My favorite things about myself are my hands. They have always been my favorite features: small palms, long thin fingers that make it difficult to find rings that will actually fit (which is why I only wear one at a time). Some have said they look a little alien (thanks, Mom), but one person once described them as Elvish, a compliment that thrilled me at the time. I’m not a graceful girl, but apparently I have graceful hands. I’ll take it.

My hands are intrinsic to what I do every day, what wakes me up in the morning and helps me hope for dreams at night. I write with my hands. Since I’m both Irish and Italian, I talk with my hands. I can’t keep my hands still for very long – whether I’m twirling a straw in the cocktail I’m drinking, checking my phone or brushing against the back of a friend. What can I say? I’ve just always been a hands on kind of girl, when I’m comfortable enough with people to let them see the way I communicate.

But this means that I’m one of the two or three women you might find in a random survey of ten who doesn’t like to hold hands. In my mind, holding hands, as we’ve come to know it in society, is equated to being silenced.

I didn’t realize this fully until earlier this year, when I started to date someone who loved holding hands. All the time. Whenever I was around. Hand in hand, smile on face, romance in the air.

For him. For me? Not so much. It just didn’t feel right.

Don’t get me wrong: hand holding isn’t evil. It can in fact be delightful – the brush of one back of the hand against another, a warm hand wrapping itself around my (typically colder) own. But too often, people enjoy the sensation of lacing their fingers through someone else’s so much that first time that they find it impossible to stop. And with constant handholding comes the need to constantly stand side by side, which leads to wanting to finish each other’s sentences, which provokes the pronoun switch that fills me with absolute terror.

I am an independent girl who likes to say “I.” I don’t do well speaking in “we.” A relationship is, for me, two Is who are together. It’s not one “we.” Semantics? I’m a writer. I’m possessive of my pronouns.

(I know. I know. I couldn’t help it. Please bear with me.)

I know it is a skewed way of thinking, but it’s all I’ve got for now. So as I was busy holding hands, trying to tell myself that it was only that I needed to let my guard down and give it a shot, I was thinking of all the things I wasn’t able to do: gesture as I relayed an anecdote, easily cross the room to hug a friend, pull my hair back into a ponytail. And each time I was holding hands, those things were all I wanted to do. I wasn’t focusing on the fact that there was someone standing next to me who wanted to touch me all the time. I was busy thinking about how I felt like a conjoined twin who couldn’t break away – and who wasn’t supposed to want to.

I don’t want to be expected to hold or be held. I want it to be more of a surprise. And I want the other things that can come instead of having a hand held: a hand on the small of my back when whomever I am seeing leaves his conversation across the room to join in with mine. A low voice in my ear that makes me chuckle. An unexpected kiss on the cheek. Something that reminds me that, whenever a relationship comes, I am still a me, he is still a he.

Maybe, if I have that at whatever time the next situation arises, I’ll be more able to take those first steps and start to feel better about the idea of an eventual “we.”

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