If you have not viewed the vlog from last week or read the subsequently published post, you may be a little lost . . . so here’s a quick TMI recap: Last month The Universe decided it was time to end my (at that time) 6 month dry spell. And in the process I took another step along this journey I’ve been on 4+ years now. However, unlike Dorothy’s yellow brick road to Oz, my path to self-discovery appears to be paved with rough and uneven stepping stones, each sandblasted with the words LIFE LESSON in big bold letters. Beneath, in an itty bitty, squint-to-read font, is the actual revelation I’m apparently supposed to “get.” Here’s my latest “got” . . . after sex with a former partner from 2 years ago, I learned that all sex is not the same. In fact, it’s layered like f**king filo dough with carnal lust, physical attraction, shared desire, mutual affection, comfortable familiarity, emotional connection and even romantic love, encrusted with validation, excitement, danger, adventure . . . each and all paper thin layers of difference and distinction. Who knew? (Not I. Obviously.) LIFE LESSON #1
I often write The Universe is a circle that turns on itself. (It’s why the past comes back to bite you in the ass!) But more than a self-returning spiral with a bent toward irony, The Universe also possesses a similarly twisted sense of humor. For example, in I STILL WANT FIREWORKS (p. 35), I wrote about how much I recoiled at the use of the word “cuddle” in men’s online dating profiles. Reading it made me cringe every time! I figured the guy couldn’t much get it up sans blue pill, and so was subliminally looking for a woman not much into the actual act anymore anyway. And they are out there. Trust me. (No judgment. Just saying.) The fact that, according to a May 2016 New York Post article, the appearance of “cuddle” in a male profile actually generated 48% fewer responses than a comparable profile omitting the word, only reinforced my revulsion. Yep, I hated the word and mocked the need for the deed. Hold that thought.
In the video and blog last week, I talked about how each woman has to decide what she wants. I had decided for me it wasn’t a relationship. I simply had a void that needed to be filled. I wanted to feel wanted and desired by a man I felt fireworks with. An occasional encounter with an explosion of excitement, no more. A knee-jerk reaction to a 36 year marriage of nothing but routine and repetition? Probably. Regardless, I was of the opinion a constant routine smothers and kills the excitement I wanted. Ya know the adage: familiarity breeds contempt? Where’s the thrill in all the time? Repetition destroys rare. Routine ruins romance. Moreover, I didn’t want to learn him well enough to see his flaws. I wanted just to take it as it came—without expectation. (No expectation, no disappointment.) I didn’t want happily ever after. I wanted happy in the moment, an only “here and now” thing without ties. Such would leave my walls intact and my heart protected. In short, I wanted casual sex, aka a fuck buddy.
I met exactly what I thought I wanted on the night of my 60th birthday (See Chapter 28 in I STILL WANT FIREWORKS. I still think it’s a great “meet” story.) But fast forward 8 or 9 months . . . and my birthday bar hook-up had gone from simple fuck buddy to complicated FWB. (Yep. Woman plans and The Universe laughs.) One night we were sitting on my couch. It was late, past 11. He had stopped by after work so we could discuss his going to Europe with me. As was quite usual, he set my legs over his lap as we talked flight times, airport codes, passports and dollar/Euro exchange . . . Eventually we touched, maybe kissed. I curled up very naturally next to him, my head on his chest. Just as naturally he put his arm around me.
“You’re cuddling,” he said into my hair, “typical woman . . . they all want to cuddle.” I laughed and snuggled closer, content as hell. “You know . . .” he said, continuing, “I haven’t done this since my second ex-wife. I don’t do it. I aaavoid it.” His tone was adamant (as if having stressed and stretched out the word wasn’t clear enough?). Of course, I immediately sat up. “Ok. Sorry,” I said with a forced shrug of feigned indifference. He drew me back. “Nah, it’s all good.” We kissed. Then he spoke again. “I told myself before I came, it wasn’t going to go to sex. I wanted to talk about this trip.” “Ok, so it won’t,” I responded, “let’s talk about the trip.” He laughed. “Nah, we covered it.” And so it went—where he’d told himself it wouldn’t—‘cause it’s what we did. Then we talked—until 3—‘cause it’s what we did, too. (Of course, being a woman, I took the whole exchange to mean more than it obviously did—given the ultimate outcome 3 months later.)
Now let’s put together paragraph 3’s theme of “in the moment without ties” and paragraph 4’s four hour cuddling couch conversation with an interlude of intercourse. . . What we have (besides The Universe snickering its cosmic ass off?) is sex in the first instance and intimacy in the second. Ladies . . . newsflash! They are NOT one in the same! Who knew? (Not I. Obviously.) LIFE LESSON #2. Side note: The last vlog and post named 4 different kinds of intimacy as per experts’ definition. For simplicity’s sake—and the point of this post—I’m going to discuss only 2—but I’m going to call them sex and intimacy. Period.
