Thinking Out Loud*-A New Kind of Intimacy

Recently, I was walking my dog through the neighborhood and ran into a long-time acquaintance. Standing six feet from each other, we exchanged Co-Vid pleasantries and then there was a pause, and he said, “Doesn’t everything feel weird and awkward? Like everyone is afraid. It makes me sad.”

I nodded. I understood. But I didn’t feel the same. “I think we are having to learn a different kind of intimacy.”

His brow creased. ‘What do you mean?”

“I mean, last night, I went to a dinner at a friend’s house. There were four of us. One of the guests has Stage 4 liver cancer. Her husband set the protocol for what they felt was safe: Eating outside without a mask was safe. Anytime we were inside, fixing food or cleaning up, we wore masks. We all agreed ahead of time so that when the evening came, we went about having a sweet time. And we did. We told really good stories and laughed a lot. The agreement felt like an act of intimacy.”

His brow didn’t uncrease. “Wow. Well, that’s pretty interesting.” A polite minute later, he said, “Well, I gotta go.”

I had to smile. There you go, Lindsey, making people uncomfortable. Again.

Was it because I used the word intimacy?

Maybe. So often, intimacy gets defined as sex. In fact, too often being close to someone gets funneled through the tiny keyhole called sex.

A million years ago, I made a list. It was titled: A Thousand Ways To Be Intimate. I think I wrote down a hundred. Then I cut them into little strips, rolled each one up and put them in a jar. Sometimes I would pull one out with a friend or lover, and we would do what the paper suggested. Things like: Go outside, put a blindfold on one person and let the other person lead you slowly around your neighborhood. Make a bouquet of flowers from your neighborhood. Simple stuff. Some were sensual. None were overtly sexual. But each one expanded the idea of intimacy.

Like agreeing to have dinner with friends in such a way as to keep one another safe.

*As the youngest in my bio-family, I was preverbal for many years. My sisters and my parents were a walking, talking tribe. Paragraphs and sentences ahead of me. Consequently, I became an exquisite listener. I didn’t speak up. I didn’t practice trying out my thoughts because I didn’t want to embarrass myself by saying anything less than perfectly. To express myself, I became a writer, carefully crafting thoughts and sentences and putting them out into the world. But even in that arena, I have been tentative. This series, for however long it lasts, is about me speaking up and thinking out loud.