I was really struck by this article’s suggestion of intimacy as the reason Americans have such a hard time with breastfeeding, and especially breastfeeding in public. I don’t know if or how other cultures are different; I’ve only been part of this one, but I know that in this one, intimacy is synonymous with sex. I know that I was shocked to learn the difference, to discover that many of the joys of physical contact that I had always associated with sexuality were, in fact, just physical joy.
I do remember, after some months of celibacy and relative bodily isolation at Tassajara, realizing how much I craved touch, just touch. It took a while to distinguish that from heartbreak and loneliness. But how blissful the rare hour when a masseuse would offer her services to the students. And how much time spent in the hot springs trying to recreate the warmth of a hug.
So: Joy in the feeling of skin on skin, the scent of breath and sweat, nuzzling the little soft place at the base of her neck, staring adoringly into each others’ eyes – yes, it is intimate. And breasts we think of sexually, of course, so that compounds the problem. But I think the real problem is that we don’t touch each other enough, we don’t know how to be intimate without being sexual. And so we don’t know how to observe it without being offended.