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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Camaraderie Versus Intimacy

Camaraderie: The quality of affording easy familiarity and sociability

Intimacy: 1. Close or warm friendship  2. A feeling of being intimate and belonging together

I'm fairly certain I'm the only one who looks at these things anymore. I was created without the ability to simply accept what is and what will be. Instead I've always believed I had some say in what happened in my life which is, of course, ridiculous.

Regardless, this has been on my mind.

Background Story: I was nine years old and spending the week with a friend. Our fathers went to high school together and had remained close throughout the following years, so by default their daughters had also become friends.

I was standing in the living room next to my friend's mother during that visit. She was sitting in an armchair talking with us about some activities we could do during our time together. During the conversation, my friend's mother lifted her hand and began to gently stroke my arm, then her hand slid down and took mine in hers.

For someone who had not been touched lovingly for about four years, my reaction was electric. I was startled and confused. I couldn't breathe. I wanted this mother of my friend to never stop holding my hand. More, I wanted her to pull me next to her, hold me gently and safely-- love me.

I understood at this point in my life that those were luxuries a child such as I could not have. I waited until she released my hand and at the first opportunity, moved away from my friend's mother. Then I made certain not to be next to her again during the visit. The longing to be touched, held, and loved was not something I could navigate. A child of nine simply cannot be deprived of touch for four years and then accept it without question or fear when touch is finally given.

I suppose this is one reason when I was groomed by my cousin before being raped by him, that I allowed him near me. I wanted to be touched. I needed that touch. And no one else in my life seemed interested in that kind of interaction with me.

Being married has helped this need. It never goes away. And so I have one person who touches me now. My children also touch me, but they're very aware of how difficult it is for me to allow it and they're careful to approach me with caution.

All of which makes me feel less human.

When they were small, my children were a lifeline for me. They were cuddly and adorable, and when I held them I felt human and valued. Darrin's touch has always been welcome and wonderful. But it does seem strange to only be touched by one person.

Chance brought another friend into my life. She came from a family where age did not stop siblings and parents from cuddling and giving brief kisses and verbal exchanges of love and affirmation. Which meant that when she adopted me into her social circle, I became the recipient of those things, as well.

I was concerned. I'm not, in my mind, the type of person who really needs that type of interaction with friends. She ignored my attempts to let her know that I was an untouchable.. After a few years I let her know of my attraction to women. "Why are you telling me this?" she asked. Because she and I wandered in similar circles. Mutual acquaintances knew my orientation. I didn't want her hearing it from them and wondering about my motives. "But you're not attracted to me, right?" she replied. It was an interesting question. I told her I hadn't really thought about it that much. "So," she answered,"you're not. If you were, you would definitely be thinking about it." That was a good point.

Then I told her about the abuse I'd survived and let her know I might not be the most stable, healthy person she had ever met. "That's stupid," she insisted. "You're more stable and healthy than anyone I know." And so she would visit with me, and I received spontaneous hugs and kisses, and she took every opportunity to take my arm or hold my hand or cuddle while letting me know that she believed I was amazing and talented and beautiful and that it was her privilege to be my friend.

And then she moved far away.

That was many years ago. We still meet occasionally. But that steady stream of physical contact and love has become intermittent. I'll be honest - I miss it. I miss her. I miss being told that I need to stop trying to give her reasons to cease touching me, and I will be hugged and kissed and held because that's what people do when they love each other. It's not limited to sexual partners.

There have been other people willing to hug me since my friend's departure, and even some who were willing to hold me close and tell me I was important and cherished even while I tried to tell them all the reasons I am untouchable. There have been others willing to say they loved me and sometimes even needed me. There have been others who have earned the closest thing I have to trust, which is saying a lot.

But I've been aware of the metamorphosis in our relationships as intimacy slid into camaraderie. It really has nothing to do with whether or not they wish to touch me. The waning of such has occurred simply because they have no need or desire to be touched by me anymore. That need is filled elsewhere.

Understanding this, however, and being okay with it are two completely different things. However, I'm much too tired, emotionally, to discuss or wonder about it beyond this blog post. Trite though it may be, the phrase, "It is what it is," takes precedence over any desire to rekindle past intimacy, or even replace it. And that part of me that has never been able to be overcome insists that, anyway, I don't need to be touched. It's confusing and overwhelming and I seem to always end up feeling guilty about allowing someone I love to touch the untouchable.

I'm supposed to see my old friend tomorrow. And she will yell my name when she sees me, pull me close, kiss me on the cheek, and tell me I look beautiful. She'll insist that we sit together at dinner, where we will talk constantly and she will take every opportunity to stroke my arm, take my hand, or spontaneously hug me until she must leave, at which point I will be hugged and kissed one more time as she begs me to come visit soon.

And that will be enough touch for me for another couple of years.

This is good because it makes bearable the pain of feeling my intimate relationships morphing into camaraderie. My friend's timing has always been impeccable.

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