24 September 2009


I should be going to bed, because tomorrow I'm off to London, and I'm not really yet well, but it's been so long since I've written that I wanted to do so.

So, the other day a friend of mine and I were talking about intimacy and boundaries and public behaviour. In the course of this conversation my friend explained that, for him, there are things that you just don't do in public, or that you only do with your significant other: ways that you move your body, or things that you do with it.

Now, normally such a conversation would be a passing thing for me, except that a few days later I had another discussion about bodies with another friend, who said to me, "You're very comfortable with your body." The question of whether this is true or not is a complex one, and depends a good deal on how you define "body," but I want to leave that aside, because the conjunction of the two conversations got me thinking about bodies, and about intimacy.

Now, I happen to agree with my first friend that there are ways you should move your body only in certain circumstances, or only with certain people, but it has very little to do with intimacy for me. It has to do with wisdom. When I move my body on a dance floor, say, it's just a tool, a very interesting mechanism the manipulation of which gives me delight. Unfortunately, the people watching may not see it this way. As a recent post suggested, certain kinds of moving are generally read in a specific way by other people, and I don't want to send unintended messages. Most people, I think, are profoundly uncomfortable moving their bodies, so much so that they only do it when they lose control, and the most common way of losing bodily control is having sex, so they associate bodily movement with sexual accessibility. I do not make this connection, but being aware that other people do I'm reluctant to move my body with just anybody.

If I were comfortable and certain, though, I'd pretty much dance however I felt with whomever was there. So the body is not really a source of intimacy for me (although, again, it depends on what you mean by "body." Perhaps I should say the dancing body is not a source of intimacy for me). What is a source of intimacy for me is the...not exactly the mind...how can I say...I don't know how to say it in one word. The revelation of thoughts, and beliefs, and experiences. This I try very hard not to do with most people, and in fact I have quite a careful inner structure of what I'll reveal and what I won't. One of the things I find most interesting about myself (that's never a good opener, but please believe me when I say I mean interesting about myself as an exhibit I observe) is the almost Byzantine series of constructions I have for short-circuiting revelation or accessibility. In many ways I suppose that's bad, but the truth is I feel very uncomfortable revealing most of my beliefs, and certainly most of my fears, and certainly certainly most of my wants and worries. I have no problem shaking my ass in your face, but if you want me to tell you a secret about my childhood, you're going to get one of perhaps four carefully selected and prepared secrets. And if you want to get something truthful and under-the-surface about me now, I'm not sure how you'd get that, but I am sure that once I told you I'd be bitterly sorry and wish I could take it back.

I believe you tell yourself to the people close to you, and most of yourself you tell only to your lover, or your partner - revelation does not create intimacy; intimacy licenses revelation. To make confidences about myself to a person who's not my partner is to be too intimate and also, for me, to give away something. If you are a woman, I'll only tell you real things about myself after a very, very careful and lengthy inner vetting process, and if you're a man I'll probably only tell you those things if I want you to, or wish you did, love me. I'm explaining it wrong. What I mean is, to reveal not physical motions but inner thoughts and truths is something I only do with someone I love, and if I'm not sure you love me back it's giving those things away pointlessly. So I won't do it. It's a waste. Your body holds you, you know? It just holds you. But what it holds, that's valuable, and to give it away to someone who doesn't care a very great deal is painful and angering. People think that when they've got your body they've got you, and that's true to a certain degree with sex - or at least, once sex gets introduced there is a kind of having, or knowing, that there isn't when there hasn't been sex. But it's not really your body that's you: it's your thoughts, and your fears, and your confidences of belief and worry. And those, for me, are off limits until you're sure you're not throwing them away.

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