Intimacy

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.

(See also.)

2 responses to “Intimacy

  1. Yes, oh yes. I think there’s a rage at the lack, behind the discomfort: how dare they show me a kind of closeness that I can’t have / won’t have / don’t dare to have?

  2. Dale, I thought of you some in writing this, a line you had about our needing professionals to teach us how to touch, or to do it for us.

    Rage, but really grief, of course. Especially for a generation whose parents were told not to pick up that crying baby, no matter how she wails. How dare they have the closeness that I so dearly needed (and still need) and did not receive (and still need)? And: If I did not receive it, do not have it, that must, must be because it could not be given, that must be because it is wrong.

    Of course, one can be a loving parent without breastfeeding (dads do it all the time! – and loving mothers, as well) but I think it does draw out that deep sense of fracture in a way that, say, hugging a child does not.

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