noun, plural -cies.
- the state of being intimate.
- a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.
- an amorously familiar act; liberty.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about intimacy, and its role in a relationship. Issues with intimacy can constipate a relationship faster than eating an entire block of sharp cheddar. If someone has a problem truly getting close to another, then no real solid foundation will build. Feelings of trust and safety will not be established, and the bond will eventually wilt instead of flourishing. I’ve found that most intimacy issues are learned, and based on fear. Fear of what? Of being hurt, or of losing.
I just finished rereading Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, in which the protagonist Rob goes through a mid-life crisis and re-hashes why every one of his relationships didn’t work out. It boils down to his intimacy issues. As an example, he pinpoints a specific instance: When laying in bed with his girlfriend Laura in the middle of the night, he pulls her toward him in the spoon position and in that moment he feels so close to her it makes him feel completely vulnerable, and he is hit with a wave of fear that she will eventually die and he will be alone. Is his fear of her death a bit irrational? Sure. Everyone dies. But this fear causes a slew of intimacy issues for Rob, who would rather be alone than have a partner who will eventually leave him.
It may not be the same for everyone but for me, that feeling of absolute closeness to another person is one of the best sensations ever. It produces the sort of manic happiness that colors my world in pastels. When I feel truly paired in a bond that goes unrivaled, the edges of even the most tragic of events are attractively blurred in a soft-focus like the face of a 1950s starlet. And this feeling of complete bliss is absolutely terrifying, because I know that what comes up must come down. And if someone’s presence can make me blissfully, over-the-moon, love-me-retarded happy, then I know their absence can make me completely miserable. This is why it’s important not to get into a relationship when I’m unstable. I need to be happy alone before I can safely feel happy with someone else.
Since intimacy, to me, has always been a feeling, or—as stated in the above definition—a state of being, any action that can be deemed “intimate” is based on those feelings. I can kiss two different people and get two completely different reactions from each experience, based on my feelings for those people. If I have an intimate relationship with one, it will feel intimate, while a casual relationship with the other will stop the kiss at surface level.
So, if your reactions to an event are based on your feelings, and not the actual action itself, then is it possible to have an intimate moment anywhere? “Intimate” is often synonymous with “small” or “secluded,” i.e. an intimate gathering. I’ve always gagged at severe public displays of affection, like proposals on jumbo screens at sporting events. I’ve always considered “public” to be an antonym of “intimate.” Recently, an event got my brain spinning about situations that can be deemed intimate. In the jumbo-screen proposal scenario, if the couple is closely bonded and the moment for them is monumental, and they are expressing the way that they feel to one another, could it not be intimate?
I came home once to find my room-mate watching the Bachelor. On the screen, the bachelor was kissing a contestant passionately in some sort of lagoon. It looked very intimate. I commented that in reality, there was a camera crew surrounding them and there was no way they could actually be sharing a romantic moment.
This is how I used to feel about weddings. Just the THOUGHT of a wedding with 400 people watching me exchange vows makes me clammy. To me, exchanging vows with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with should be an intimate affair; I’ve always imagined me, my other, a Justice of the Peace and a witness. That’s it. This is because I want to preserve the intimacy of the moment, and I always assumed the only way to do this is by seclusion. However, perhaps it IS possible to still feel a close intimacy even with hundreds of people surrounding you, if the feelings are right, and the affections are present. Then it would be possible to put blinders up; everyone else around you would fade away.
This idea of having an intimate moment in what would appear to be an un-intimate and very public setting got me thinking about sex—which can arguably be the most intimate act ever. Sex is a way of bonding, of expressing yourself and your emotions, and it is usually (but not always) intimate. But if, as I am exploring, intimacy is based on a mindset and a bond between two people and not an actual setting, is it possible to feel you’re having an intimate moment anywhere? In the above wedding scenario, I always believed a ceremony could only be intimate if secluded. Could sex be intimate in a room full of people if the two engaged in the action were focused solely on each other and sharing a moment? Is that the ultimate expression of intimate exhibitionism?
What do you think? Is intimacy just a feeling? Can an act feel intimate for one person but not intimate for the other? Can you have a truly intimate moment while simultaneously on public display?