Sex—even great sex—is not intimacy. And intimacy—true intimacy—is not sexual at all. Even though the term is often used to indicate a couple is in a sexual relationship, it’s a misnomer. Sex is a biological act of physical pleasure wherein you put yourself and your wants and/or needs and well-being first. Intimacy, on the other hand, will cause you to put the other’s first. Here’s an easy memory trick: Sex is the sharing of parts—intimacy is an involvement of hearts. According to a 2013 Psychology Today article, intimacy is a deep and shared closeness that requires a high level of transparency and openness—not physical contact. “The most intimate moments,” say the article’s author, Barton Goldsmith, PhD, “are those that happen outside the bedroom.” Of ALL things (!), The Good Men Project concurred in 2016: “There are countless ways to be intimate, and most of them aren’t sexual.” Who knew? (Not I. Obviously.)
Intimacy is the comfort, affection and familiarity between two people that forms only through the passage of time and communication and mutual desire. (Insert now the sound of The Universe again chuckling, ‘cause I always believed familiarity bred contempt—or at least boredom.) Intimacy is trust and vulnerability. It’s letting down barriers, allowing another person into our most personal spaces and private of places. (I’m not talking moist holes. Remember: sex is parts and intimacy hearts.) It’s a man who has seen me without contacts, without make-up, without boundaries, naked in every light—and sense—from every vantage and aspect. (Definitely, vulnerability! ‘Cause this girl doesn’t leave the freakin’ house without make-up!) It’s a man who has allowed himself to cry in front of me. (Trust me. For a man of my generation—especially blue collar—that’s huge!) And there’s more . . .
Intimacy is knowing small details most wouldn’t think to matter and intuiting huge insights few have ever gotten. For example . . . My knowing of his obsession with cayenne pepper and intense dislike of ATM fees—and bras. And his knowing my need to analyze and control is a manifestation of fear, especially of rejection. It’s shared miniscule moments—not big bangs. (That would be sex.) The way he teased me about how badly I flicked a cigarette butt. (Maybe a factor in why I’ve since quit?) It’s shared experiences that become more than memories, but rather shared reference points, touch points. Ties that will forever bind you both in ribbons and layers of knowing and understanding. It’s the genuine joy of being in the other’s company that supplants the need or want for external diversion. Indeed, we could spent 48 hours straight together—and not ever leave the house or turn on the TV. Never was I happier. Another memory trick? Sex is about the g-spot. Intimacy the sweet spot.
If you’re not quite sure yet the difference . . . each of the details I revealed above—personal, private, boring, meaningless to an outsider details—those are the hallmarks, the telltale signs of sex that traversed into intimacy. You will note, however, I have omitted (quite intentionally!) the L-word. For I believe (until The Universe decides to school me differently) that the L-word is yet another form or type of intimacy . . . another layer, if you will . . . remember . . . filo dough.
At the risk of another food analogy . . . sex is microwaving a jar of spaghetti sauce (take the lid off first!). Quick to prepare, satisfies the hunger and it usually tastes pretty good. Intimacy is a slow simmer all-day Sunday Sauce (or “gravy,” depending on your Italian roots). It takes time for the flavors to truly emerge, develop and blend. To do it really right, you add by degrees and in stages—it all just doesn’t get dumped in the pot at once. And once you’ve had the real deal, you find it difficult—if not impossible—to go back to a jar of Ragu.
So back to the story that started this 2-part post . . .
Rob was Ragu.
But Sunday wasn’t coming back. Not after 7 months. To this day the red Victoria Secret bra he yanked off is still missing a hook, so that I have to fasten it at a looser fit. But I don’t throw it away. I’m not ready to buy a replacement. Just as I realized last month I’m not ready for emotional intimacy with another man. I don’t want him holding me, staying the night or calling me “Babe.” My heart hasn’t healed. Yet. But my other parts? They thought I needed to move on and make do. So I did. And by doing so, I learned LIFE LESSON #3. In the difference between sex and intimacy, there’s no substituting. Fuck! Who knew? (Yeah, not I. Obviously.)
So in keeping–and concluding with my marinara metaphor—clearly I need to find a new recipe. It will take experimentation, trial and error. Realistically, a bad batch or two (or three or more) is bound to occur. But I’ll take it slow. Especially since I know now the ingredients that work to my taste. I’ll find the right balance. Or not. But knowing what I want (and don’t) is a really good start. Moreover, in 7 months my tastes may have even changed . . . Less cayenne? Or maybe a little more thyme this time?
Postscript: Before I could finish and post this post . . . the circle . . . yeah, it turned again. Care to guess who–without warning—showed up at my door? Fuck! (That would be a yes.) BTW, it was a Wednesday . . . Damn! Yep. (And THAT, ladies, would be the roar of laughter.)
If you want to learn more or read the above mentioned passages, ISWF is available in Kindle ($3.99) and in paperback ($9.99). For a direct link, click on the title below.