Missing Human Interaction? Take It From A Prisoner, Isolation Won’t Last Much Longer    by    Ruth Utnage

Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all tools used to connect you to your friends, family, and business associations but they are not adequate replacements for social gatherings. I keep hearing that work from home is the new normal, that our day-to-day is changed forever, that the internet is our new social landscape. I’m blowing the timeout whistle on that thought right now.

As a prisoner I am separated from the community. Granted, some may be within a few hundred yards of me while they go about their day, but I am unable to communicate. One of the things that shocked me most about being incarcerated, when I fell nearly a decade ago, was when I got my first visit after 6 months.

Overwhelming excitement bubbled from my pores as I made the trek to the coveted visitation room. I hadn’t had a face to face conversation with my Mother in a long time, I looked forward to it. I checked in with the officers and entered the big room where I roar of voices was calling to me, something primal awakened inside of me that moment, excitement, validation of my existence maybe…all I know for sure is that I knew the commotion on the other side of that door I was about to walk through was calling to something humane inside of me. I was not at all prepared for what happened next.

I opened the metal door and the brightness of the room made me squint. The smells of perfumes and different foods, nothing I had experienced in months, the bright colored t-shirts and blouses glowing, glaring in a whirl of sensory overload. My heart raced and panic set in as I scanned the room for something familiar, recognizable that I could center myself with, I looked for orange jumpsuits like mine. I am ashamed to say that. My insides were already forcing their way up my throat and I felt sorely out of place right then. I just stood there, unsure of what to do, I didn’t see anyone, they all looked the same save for the orange jumpsuits, but I couldn’t talk to them right then, not allowed to.

Out of the crowd a pair of glasses emerged smiling at me wearing a brightly colored floral print blouse and as my eyes adjusted I recognized my Mother. I practically ran to her. She held her arms out as I got close and wrapped them around me giving me a hug that shocked me, I had not touched another human being in over 6 months. As she hugged me the gravity of prison set in, the depravity of meaningful human contact lingered on me like a stench. It never even dawned on me that I craved human touch until someone wrapped their arms around me and I remembered that I needed that. I craved that.

The point is, life needs balance. Working from home has its conveniences, sure, but it doesn’t offer everyone fulfillment. There is no replacement for standing face to face with someone and communicating. The warmth of another body, the obvious scent of hair products or perfumes and the not so obvious hormonal undertones our primal brain detects. The quick touches that affirm we are real, that we exist…those things cannot be mimicked, they cannot be forgone or replaced.

I know that it seems like investing in contactless spaces seems to be where the smart money is but take it from someone without human contact…it won’t last. We are, above all, social creatures that depend on human interaction in social proximities to validate our existences in reality.

Social distancing is not the new normal, there is nothing “normal” about it.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

Feel free to contact me, a little human contact is always welcome

Jeff aka Ruth Utnage 823469 C-601-2
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272