December 18, 2012 § 57 Comments

From yesterday’s Times:-

An old friend, whom I should have slept with twenty-five years ago, took me out to lunch.  We fancied each other but somehow never got over the hump of seduction, which I like to suppose he regrets as much as I do, though had we done so, chances are we would no longer be such good friends, if friends at all.  Over lunch, he told me that when he and his wife separated for a few months, women – married and single – threw themselves at him.  He could have slept with at least six (but didn’t; he adores his wife and is not unfaithful).  He was not boasting.  He was stating a fact, and he was startled by it.  He agreed he had kept his figure and is solvent and easy to talk to, but nothing had prepared him for the desperate way in which some of these lovely middle-aged women hit on him.  I told him that this just confirmed my whole less-than-rosy outlook and, as one of these “desperate” women (who doesn’t throw myself at people, but perhaps should?), I found it depressing.

I have as honest conversations with this friend as I do with my women friends, and I am incredibly fond of him.  He is supportive, generous and wise.  We had a long conversation about intimacy.  We stated the obvious: that sex by no means automatically equals intimacy.  It can enhance intimacy for sure, but the two must never be confused.

I have come to believe that it is lack of intimacy which is at the very core of what is so grinding about planktonhood.  Oh, there is humiliation and loneliness, and more, of course, all crucifying, but it is the void of intimacy which eats away at the spirit.  Intimacy is so beguiling and warm and subtle that those in possession of it more often than not are blind to its charms.  Maybe not at first, but they sure as hell become so.  Take it entirely for granted.  Perhaps only those who cannot lay claim to it appreciate just how sweet it is.

I have intimacy with my family and friends, of course; never to be under-estimated.  But recently I have had a fleeting glimpse of intimacy – and I don’t mean sex though I don’t preclude it – with the Slightly Younger Twinkle.  It is different from family/friends intimacy.  Call it that secret, private, exclusive narrative with a particular person.  This is at the heart of what most human beings find compelling, but so often too elusive.  The fragility of this special intimacy is frightening.  But having been starved of it for so long, it seems sweeter than it probably has any right to feel.


§ 57 Responses to Intimacy

  • You’re right. There is nothing like it. I’ve come to the conclusion that sex is all very well but sex coupled with intimacy is what I aspire to. For too long I’ve had one or the other but I’m trying my best to give greater value to intimacy because that’s the glue that’ll make someone want to stick with me.

    Btw, my YT is utterly lovely, so far so good…

  • Vaso says:

    This post has touched my heart because of its truthfulness! Intamacy is what makes two people “click”; it is what makes two people feel passion; it is what makes you feel alive. I have felt that intimacy but unfortunately it was not to last …. and i hope that one day I will catch that feeling once again! Brilliant post!!

  • Lydia says:

    Is it really that hard to find though? Even if you don’t pair bond for life with a man, can’t you find a man to which to become close, to confide in, to chat about the day? There are lots of men out there who like that kind of intimacy, often also lonely. Perhaps if you are intimate with them they will be intimate back to you?

    The Plankton always cheers me as we seem the opposite of each other. I have never been happier (am alone although living with children so never get the chance for even a day without them sigh… I will have to wait until I’m 90 I suppose to get the chance to find that glorious nirvana (or certainly something I don’t fear) of living alone… )… and was very lonely in my long marriage which I wake every day delighted no longer to be in.

    Do look at biochemistry issues (science can be fun) as bonding, touch, orgasm cause a release of beta endorphins and that makes a couple close which is why if you have sex too quickly it’s generally not a good idea as you might bond with an utter loser. In other words intimacy can flow from the sexual side of things and touch. Question is which is cart and which is horse (and it may not be the same for men and women of course either much though as an arch feminist I would hope not to have had to make that comment – a recent survey found that after 4 years 30% of women only were bothered about having sex and wanted their partner. Men remained a solid 60% over time with no dropping off and there is a male sex deficit which is why men the world over tend to be the ones paying for sex and women rarely need to as it’s always there to be had free).

  • Chris says:

    What the heck has being solvent got to do with attraction? You would have to be a pretty cold, calculating fish: 1. to take that into account, and 2. to elkicit such information about a persons financial standing. I cannot imagine too many teenagers establishing whether their latest crush was ‘solvent’. As the song says…….’what’s love got to do with it?…..’

    • Elle says:

      Chris, perhaps you should ask Plankton’s friend that as I gather he volunteered that information.

      • Chris says:

        Elle……you make a very good point. I think that this is something that came originally came from America, where men kind of feel they can almost ‘buy’ a woman with displays of material wealthg, i.e. economic competence. This is rather insulting to women I guess as it almost puts them in the position regarding relationships of being on ‘rental’, which is parlously close to the remit of a very ancient profession.

