Things I’m Glad Nobody Told Me About Intimacy

Love may feel like something we can quickly, silently disappear into, but it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It happens, and so does life. Within and around it.

For me, love came ridiculously easy. I just sort of tripped over it on my way to the bathroom one morning when I was a slightly hungover teenager. And from that point forward it was a permanent fixture in my life.

Now before you roll your eyes, hear me out. Smacking your knee on the corner of love in the dark is the easy part. You can love from a distance. You can love with your eyes closed. You can love sincerely and you don’t even have to know why.

Love may have come easy for me, but intimacy, though? Face to face, hands in hair, heart in teeth…uh yeah, that shit does not.

Meredith Grey probably said it best, “Intimacy is a four syllable word for: Here are my heart and soul; please grind them into hamburger and enjoy.”

Passion is not intimacy. Passion, like good wine, is fragrant and delicious. We hold it in fragile glasses that break because we’re careless. Because we talk with our hands and we don’t stop to listen. Because by the time the bottle is empty, we’re either too drunk to notice or already looking for a new bottle.

A girl-woman I know, who has the heart of a romantic but the mind of a junkie, tried her hand at passion without the trappings of intimate love, with a man-boy whom she knew wouldn’t reciprocate those feelings. It was somehow both deliberate and inescapable.

Sort of like how a suicidal jumper might regret his decision midair, she sought redemption as soon as her feet left the ground.

She knew what she was doing and she knew how far she’d take it. It would be impossible to pursue past a certain point, but she could feel him feel her in some safe way, which gave her false hope and a superiority complex.

Truly, she had lost her goddamn mind.

I think she just wanted to be felt without having to give up any real parts of herself, which is not at all how the game is played.

We don’t get to love without needing to be loved in return. And we don’t get to show our secret selves to someone without falling in love. One cannot take a plunge like that and expect to walk away unmedicated.

So there are those of us who try to deeply love on the surface, wearing bright plastic goggles, so we can see the depths, and an air mask, so we can still breathe in the free world.

And then there are those of us who try to start in the deep end without life preservers and then drown in our passion.

The truth is, we’re all fucking crazy.

Just kidding.

The truth is, I have no conclusion. My daughter suggested I write about love and this is pretty much the extent of what I know about it. Romantic love anyway. Perhaps one day I’ll have wisdom to impart on the subject worthy of being engraved on my tombstone. Perhaps not.

I’ve witnessed the dangerous power of misguided passion. I’ve seen it ruin lives. I’ve known it to poison a man so deeply that he was willing to sacrifice nearly twenty years of life with the children he, ironically, is also passionate about. He has missed weddings and births and funerals as a result. His daughter grew up without a clear understanding of the type of love she deserves. His son grew up without an example of the kind of man he should be. Both children grew up with a diluted version of their father’s presence, made possible only through his intensity, their mother’s sacrifices and both parents’ sincere love for them.

For these reasons, I have always loved with trepidation. I am cautious and skeptical, maybe even a little callous when it comes to romance. These are all defenses, of course, and not my truest nature.

We were silly kids when we met, but of all the boys who would one day be men, my now husband was the only one who really looked into my dark, wild eyes and recognized who I was beneath the armor.  He has a strong sense of self and purpose, which is unnerving for someone like me who grew a little too attached to her own clever ways.

This sometimes makes me violently angry, still to this day. Because parts of me will never really grow up. Because parts of me still scare the hell out of me and I want them contained. Sure, we all want to be really truly deeply seen, but only in a superficial way of which we are in full and total control.

For someone to calmly, respectfully, peel back the layers of who you say you are, even the layers of who you honestly think you are, and bravely love you for all that you undeniably are- not for the reasons the world admires you, not even the parts of you that you admire…ugh, that is intimacy y’all.

Terrifying as fuck.

And strangely beautiful.