I was having drinks with a friend who recently began dating a new guy. I asked the usual questions–what’s his name, what does he look like, what does he do, how many dates, have you kissed, had sex, etc.? She replied that not only hadn’t they had sexed or kissed (other than a peck on the cheek), they hadn’t even held hands. My friend quickly added, “But I would sooner have sex than hold hands,” she said. I readily agreed.

I’m not a hand holder. I wasn’t one of those pre-adolescent girls who slung an arm around her friend’s shoulder. I didn’t walk hand-in-hand with my bestie of the week. It’s hard for me to come up with an instance in which I hold hands at all in my regular life.

And so it goes in my dating life. I was recently seeing someone and he was very into holding hands. He started it after our second date I tried to go along with it because I knew it meant a lot to him and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. And he once complained when I wriggled my way out of his grip while we were walking together on the bridge. (That wasn’t actually meant as a rebuff–I wanted to get closer to the rails to look at the view.)

Perhaps if I had dated as a teen, I would’ve experienced the typical escalation of physical intimacy in the normal order–sweet hand holding, to kissing, to sex. But I’ve never gone in that particular sequence. It usually goes from conversation to making out and if we’re both game, sex.

Hand holding, even though it doesn’t involve nakedness and the exchange of bodily fluids, is far more intimate than sex. And it’s often done in public, in front of other people, which means that you’re making a statement to others about the possible state of your union even if you’re not entirely sure about where you stand on the guy or the relationship.

Perhaps it’s the public element that is most worrisome to me. It takes me quite awhile to figure out my feelings about a guy (much longer than it takes for me to decide whether or not I want to sleep with him) and I am fearful of announcing a commitment to others before I’ve figured this stuff out privately. If friends were to see us in hand in hand, they might assume more than what is there and I’ll be forced to deal with their questions–and at that point, I might not have the answers ready.

 

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