For almost 60 years, my wife Marianne and I have been holding hands virtually everywhere we go. It feels as natural as breathing. We really don’t even think about it. It just happens.
Holding Hands – the Electricity Of Connection
I can actually remember the exact first time we held hands when we started dating in our senior year of high school. I can remember the nervous exhilaration of that time – the ELECTRICITY OF CONNECTION – two people nervously reaching out and touching for the first time – wondering if she felt anything like I did. It’s a magical rite of passage into a new stage of life.
I wasn’t thinking anything profound at that time. I was just thrilled that she gently grabbed my hand back. It signaled a conscious willingness to CONNECT with each other in an emotionally exciting and mysteriously magical way. I may not have thought anything profound at the time, but it was indeed a profound experience that would follow me for the rest of my life.
Translating the mystery into a project
I started thinking about the profound meaning of holding hands about 15 years ago. I actually started to plan out building a website about it. I bought a domain name “holdinghandsproject.com,” created a logo for the project and started researching the topic.
My plan was for Marianne and I to travel the country interviewing and video-recording people who were holding hands - all ages, races and gender. We planned to observe people holding hands, invite them to share their thoughts about WHY they were doing it and edit the video responses into stories we would post on the website and on social media.
It was exciting to plan out and I think would have been interesting to people.
But it never happened. This was 2008 and we were planning our retirement to travel around the USA for a few years – and this project would be a stimulating, meaningful activity that would complement our travels.
Then it hit the fan…
But the fall of 2008 was the great financial meltdown in the US that crushed our business. After running a successful business for 37 years, the 2008/2009 experience indeed crushed us… and it ruined our plans for extensive retirement travel. So the Holding Hands Project no longer was a viable adventure.
While the project planning stopped, all the research and thinking about the profound meaning of holding hands continued to stimulate my interest in this topic. Over the ensuing years, I have been a continual observer of people wherever we go – looking for couples holding hands – young people, seniors, families, children – always wondering what their story is – what motivates them to connect in such a public way.
Lots of questions to think about…
How did they start? How long have they been doing it? Why do they continue to do it long after the initial romantic exhilaration has waned? I would love to explore all the non-romantic reasons that people hold hands – support, solidarity of purpose, empathy, fear, friendship, etc.
All that active observing over the last decade has brought me to a sobering conclusion: the amount of holding hands that I see has significantly reduced since I started those observations. I see fewer people connecting in this simple, but profound, way.
Why is that?
It actually saddens me to reach that conclusion because I believe this simple act of connection is much more important than it may seem. We lose something important if it fades into becoming another antiquated cultural norm.
What is it about holding hands that appeals to me so much? What is the science that explains the electric emotional connection that holding hands elicits? Why is it waning in the modern world? What does that mean? What does the future hold for this simple public display of connection?
In Part 2 of this post next week, I will explore the answers to these questions. This is not earthshaking stuff to ponder in a world of so much strife and big issues. But I contend that the future of this simple act is a microcosm of where we’re heading, and it is worthy of some serious contemplation.
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