a crowded shop.
Because yeah, holding hands is communicating something to the rest of the world. It’s a clear marker of togetherness; we are noted as together. As someone who has been in a few relationships in which PDA was something of a public challenge—same-sex, interracial, a poly V arrangement all out together on a date—I know the significance of this. Depending on who you are and who you’re with, hand-holding has socio-political ramifications.
I won’t claim that disruptive power for me and UK Muse—we are a straight couple, after all—but we are visually striking, neither entirely conforming to gender norms. With that in mind, holding onto each other is a statement of sorts, confusing to some and endearing to others.
On top of everything else, our relationship was under wraps for so long, and we are so rarely in the same place together anyway. When we are in the same place, we are so intent on feeding and fucking each other that public hand-holding feels very special indeed. This is who I’m with. This is what I want. It’s one of the most clichéd couple things to do, and I step into it joyfully now. This particular kind of skin time is fucking important.
I want us to guide each other down the pavement, and have that instant bodily feedback—turn left here, wait, let’s stop and look into this window—little tugs and pressures emphasizing our words or making it possible to do without. And when we make eye contact in the reflection, our fingers are already in place, tightening for one brief moment, reminding each other in entire gestures of skin-warm squeeze: I’m here, you’re mine, this is exactly where we need to be.
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