Intimacy. It can often seem like such a loaded word bringing up everything from fear, excitement, hope, curiosity, and even ecstasy.
For some, it brings to mind visions of candlelight, soft music, and bodies pressed up against each other while others feel the tremor of breath just before speaking their truth and bearing a tender side of their heart to a friend or loved one.
We all get to choose what intimacy means for us, and yet I believe the current flavor of intimacy that is promoted through upbringing and the media is sorely lacking. Ideas that intimacy can only be safe, wholesome, and welcomed within a romantic or sexual partnership has left us inexperienced and awkward with what it means to deeply connect platonically and without agenda.
It is sadly far too common for women and men to end their days starved for connection with the consequences becoming more apparent and alarming. With much of our daily attention insidiously hijacked by entertainment, media, and the newest shiny thing on our feeds, isolation and disconnection is rampant in our culture. Men feeling increasingly more confined by a culture that says they need to figure out their problems alone while women continue to find themselves disenfranchised by emotionally unavailable partners.
I believe the lack of mature platonic connections between men and women weakens the interconnectivity of our communities and diminishes our resilience leading to dependency on intangible government structures creating a culture where it seems safer to interact with our screens than it is to share our hearts and minds with our neighbors.
In an attempt to disempower those in their care, the powers that be use the media and religious ideals to proliferate the idea that intimacy is only for sexual relationships. Sadly, the result of this all too often cultural narrative, is shame. Shame which weaves its way through so many of the personal and interpersonal challenges of our modern age. Addiction, mistrust, suicide all stem from a lack of feeling connected to a larger whole.
Let’s change this.
I believe it would behoove us to gently broaden our scope past the current frame that implies intimacy is a physical act and would only be appropriate with our romantic partners.
Fortunately, some of the greatest teachers of intimacy are all around us, children. Children in their innocence, before the shame game begins. Before they’re told that kissing each other just because is bad, or that boys aren’t to be trusted and girls have coodies. Children play, laugh, touch, share secrets, and generally speaking have a grand old time together. Unmasked, without guile, and without fear or judgement.
Of the three definitions given by Merriam-Webster for the word “intimacy,” only one has a sexual connotation. The other two speak to informal warmth, closeness, a sharing of what is personal. While sharing our bodies is, without doubt, a personal choice, this still leaves us with the emotional, mental, or even spiritual aspects of ourselves that we can share with others.
I have often found the highest quality experiences of intimacy are shared in simple and profound ways without preparation, sheets, or the need for fireworks. These moments of revealing can come as honest conversations with friends, intentional smiles, a show of vulnerability to a stranger, a warm and unrushed hug, or the tender revealing of our hearts to those around us through word, song, or dance.
All it takes is a willingness to be present to what’s often already happening. To breathe deeply into the moment with another. To allow, to smile, to soften. To let go and be, just a little bit more together.
What are some of the ways you express platonic intimacy with others? Do you find it difficult? Is it easier to be close with those of your own or the opposite gender? What are some of the reasons or beliefs that are in the way?