On Intimacy

By Sonya Rehman

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, ‘Don Jon’ is a pretty good movie. In a nutshell, the movie depicts the modern dilemma of love, lust, and attraction; skewed emotions thanks to the smut dished out by way of the pornographic film industry, and the media at large.

But the movie got me thinking. Isn’t it incredible how some of us jump into bad relationships, putting up with partners who revert back to their old, (initially) concealed ways, once the romance has filtered out the window? While the whole the-media-has-warped-our-perception-of-beauty debate has been written and talked about again and again, I honestly think our generation finds itself in an even bigger quandary now, today, an idiotic, dismal suffering not known to those before us. And how we continue to suffer.

Marriage. Suitable partners. Love. Attraction. Chemistry. Good enough. Workable? Potential!

Good God. What is it? And how can we claw our way back out of this delusional, keep-up-with-the-social-media-Joneses-look-all-perfect quagmire to understand what love and companionship should entail? I think it all boils down to our understanding of the word: intimacy.

Intimacy: the state of being in a very personal or private relationship. 

Synonyms: belonging, chumminess, closeness, inseparability, intimacy, nearness.

[Reference: the Merriam-Webster dictionary]

But what really is intimacy, how do we understand it, and how do we get there? Does intimacy spring forth from kindness? Gentility? Chivalry? Raw honesty? Heart-on-sleeve innocence? Mental compatibility followed by the promise of physical affection? Selflessness? Inner happiness that exudes from a wholesome human being? Charisma (brought about by some wretched life experience)? Sexy worldliness? Intellect? Softness?

Intimacy by Tracey Rediker
Intimacy by Tracey Rediker

Intimacy cannot grow from what is immediately seen. That I know. That’s attraction, and it’s fleeting. But does attraction, lust, dupe us? Does it constantly dupe us, for the rest of our lives, where we don’t care to see that the person before us is completely incompatible with us? Why are we so terrified of being alone? And why does the fear of being alone, prod us to desire this perfect, all-wonderful idea of what companionship should and could be?

But we really don’t desire companionship. We desire a meal ticket. We desire good looks. We desire physical perfection. The unattainable package. Superman (whose mother loves you “to bits and pieces”) with his square jaw and piercing eyes as he whisks you off (whee!) into the marital delight of beauty, silks and credit cards. Oh the plastic-consumerism, the sunshine of it all. You desire the woman, the goddess, with her endless legs, and flowing locks, who can charm the pants off your parents and your friends, and whisk you off into a sea of pleasure and, well, pleasure.

But then. Intimacy. It remains a gaping hole, widening by the day, and you think, how can I ‘find’ myself in this person? Who is this person? Who am I? But the want you started out with isn’t the want you desire so deeply now. You are ravenous for intimacy, but you can’t find it.  You’re limp. And that winds up into an emotional indifference, a detachment, a rejection of things, people. How emotionally stunted are we – how painful an existence. The ego, the glorious ego, retained within, protected, lest our defenses fall too low, lest we are too vulnerable.

Intimacy: vulnerability. That’s where it stems from. Vulnerability is attractive, beautiful. Fearless in the face of consequence.

Paperazzi, Pakistan Today


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