Disclaimer: I want to make it abundantly clear that the following words are not a declaration of what I do, how I will act or my plans vis-a-vis Halachah. It's not about how I feel about Halachah, or Hashem, or my dedication. What follows is purely an expression of longing, of feeling, and of pain.
As a short intro, I'm going to give a bit about my story of deciding to maintain shmirat negiyah. It started when I was a teenager in high school. Becoming super-religious was my version of rebellion. That way, I could look at my parents with righteous indignation and express my frustrations while feeling justified in doing so. I have since outgrown my teenage rage, but there are vestiges of it that I think I still hold onto (or perhaps, that are still stuck to me). I stopped touching my aunts and cousins; all Halachic technicality aside, it's a really tough experience in a Sefardi family. I practically withdrew from everyone -especially females -when it comes to affection. I even stopped hugging my Mother and Sister for some time. It took me a while to get over it, and in some ways I still think I am.
Of all this, the most important thing to note (or rather, the part that I'm focusing on here) is my own withdrawal. Almost like starving myself, pulling away. Even though I've come out of that shell in many ways, part of me resents my early choice and experience of shmirat negiyah. I made it an excuse, (perhaps unintentionally or unconsciously) using it as a tool to push others away. Just to be completely clear, it's not the Halachah that I'm upset over, it's myself.
Because now, I crave touch. I need to be touched. I'm deprived of it, living far from my family, far from those who were so affectionate when I grew up before I pushed them away. It's still taking time to even let them in. Don't get me wrong, I was always a particularly touchy-feely guy and I believe I would still have that strong need, desire and feeling a lack in physical affection.
Most of time, I skate by. Mostly on numbness, because it's the only way not to tear myself apart from the inside. But I can't -and I don't want to -shut out how I'm feeling. Those are the times when I lament being away from family that I can hug just because I want or need one. When I feel frustrated that I'm a guy, and so it's not really acceptable to cuddle, or get a massage, or generally to have lots of affectionate touch, even hugging. More isolation.
Beyond that, I want to be touched by a woman, and one that I'm attracted to, care about and will love. All these things are cumulative. I can't parse them out, but they compound on each other exponentially. Suffice it to say, it's complicated.
For me, right now, it hurts. It's painful, and it's lonely. I can be with friends or on a date, but I'm isolated this way. By an invisible wall, a barrier, a force-field built by Halachah (and culture/society and some of my own ridiculousness) that separates me from the touch I need. And I know I need it like I need food, water and air.
At this very moment, I'm starving, dehydrating and suffocating. I'm experiencing years of withdrawal and deprivation. In my lucid moments of awareness, away from the numbness that has become a stoic refuge from a reality I can hardly face, I have indescribable agony and all I wish is to be tenderly touched, to be shown care and affection and to feel that physical presence, because fundamentally it's how I experience and connect with the world around me. That is how I'm built to feel, and so it represents a gateway to my emotions and my heart.
It's a moment like this that brings the realization of how much it means to tie my hands and hold back the touch I want and need to give too; these are all my expressions of care and affection, building-blocks for connections and a shared understanding of one another through the touch-experience.