Image: Fia @fias.galeria
Intimacy is a funny one.
Two people could be sat opposite each other, having what would typically pass as an “intimate” conversation, while their faces are illuminated by the burning candle holder in the middle of the table. They could be talking about what it’s like being trapped in your parents’ house as an adult, or about their individual passions. On the outside, it may look like these two people share a special connection with each other. Perhaps they could even be romantically involved judging by the way they appear to secretly exchange flirtatious glances to each other, speaking in a low, whisper-like voice.
Cut to the next scene: They have left the kitchen table and moved on to the living room, no more magic candle holder standing between them. The solidly suggestive appearances from just a few minutes ago start to feel a little shaky under the pressure of ultra-close physical proximity. While her brain is scrambling for answers why do her muscles feel so cramped up all of a sudden, he is shifting awkwardly in his seat. Her body is sinking heavier into the sofa like a corpse. “Why am I feeling so uncomfortable? The person next to me is the same one, I was having a romantic dinner date with just a second ago? The same person, whose laughter and deep-set, insinuating, green eyes, I was savouring more than the food on my plate?”. They hanged in this confusing and ridiculous limbo, where body and mind seemed to be disconnected from each other. Was it the actual touch that she was afraid of? Or that HER touching HIM first would inevitably turn out to be clumsy and ruin the whole evening? Though, she was too busy being confused and beating herself up by the mind-body contradiction within herself, to rationally resolve these dilemmas on the spot.
I wish I could have told her that there was no reason for her to beat herself up about, especially in the current virus-ridden times. Physical touch has been a sense that we have been deprived of, as well as being told to avoid like the plague, for such a long time now, that I can’t even remember when I last smelled someone’s B.O. on public transport. I never thought it possible that one day I will say how much I miss it.
Bearing this in mind, it is no surprise that touching someone you have never touched before, a stranger, is now likely to be riddled by anxiety and uncertainty. The stress of pleasing someone you have a crush on is, in a pandemic-rife world, doubled up by the possibility of getting infected just by touch.
Intimacy is first of all a matter of trust. You could be externally playing the part of a couple, but it would be in vain if internally you have built a mental fortress against any stimuli or entities outside your “bubble”. The pandemic has not only reduced our horizons in terms of movement, but also our mental horizons in terms of what we are comfortable with. As our social lives are limited to watching Netflix with our flatmates or families, the perimeter of our comfort zone becomes ever more restricted too.
Whereas before, the thought of hooking up with an attractive ‘soft boy’ would have been acted on without a bat given the right opportunity, here I was sitting in front of it like I’ve never kissed before. All I could do was curl up in a ball of helplessness and innocence, sweetly smiling through the awkwardness of the moment, as my date laid his resigned hand on my shoulder. Bless him, he did not have a clue, either, how to rescue the damsel in distress, me.
This incident prompted a conversation-cum-therapy session with one of my best friends, in which I worryingly confessed to her feeling like a virgin again. To both my relief and my increased sense of concern, it turns out I am not the only one. Locked inside our digital towers the vast majority of time, it is so easy to forget how to genuinely be intimate towards someone in real life, when the moment comes. So now, even more so than ever, we have to remember to be patient and treat ourselves how we would treat someone, who is just about to embark on their sexual awakening journey. Instead of putting pressure on ourselves to feel absolutely ecstatic in someone’s presence straight away, I propose a calmer approach to intimacy, one where we pay attention to the little gestures and sparks of magic between us and the other. The long glances in the dusky sunlight. Walking side by side caressed by the same sea breeze. Clinging wine glasses to more warm evenings to come.
Edited by Malina Aniol and Ellie Muir