      • fi says:

        Well P said ‘solvent’ not wealthy and that’s not an unreasonable expectation I think. I doubt anyone, male or female, wants to get involved with someone with debts or who is bankrupt.

      • EmGee says:

        What Fi said, and I think it should be obvious. Also, he has other fine attributes both mentioned and implied, that count equally as much, if not more.

    • The Plankton says:

      I didn’t say it! HE did! I have never had a rich lover my whole life. It is very definitely not what turns me on. Perhaps it should!? Pxx

    • aggy says:

      Spot on! ladies, let get real and not delusional, really the knight in shining armour does not exist expect in one dreams.

  • graceville says:

    Oh, Plankton – I SO know where you are coming from!

    To me, intimacy with the right person is very different to the intimacy that I have with my best friends, both men and women. Intimacy with “the one” means everything from knowing how many sugars they have in their tea, to sitting without talking and not feeling uncomfortable, to visiting an art exhibition and feeling free to say that what you’re looking at is total crap, to lazy-in-bed conversations that overlook mutual bed-hair because you’re so busy just drinking the other person in.

    I’m 53 and 4 years single now, and only 1 date to show for it. Loneliness? Sure thing. Humiliation? Certainly. Fear of growing old alone? Absolutely. Big black hole where intimacy with my former partner used to reside? You betcha.

    You’re right: lack of intimacy is a “void which eats away at the spirit”. I feel like it has the power to eat me from the inside out, if I were to let it. Filling in my days, keeping busy, learning to accept that I am where I am, trying to focus on other things all help to a degree but, at the end of the day, I have no intimacy. And for me, it’s a mighty big ask to carry on without it.

    Hang in there with me, P. Don’t give up the day before the miracle happens!

  • rosie says:

    Oh gosh, the lack of intimacy. If my stupid fling has done anything, it’s to confirm that you may as well be dead without it. I’ve spent the past two days walking around on the verge of tears. It’s a good job I don’t work in an office otherwise my colleagues would think I’d developed some sort of habit the number of times I’d be dashing off to the loo for a silent weep.

    The middle-aged women throwing themselves at men thing is just too depressing for words. Not much chance for a middle-aged woman who would rather throw herself in front of a train, but your new SYT is keeping me hanging on in there, P!

  • Highlander says:

    Intimacy, yes, that’s it in a nut shell. All the wild monkey sex in the world will not provide it, nor will that hormonal kick one gets from the addiction of a new love. That boring old knowing that someone is in your corner and has been for years is seldom recognized for what it is until you only have one toothbrush in the bathroom where two used to be.

  • malcolm says:

    I think intimacy is over rated by far, and that we in the western world have created a peculiar kind of neurosis by our constant and neverending search for our significant others.

    I was struck by a sentiment in the Dalai Lama’s book “the art of happiness” which he described how our western ideal of romance (Hollywood movies, Valentines Day, archaic mating rituals) leads many people searching after the unobtainable and focusing on what their life is missing rather than on what our lives have. Single mom’s will risk the safety of their children by allowing dubious men into their lives and homes, men and women will spend hours on dating sites while never bothering to call their mums and dads in nursing homes, men will ignore their children while taking their new girlfriends away to weekends in Jamaica, etc. etc.. There’s thousands of examples of how this leads to an unbalanced life. This really hit home.

    After my wife left me, it wasn’t two days before some of her friends came sniffing around with deliveries of pre-made dinners, a pretense at concern for mine and the children’s well-being, invitations to “just get out of the house for an evening”. It was a pretty sickening display to be honest, and despite the fact that my wife had behaved very, very badly I would have expected them to remain loyal to her – they were her friends. I was smart enough not to fall for any of that claptrap, the last thing the kids (and myself) needed was more drama.

    I ended up going 5 years without a hint of intimacy, and it didn’t bother me in the slightest, and were I to discover that there was no more intimacy in store for me ever again, I’m not sure I would be all that perturbed by the notion. There are so many other things in life that are more satisfying to me than female companionship and intimacy.

    • Highlander says:

      Malcolm, I suppose one’s view on intimacy would depend on how much one honestly had in their relationships in the past. having a wife cheat or run off does make it very hard to trust again. As far as the ladies go, some of your wife’s friends were probably actively supporting her decision to leave you.

      Having seen this in action I’ve some knowledge of it. Knowing what the market is truly like out there for suitable men they were willing to snap you up quick while you were at your most vulnerable ;~)

      Many men often remarry quickly because of loneliness and women recognize this weakness in formerly married men. Men often regret their haste in remarrying, you are wise in your choice to take your time until it feels right.

