Alison Taylor on relationships: What are the politics of hand-holding for us normal folk?


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On the Tube last week, I picked up a copy of the Evening Standard and was struck by the front-page image of Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam. My first thought was, are they Topshop culottes she's wearing? Then, they're holding hands: what does it mean?

This is the thing about conference season: politicians do odd things like, in Clegg's case, wear chinos to a formal event and hold hands with their wives in a hammy show of togetherness; the unified front.

But what are the politics of hand-holding for us normal folk? "I think it's quite cringey," was one friend's take. "It's OK on a private walk, but not in the street." This from the woman who, last time I saw her, was swimming naked in a lake in the middle of the day.

"What do I think of people holding hands? Corny!" came the text response from a work pal. Though she did concede she would consider it if "extremely hungover" and in need of some steadying.

It is peculiar, of course, but it seems to be one of those strange issues which provokes extreme feelings in people. It's almost political.

"I am a hand-holder!" said my very romantic girl-pal (so far, so expected), before revealing: "But when I was seeing a boy who I didn't want to be my boyfriend, it revolted me when he tried to hold my hand! I did like to have sex with him, though. Tricky."

Her strategy when they went out in public was to walk two steps ahead of him, hands firmly stuffed in her pockets. In this case, the hand-holding marked the difference between a fling (what she wanted) and a relationship (what he wanted). Her manifesto was clear: "I'm not your girl".

And that's it, surely? If you don't want to be someone's girl, or boy, then you're probably best off staying away from that expectant hanging palm. Holding hands is a promise. It also shows promise.

I'll never forget the time I was the most in love I have ever been. It was in the early days and we did the morning breakfast run to a local café. He grabbed my hand once I'd shrugged on my coat, and right there, in that little moment, something changed.