Prince Phillip, and his entire marriage, serves as a good indicator that our traditional perception of marriage can be flexible....
For women, there's a huge difference between physical intimacy and having sex
I understand, having lived primarily as a man my whole life, that intimacy and sex are often considered synonyms, or at the very least, kids who share the same forehead and are constantly assumed to be twins. Men hear intimacy and think sex. It’s an automated, physiological response, and by far the biggest culprit in the ‘Men just want sex’ witch trials.
While it is undoubtedly true that most of the time they do want just that, and that they have obtained PhDs at getting in and out of ‘tight spots’, it is also true that the average man uses his pendulum the way a blind man uses his walking stick.
He leads with it, uses it to illuminate his path, sending it out like an infantry unit in battle to give him the lay of the land. He won’t really know how he feels about something — or someone — until he has been inside it. And so for him, intimacy naturally equates to showing you his.
Women see intimacy the way they see colour. For them, there are as many different definitions of intimacy as there are shades of blue. Sex is in there somewhere, boring old blue, but there is also cerulean, azure, sapphire, teal and even peacock, all of which translate into some wild things.
Listening to her talk after a long day of work, for instance. Allowing her to vent about those clowns from finance and their refusal to give her a raise; or gossiping with her about the butt print she saw on the boss’ desk that one time, the dimensions of which can only belong to a certain voluptuous intern. Or the janitor.
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Intimacy for her means knowing telepathically, without being told, that she wants the chicken taken out of the fridge before she gets home. Or that on day three of her period, she wants to fight, not chocolate. It means having a mental dossier of her various moods and the unique mental processes that define her.
All the vagaries and eccentricities that give her madness its flavour. I once saw a friend diagnose his wife’s mood from a single raised eyebrow. It was astounding, like watching Sherlock Holmes in action. Intimacy also implies total freedom, which is where the trouble usually begins.
We are told that when you’re in the presence of your person, you are supposed to be completely free, the full, undiluted version of yourself. That means ditching the persona you carefully crafted to get you laid and suppressing the rougher traits your mother tried unsuccessfully to nag out of you.
How many times have we seen people let go the second they are married? Within weeks of the courts affirming that you are legally each other’s problems, people unfurl and exhale. Romance turns out to have been long-drawn-out foreplay. Car doors now open themselves. People stop sucking in their guts, or holding in their farts, or wearing deodorant.
That man who once listened so raptly to your ramblings now only pays attention for the first ten seconds, and then his eyes glaze over. Your boo, who once rocked the greater Eastlands area with a weave made entirely of eyelash hair, has been in the same smelly headwrap for three weeks now.
You both know information you would rather not about each other. She can tell, from the sibilance and olfactory texture of your farts, that you snuck in a hotdog at lunch and washed it down with a beer. You know that she has a bladder made of titanium, from the violent way her 3 am pee hits the toilet bowl; it used to wake you up, that sound, but now you don’t even register it, and you even stopped wondering if it was possible to weaponize it.
Intimacy, as perceived by the fairer gender, is a romanticized ideal, the notion that someone is going to accept and even love all your flaws and your little habits. Of course, I have seen relationships turn simply because the things that used to be cute no longer are. Those adorable little quirks suddenly make your blood boil. His free-spirited wanderlust looks a lot less appealing when it means he comes home after three days out because someone provided ‘form ya Naivasha’.
It was cute that she could barely make tea when you were dating, but now all you eat is spinach and you’re starting to feel like Popeye.
My solution, of course, is to fake it, not till you make it, but till you drop. Never give up the act. Never let them behind the curtain. If, by the fourth year of marriage, she has still not seen your feet outside of thick, wooly socks, then you’re doing something right.
If you still don’t know why she has a Miguna-like panga cut on her shoulder, you will never stray. Mystery is important in any dynamic. Far more, I’d wager, than intimacy.