Thursday, June 19, 2008

Baby Don't Pull Away

Today’s topic is intimacy. People think of sex immediately, but, though fucking is intimate, intimacy does not have to be erotic.

Americans are hung up today over closeness and touch. (I include myself to a large extent.) Gone are the days when two hetero guys might share a bed or hold hands and not get a little freaked out. Believe it or not, in the nineteenth century in America, two dudes holding hands was no big deal. Almost gone are the days when two girls can feel comfortable being openly affectionate.

Forget kids. Forget third grade teachers giving the kids a hug and running their fingers through the kids’ hair. Parents and their attorneys would have a conniption. On the one hand, this is tragic, because kids, like dogs, don’t have much vocabulary for expressing and understanding intimacy, and they sometimes need to be touched, picked up, carried around on some adult’s shoulders. To feel adored. To feel protected. To feel noticed.

No, not abused. And not needlessly pushed around either—since, on the other hand, a high percentage of adult-kid touching instigated by the adult serves the ego and interests mainly of the adult, not so much the kid—Remember Aunt Whazzit smashing your tiny face into her itchy wool sweater.

But, still, I could see an adult and a child bonding quite nicely while both use crayons to draw together on a nice big square of construction paper on the living-room floor. Unplug the Wii for a few hours.

Intersubjectivity is a fancy word for intimacy. Sharing and entering into each other’s subjective states. Opening up. Telling your story and listening to the other guy’s story. Empathizing.

Doesn’t have to be a 12-step program. Doesn’t have to be therapy. And doesn’t have to be foreplay.

One of the most intimate things an ex and I did back when we were partners was buy two copies of Larry Rivers’ WHAT DID I DO? and over a couple of days alternated reading chapters to each other aloud. Laughing so hard at parts of it, we collapsed into tears. Having someone read aloud to you is surprisingly intimate. Try it.

Later, some years later, the two of us met up again, post-breakup, at the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park. We were waiting for a third friend to show, who did not show, and it started to rain. We sat under an awning at the tea house, drinking green tea and nibbling rice crackers. We talked for two or three hours about peaceful, friendly, loving matters while watching the rain fall.

One of the great moments of my life.

Accumulating thousands of MySpace friends is not intimacy. It’s statistics.

Intimacy is face to face, with or without touching, with or without speaking. It’s sharing of the self. Humming together. Painting each other’s nails. Inspecting each other’s fur for fleas, like apes.

It requires some imagination—to get inside another person’s head and look at the world through his or her eyes. It requires heightened awareness of sensation—you have to sense the person’s aura or physical warmth.

It’s the one true path to wisdom and understanding.

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