    • fi says:

      One of the blokes I was seeing for a while did my head in looking for what I suppose is that ‘intimacy’ – wanting to know personal information I had no intention of sharing with someone I’d only known a few weeks, and tell me boring stuff about how he’d spent his day. He’d come out of a marriage and obviously missed that, but …..eeek….it just made me feel trapped, bored and that he was nosy. I’m afraid I scarpered. Maybe if it had arose naturally over a long period of time the way my friendships had I would have gradually revealed more about myself if I’d wanted to, but he tried to create it.

      • fi says:

        I would also recommend joining and going along to as many activites as you can as getting to meet as many new people of both sexes as you can in a social setting builds up your confidence as well as introducing you to a wider pool of people you probably encounter in your normal life. And you have fun at the same time 🙂

    • maria says:

      Hear, hear. I too don’t believe in that intimacy bullshit. I’ve been living alone my whole life and I don’t, and never have missed the whole intimacy thing. And, from what I’ve seen, most couples I know don’t share any, either.

      • fi says:

        Yep you’re right. Being married or even having a partner is no guarantee of ‘intimacy’. Or co-dependency as some others would describe it 🙂

  • James B says:

    I think I may, in fact be a woman judging by some of the views that other men are expressing on this blog.

    “What the heck has being solvent got to do with attraction?” Well, I like attractive women with personalities, intelligence and great smiles. A good sense of humour (meaning they find me funny) and some personal meaning in their life would be nice additions. A slimmish figure helps too. This is evolutionary biology at work driving the unconscious mind. The physical attributes of a male matter SLIGHTLY less to a woman but a lack of financial shambles/disaster/poverty in a target male partner is all that mature females have asked for on these pages. Not wealth on an unimaginable scale. What on earth is wrong with that?

    Of course an intelligent and independent woman wants a man who shows some degree of financial literacy and competence.

    As for intimacy – “I think intimacy is over rated by far” – is a fascinating view and is alien to me, but that’s what makes the world go round. Our differences… Personally for me, intimacy is the great turn on. Along with the other stuff of course! We are all different though. What fun!

    Lovely post this week, Ms P.

  • Jill says:

    Sorry, I was thinking of last week’s “The End of the World” and James’s comment about having been married for 25 years which he made on 12th December. ( I am all of a flutter tonight as I am awaiting news of the birth of my second grandchild – soooo excited! Everything kicked off at 7 this morning and we are all on tenterhooks, so my brain cell is not functioning too well right now.)

  • nastassia says:

    Plankton, I have been reading your column for a while now and I enjoy it very much though I have not yet reached the Plankton stage. I truly believe that one must simply relax and not obsess about finding a mate-there is such a thing as serendipity and kismet. Easier said then done, but you must keep the faith.

    By the way if the Scott Benowitz posting on this site is the same Scott Benowitz who is a chef in the NY area I cannot understand his lack of options.

    • Elle says:

      Nastassia, you have given yourself away as a not-yet-plankton with your second sentence. Once you reach plankton hood you realise that there are no such things as serendipity and kismet. If you’re happy to be alone fine, but if you’d like a partner I’d advise you to find somebody while you still have reasonable options.

  • EmGee says:

    Depressing indeed, Ms P. I am sure a woman in your male friend’s position (separated from spouse), would be equally inundated with males vying for her attention. Such fortunates are simply few and far between.

    I sympathize with you pain over missed intimacy with a significant other. I think a startling number of people have either never experienced it, or have mistaken other feelings, such as the connectedness one briefly feels after sex, for intimacy. Like anything sweet, having been deprived for so long, that one bite is doubly delicious, and when that one bite is all there is, the pain of loss nearly unbearable.

  • Leftatforty says:

    I agree. Sex can be available for a plankton. Intimacy is elusive.

  • Scott Benowitz says:

    Oddly, the world, the sun, the moon and the stars all appear to still be here today…

  • James B says:

    Intimacy. hmm.
    “Noun – Close familiarity or friendship; closeness.
    A private cozy atmosphere.
    familiarity – intimity – nearness”

    Does not really capture it does it? My definition is that true intimacy occurs between 2 people who are both being honest and open and true to themselves as well as the other person in the moment. A rare thing. Perhaps because so many of us have become cynical or else have learned to behave and almost become a dishonest or abridged versions of ourselves to others. Surely we must try being ourselves and then someone who likes the real us might come along….

  • zoe says:

    Mmmm….interesting, James B, but I’m not sure that quite captures it for me either.

    I think it’s possible to be honest, open and true in quite a number of contexts that don’t involve intimacy.

    Doesn’t intimacy have something to do with the permissions we grant each other? I can’t now recall which play or film it is where someone inadvertently reveals their affair when they reach over and, without saying a word, pick up some food from their lover’s plate at a cocktail party. No apology is sought or needed for an act that would otherwise be a social solecism because a lover already has that pass: a dead give away.

