Lack of physical touch is a very important concept in the homeschooling world, so, as Libby Anne said, what Gothard is claiming is absurd in relation to the world where something as simple as fingertips touching is a major huge deal.
I remember the days when simply getting to shake a boy’s hand was the highlight of my entire week.
When I was a young teen I really only liked going to church because of one thing: the brief, five-minute meet and greet.
My family usually sat behind another homeschool family–the homeschool family that happened to have the boy I had a crush on (and it was a mutual crush). During the week I would sometimes daydream about this time when we might actually get to touch hands (OMG I KNOW SO WEIRD LOOKING BACK).
I would always pray to God that by some miracle we would sit *just* close enough to be able to shake their hands during the meet and greet & that me and my crush would be in range so that we could shake each other’s hands without going out of our way. If he was sitting too far down the line, I knew I wouldn’t even get to say hello to him. I had this down to a science.
My entire Sunday morning was a weird gamble of anticipation. Will my father choose to sit in the same place? Will the other family come this morning? Will he sit near enough?
And heaven forbid that the church organizer forget to have people shake hands. I remember a few Sunday’s this happened. My crush was sitting right in front of me, and I couldn’t believe my luck. I waited, my heart pounding excitedly, for the announcement to be made to greet one another. And it never came. I was so disappointed. This, after all, was my only chance. This was why I was excited to go to church. And now I would have to wait an entire week for another opportunity.
This was basically the only kind of contact that was allowed with my crush. Physical contact was never expressly forbidden, and yet it was. I am not sure if was our lack of understanding of our sexual feelings and attractiveness that caused us to act so reservedly around each other, or if it was our own parents sexual repression that didn’t allow us to become comfortable with any kind of physical touch, or what. Either way, sexual repression combined with religion, talk of purity, uneducated children, and hovering parents…it is no surprise that there was little to no physical touch or privacy when it came to crushes and relationships.
I learned very quickly to hide any evidence of my emotions for this boy because it became the social commentary of the parents (mostly the mothers) in the homeschool social scene. It was as if we two were an exhibit at the zoo that everyone wanted to watch and comment on.
I was always mortified when after church, my mom would ask me what me and my crush were talking about, on the car ride home in front of my whole family. I felt that I had absolutely no privacy, and I felt guilty for talking to my crush–like I was doing something that I wasn’t supposed to or wasn’t normal. While it was permitted when we were younger as “oh how cute,” as we got older it seemed to become more and more contraband. If there was even a hint of romance or mutual attraction, it was nearly impossible to hide from adults because events were always family affairs.
I’m able to laugh now looking back at this–how I would daydream about shaking his hand, or even try not to touch anything else for as long as possible after I had shaken his hand. It was a weird obsession, but it was the only opportunity I had to be close to someone I liked without drawing any unwanted attention. If we shook hands I would be on cloud nine for the rest of the week.
After the service me and my crush would talk to each other, standing an awkward three feet apart at least. We weren’t even touching, but even this was cause for suspicion and gossip within the community. So it is no surprise that if talking was seen as suspicious, physical touch was nonexistant and something like shaking hands on Sunday morning meet-and-greet could become sexualized.