Shoulder check? Check.

man woman shoulderTwo things, one of which is: Feeling secure.

But first. I volunteered to go into Beirut during the summer Israel was bombing the sh*t out of the country; I went to help with the evacuation of Canadian civilians and whilst there, met this fella.

Our first evening together, we were inside of the green zone (outlined for Israel as a ‘do not bomb here’ area) and the bombs continued to drop outside of the green zone. Loud, earth-shaking, terrifying.

We had finished dinner and were headed elsewhere when we began to cross the street. Before I stepped off the curb, he very quietly and without asking permission or telling me what he was about to do (DO NOT BE A RAPIST!) tucked my left hand into his right and pulled my left shoulder in behind his right one. I did not say one word because I was too busy felling fuzzy and safe while the bombs continued to drop and shake the ground beneath us.

The second time it happened, my Jilly and I were seated in a restaurant when we were suddenly man-flanked by several fellas, with one of whom I spent the better part of the evening discussing the merits of Friday Night Lights as the best show in the history of television.

He, like the first, placed his left shoulder over my right one for the length of our conversation. Unfortunately, it was not sexual (HI MAMA!!), presumptive, or foreshadowing of what was to come later in the evening. It was just a matter of physical fact which, had it made me uncomfortable, I would have addressed it.

Like a demented statistical surveyor, I am constantly wondering about the why is it that of everything before me. Naturally then, I have been curious why is it that of all the male-specific moments strewn about my life, these two are among the most poignant? Easy peasy. Because there was a sudden bubble of security in which I had become encased. Like, if in Beirut, Israel had in that moment dropped a bomb directly in front of and knocking us back, I would have felt safe; in London, had the wait-staff come barreling at us asking if we wanted shepherd’s pie and it’s great shepherd’s pie who wouldn’t want shepherd’s pie fine then what about a potato?, I would have been monumentally alright.

Speaking with the women in my life about this, ranging my best friends including my mum, none of them were surprised, all of them experiencing the same thing in one way or another. A sense of security extending well beyond the physical, but most easily recognized in this incarnation.

What it is, really, is the expression that we are not alone. That we are a part of a team; that there is someone looking out for us and is at the ready, should we need to tag them in. Equally as important, they would instinctively know when to tag themselves in (which speaks to a greater need for the best kind of un/spoken communication between lovers).

I imagine the flip-side affects men equally (I am hetero, so speaking in Heteronese). Though I have absolutely no statistical evidence to support the following, a part of me is inclined to believing that a man who experiences home intrusion and is incapable of protecting the woman, has a far more difficult time recovering from the trauma than a man who was able to protect the female. Hia, Animal Kingdom. At the sake of failing Gramsci, this sure sounds like common sense, n’est pas?!

For me, our parents provided this sense of security when we were children. As we grow into adulthood, this shifts slightly between friends. But there is no greater expression or experience of it than when it is within the confines of a romantic love, the role belonging to and taken without hesitation by our number one fan, our most devoted team mate, the person we have chosen (and who in turn has chosen us) to occupy the most important spot in our lives.

And sure. We don’t need to be protected. We are strong women who do not need protection, absolutely. Maybe. I mean, if that’s your belief, then by all means – be my guest. But f*ck if it isn’t helpful, eh?! Or welcome?! Or just, generally, a lovely feeling to know that should we need to tap into that resource, it is there waiting for our ‘excuse me, pardon me, but I was hoping you might be able to…‘.


Originally published 15 March, 2014.