    I have a male friend who has the unnerving habit of seeking out opportunities to touch your arm or your shoulder or of lingering too long over a social kiss. It makes every cell in my body rebel because he is trying to take something that has not been freely given.

    Sex between willing partners is the greatest act of intimacy. To deny it seems futile – perverse, even. The granting to another of sexual access to your body is still the ultimate permission. It is also one around which we continue to construct the meaning of our lives. Even those seemingly committed to hollowing out the meaning of sex over at the manosphere admit this: “…women never seem to understand that sexual access is the highest, most direct assignment of value they can give a man”. (The Badger).

    On the other hand, sex is not the same thing as intimacy because intimacy is not an act, or even a state, but a process. It’s the intricate pattern of permissions based on a shared understanding. When I started my relationship with the doctor, the sex catapulted him to the centre of my life in an act that was meaningful precisely because it involved the breaching of boundaries so assiduously policed in the rest of my life. But it was also the beginning of a journey with different, smaller milestones; the moment I could come to bed and put my cold feet on his body to warm myself without fear of a rebuff; or when he slept with his back to me, and even at the risk of waking him, the first time I felt able to wrap my arms around him and hold him close. And it continues outside the bedroom – the incremental liberties of give and take. Isn’t that what intimacy is? When he accepts my impositions and I accept his; each of us confident in the indulgence of the other.

    • Minnow says:

      Beautifully written, Zoe, and prefectly sums up my own views on intimacy.

    • PY says:

      Zoe , I agree with Minnow that your contribution was beautifully written – quite clearly a lot of thought and emotional connection had been put into it.

      But, I find myself uncomfortable with the statements that sex is the greatest act of intimacy and that intimacy is a process . It is confusing because both are right but may be wrong. I have come across women (in the dame way that you will have met men) for whom the sexual act is the satisfaction of a basic and unsatiated urge – needing but lacking in the intimacy which we hold in high regard. In truth intimacy would be a confusing factor in such circumstances .

      The process of true intimacy is undeniable . Reacting to stimuli in a similar manner ; a mutual appreciation of each others scent or desires ; recognising the benefits of silence as well as speech ; a willingness to ‘let go’ or laugh (or cry); to dance or quite simply move together in sensuous harmony – all of this might take time to assimilate but might equally be instinctive and acquired in an instant .

      Why does it have to be so hard ? Both parties are capable of acting on instinct at first meeting – Carpe Diem – but may also go for the slow burn – which , interestingly, is where I find myself now . Building the trust required over a prolonged period of mutual flirtation and good, old fashioned, seduction before the , hopefully, sweet surrender of physical commitment .

      Whilst writing , I need to seek assurance from Jill that all went well last week .

      I also need to wish all Plankton everywhere seasonal good tidings and a hope that the new year will bring everyone their heart’s desires .

      • Jill says:

        And I also agree – Zoe, what you wrote was beautiful and obviously heartfelt. I was moved by it. However, as someone who spent the major part of her adult life with a man for whom sex was the be-all and end-all of intimacy, I would only say that I believe that trust is a necessary pre-cursor to intimacy – along with other important qualities like respect – however much (mutual) attraction is present. You did acknowledge that by implication,, but I feel strongly that trust is essential in a relationship which claims to go beyond mere physical attraction; without it you cannot commit fully to anything remotely approaching true intimacy. So I am very much in accord with what PY says about this in his post. I would go so far as to say that If the element of trust is missing, a relationship is incomplete, defective even. And if trust has been present and is then destroyed, the effect is so much more devastating than if that commitment had been missing.

        On a more uplifting note, I am thrilled to announce the safe arrival in the world of a bouncing 8 lb 2 oz baby girl called Ida Florence – the first girl in this family for fifty years! What a wonderful Christmas present….(and thank you for enquiring, PY).

        And I wish all of you in Planktonland a very joyous Christmas and everything you hope for the New Year.

      • The Plankton says:

        Congratulations and Happy New Year. Pxx

      • PY says:

        Excellent news , Jill !
        At least one thing has gone well for you and your’s this year. Enjoy your present .
        The sun is shining across the damp hills of County Durham and a yomp beckons .

      • The Plankton says:

        Thank you, PY, and to you too. Pxx

  • koreacareer says:

    Gosh! This love thing is really quite ridiculous isn’t it? I mean, one spends one’s teenage years wondering if you will ever find a boyfriend. Then, after life and loss, you suddenly find that, at about 50, you are still in the same situation, thinking you will never fall in love, or be loved. I have given up – I have come to the conclusion that I am just simply unattractive.

  • maria says:

    Dear P and all the planktons everywhere, I wish you a lovely Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
    May all your wishes come true and may 2013 be the beginning of a wonderful love filled new life.

  • Chiropractic technique aims to right misaligned structures and postures of our body.

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