I have been reading a lot about intimacy these days. Mostly, articles about building solidarities in movements, trying to save a failed marriage by building a strong female friendship with a gal pal, understanding the complexities of various kinds of friendships in our life—whether inside or outside of wedlock—regardless of sexual orientations and gender identities. I have also been sitting, for a long while now, on reading Purple Hibiscus, a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, that explores familial relationships closely that also has intimacy and closeness at the center of its theme. Much of these readings and writings have propelled me to wonder about intimacy in my own life. How they have changed as I grew up. How they have shaped me as I moved on. How they have made me a presumably wiser person.
I have always been wary of having a “best friend”. I have always found it to be limiting, I think the reason I began thinking like this, right from an early age, is probably because of my upbringing in a joint family where you never have one best person. Your best person changes according to situations, needs and wants. When you want that chocolate bar that your father just won’t buy for you, it’s your uncle who becomes your best buddy. When you need a signature on a test paper that you fared badly in, it’s your sibling who comes to your rescue and emerges as the new buddy. When you know your mother is super mad at you, you seek the comfort of your aunt. My best friends kept changing in my family. And by the time I grew up to understand what “friends” are—you know, the ones we choose and not the ones we are born into—I knew I’d never have a single BFF. And I was right.
My mother recalls the story of one such BFF. She claims that I have never been so clingy and attached to one person my whole life. Apparently, I faked stomach aches on days she was absent in school because those days just felt sad and lonely without her. I also ended up actually feeling sick when she wasn’t around. We ate together, read together, played together. Hell, our moms exchanged recipes too. I was 8. And I have very little memory of all the things we did together, which according to my mother, are aplenty. I don’t remember how we grew apart. She changed schools, perhaps. Or maybe was shifted to another class section. But that was the end of what I would call my first “female friendship.”
Nearly about at that age, I also formed my first male friendship. I was 10 maybe, and attached great value to terms like guy friend and girl friend. I also strongly believed that they are very different primarily because of the genders involved and nothing else. This boy was so dear to me and I to him that we always flaunted the fact that we were people of opposite sex and yet friends. Nothing less, nothing more. Even at that age, having “just a friend” of the opposite sex was seen kinda cool by some and kinda lame by many. But that didn’t bother our friendship. I have the fondest memory of having a blast at each other’s birthday parties. And then, we drifted apart. His family was transferred to another city and that was the end of it. That ended my first “male friendship”.
So many years later, I have a handful of friends who are my “besties” regardless of their age, sex, gender, class, caste, region, religion, country, ethnicity and/or sexual orientation. But the reason why I recall those two specifically is because they are the ones that taught me intimacy. They are the ones I remember most vividly (is it possible that I recall it all so well because of the fact that they are no longer in my life and there’s nostalgia to blame?). I remember their faces, their comforting presence around me and the ease with which I shared my personal stories with them, however minuscule or insignificant it may have been at that time. I remember feeling intimate with them at every level of my relationship with them. And it is a feeling I cherish even today, despite time taking its course on them.
So many years later, I have also become wiser, learning to ignore the unimportant, forming my own judgment of what and who are important to me, mastering the art of not-giving-a-damn. Does age do that to you? I am not sure but I look forward to growing older and more (in)tolerant to people. I have lost friends, resumed friendships, gained newer ones and some have simply rusted away with time. But reminiscing about the two strong intimate friendships I have had as a growing child, I have understood what to expect in a relationship when I am getting intimate with someone. And contrary to popular belief and common assumptions, intimacy isn’t about just a physical connection. It’s purely about comfort—in being who you are, in not trying to pretend, in being relaxed as a person and in wanting that comfort some more. An intimate relationship is as rare as it is beautiful. And it’s also something that perhaps comes with an expiry date. If it hasn’t expired yet, it’s worth holding on to! Here’s hoping that the year 2016 is filled with intimacy, closeness and affection for you! Love and peace xoxo