What is Intimacy?

Intimacy is a funny thing. There is, of course, the Webster definition — “something of a personal or private nature” — and then there’s what we think intimacy is.

To a lot of us, intimacy is physical. It’s sexual. It's a touch wrapped around feelings and emotions for the person you’re going to share some of the deepest aspects of your life (and body) with.

Therefore, for a lot of people, intimacy has to do with a romantic connection. But intimacy is more complicated than that; it is also something shared with family and friends. Intimacy doesn’t need to be physical or sexual. I think that intimacy can also mean a personal relationship.

Intimacy can take many forms. It’s time spent together after a bad day, a hug, sharing ideas or just words of affirmation.

For myself, being single throughout the pandemic, I have found intimacy with my family because of how comfortable I feel with myself in their presence.

It seems to me, then, that comfort is intimacy at its finest, because in order to create a sense of intimacy you, well, need to be yourself. RuPaul puts it best: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”

As long as you are not isolated, surrounded by the sadness that can cloud us during these lonely days, I think that there is some sort of intimacy with anyone you decide to spend your time with.

But sometimes there’s also a loss of intimacy in relationships, the loss of comfort in relationships that can lead to feeling alone even when you are surrounded by people.

We often consider intimacy as something to be shared with others instead of something we can have with ourselves. But, at the end of the day, there is the constant and everlasting intimacy with oneself that we must deal with for the rest of our lives.

We don’t have time away from our thoughts, and in that regard, we never consider what it means to be intimately knowledgeable of our own wants and needs. We can grow tired and spiteful of ourselves over time as we are faced with our restrictions.

But these are our bodies. These are our lives. How can we grow tired of ourselves? How do we lose the childhood comfort in our lives?

Well, the answer is a sort of growing internal knowledge of our faults while simultaneously facing a dying intimacy with our wants and needs. When you’re five or six, you know exactly what you are capable of (or you think you do), but as you get older, you come to a certain realization of your own limits.

In a sense, as you “grow up” you also “grow” more intimate with your apprehensions and the accountability that surrounds you. But how do you escape yourself when you grow bored? How do you enliven what you understand as “you”?

That’s why I think intimacy, encompassing all these facets of life and comfort, must be expressed not only with those we love, but with our own lives as well. I’m not quite sure what that intimacy means yet. However, being able to come to terms with who you are, what you love and the people you surround yourself with can help you start to slowly understand your own needs and your own intimacy. ❦

This article is part of Intimacy, The Ubyssey’s 2022 sex issue. You can read more here.