(Content Warning: This is one hell of a waffly self-indulgent ramble)
Someone pointed out that the way I used the word ‘intimacy’ the other day was not really reflective of what I actually think intimacy is. An entirely accurate point but trapped as I am expressing myself within the structure of a shared language I was using a recognisable shorthand because most people ascribe a romantic and sexual aspect to intimacy.
Overly defensive first paragraph aside, I’m thinking about what I mean by intimacy. It’s certainly not something that I ascribe to sex, in fact I have struggled to be intimate during sex or with sexual partners. Yet people have said I’m good with intimacy, am I? I’m not sure I am, I think perhaps my boundaries being all over the place can be mistaken for that perhaps? And then again I don’t think I like where one’s boundaries are ‘supposed’ to be. I go back and forth on that, I like confounding expectations and absolutely people assume that’s why I’m not quite what they expect, that I’m making a deliberate choice. I’m often not, I think I’ve got a lot better at asking before bouncing at somebody for a hug for example.
The common shorthand that I used the other week suggested intimacy was about physical touching and implied that was on the contiuum of sexual.
That’s a thing, as a child I was not into touching, I honestly don’t think anyone who has met me as an adult would assume that was the case. (I’m sure a number of you are now armchair psycho-analysing all over the shop right now, I mean the girl who loves sex wasn’t a fan of touching her family? You could run for miles on that I’m sure.) For me there was a real physical release when I went to uni at 18, because I could breathe. I’m not being metaphorical and talking about coming out or anything, I’m being literal. It’s a combination of seed developers experimenting with what chemicals to spray, oil refineries and the prevailing wind direction where I grew up. My eczema and especially asthma cleared right up , even now when I cross the Pennines I can feel my lungs tightening. One thing I hate when my lungs are tight is being hugged or even touched anywhere on my torso. Add in eczema and that makes touches hurt all over. Suddenly being in a world where I could not only join the QUILTBAG society but also actually touch people without it hurting made for a bit of an explosion I guess.
There are a lot of reasons I’m sure for my boundaries but I think my sense of the physical, what my body is doing or failing to do has always impacted how I’m thinking and absolutely what and how I want to share myself with others.
Intimacy is, ultimately, to me the act of sharing myself. I think whenever I have tried to say this then people will automatically think I mean my body, but then, do excuse the digression, this is to me similar to when people start talking about sex workers selling themselves. Or when people ask where the magic is as they’re encircled by stones on a moor. Really? Is myself my body then? Since when? Sure I just said that who I am and how I think is massively impacted by my physical body but that does not mean my body is the sum total of my self. Way too many of my books as a teenager talked about the necessity of having a vivid internal life and boy do I have that.
I am a lot. I almost feel like my body these days is almost more reflective of my psyche than it’s ever been, I gained a boatload of weight in the last year. I am now physically a lot. I take up space in a way that I’m not exactly used to but in a way that I feel like I always have with my too loud voice and laughter and opinions. I think the interplay of body and psyche is present across my notions of intimacy and maybe that interplay is why I’m confusing to people. I want to share what I want to, not necessarily all of it or to have shared with me all of the other people involved.
Intimacy and confusion seem bound up to me, I have a history of offering some part of myself unexpectedly to someone else and being faced with their confusion.
I’m waffling around the subject in an effort to work out exactly what I think. That intimacy is this rippling thing, encompassing what and how we talk to each other, what and how we are physically with each other. I am vaguely aware that social niceties have their own rules for being polite and holding back and what you share and when with other people. I don’t like them, I’d rather react to the person I see in front of me (or at least via a screen or what have you). There are some people that I instinctively want to share myself with, and by myself I mean, whatever of my thoughts, my sense of humour, my body seems right at the time, and whatever they’re happy to accept.
There’s a quote on this site, from CS Lewis, that ‘Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.’, he’s very Christian so obviously to him sex and bodies are to be slightly disparaged. I don’t disaparage them obviously but I do think I make less of them, less of the sex, less of the shared nudity than is generally done within my culture. Back in 2004 Skimble and I made friends, partly over both having the same sized feet (Japanese 23 1/2) but mostly over our happiness (in defiance of the cultures we were brought up in) to take our clothes off and relax because bodies and physical sex isn’t the ultimate intimacy that it’s presented as. If you achieve those intimacies first then I suspect it transfers to sex very, very well (and probably elevates the sex) but the sex is a cherry on the top, not the solo way of expressing this.
I want to share my enthusiasms, my thoughts, I want to know yours (assuming I like you or at least find you interesting). You’ve all got this nudity thing backwards, seeing me naked is nothing, I want to lick your thoughts not your dick/clit. Right now I am really missing sex with Cornish Bloke, we used to really talk during and I think if my chronic fatigue didn’t make processing physical and mental sensations utterly exhausting right now that would be my favourite way of doing things.
So what is intimacy? It’s sharing, unreservedly, it’s saying here I am – would you like a piece? I’ll swap for some of yours?