Intimacy 101

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been terrible at this game we call intimacy. The best way I can explain it is with my very own, world-renowned specialty: a cat-related metaphor. My desire for affection will flare up from time to time, but I’ll easily brush off any sort of touch with a fit of hissing and batting claws. When it comes down to it, I’m way too fussy about the whole thing.

My parents aren’t the most lovey-dovey couple out there, so I choose to blame them for setting a bad example toward childhood me. Since I rarely saw my mom and dad even kiss, I feel like my attitude toward public displays of affection has become something of a strong aversion. I’ll see a friend canoodling with her boyfriend and fight a strong urge to launch myself into the oblivion of outer space. One time, after I witnessed a couple flirtatiously whispering to one another in Galbraith’s quiet study room, my annoyance was so overwhelming that only a Thai tea could calm me down. For me, that’s really saying something.

Needless to say, watching others engage in unsolicited public displays of affection has never been a favorite pastime of mine. Yet somehow I wound up taking a class where the professor promoted our watching sexually explicit content as homework and proceeded to showcase said videos in a lecture hall full of people. Welcome to the Psychology of Human Sexuality, people.

As I was in need of a psychology elective, I enrolled in this class with the attitude of, “why not?” The concept of an upgraded, collegiate version of sex education appealed to me greatly, especially since my curiosity about this class was at an all-time high. What would be covered (in terms of both content and amount of clothing)? How much detail would we go into? Is censorship a potential issue? My distaste for PDA aside, I couldn’t contain this newfound fascination. So, I took the plunge and hit “enroll.”

I truly felt that taking this type of course could aid in my growth as both a student and a person, and I think I’m correct in that assumption, looking back now. Though we’re only about halfway through the quarter, I’ve already learned a wealth of new information. From the pure anatomy of everything down there to the phenomenon of sexting as an expression of adolescent sexuality, we’ve hit quite a bit. And the best part? There’s no shortage of class discussion, and nobody shies away from the topic at hand.

As much as my friends engage in very overt affection with their partners, very few people I know will discuss their sex lives just as openly. The stigma around talking about sex, particularly among women, has made a much more significant impact on my life than I’ve realized. I know most of my coupled friends must be sexually active, though they’ve never said a word to me about it. It seems as though we’re allowed to show a certain level of intimacy to others, but there exists a line that everyone has made a silent promise not to cross.

Perhaps my own intimacy-related ineptitude has something to do with this line and how my expectations differ from those of others. I think we’ve all drawn out boundaries for ourselves, whether we consciously realize we’ve done so or not. Compared to certain friends, I’ll be willing to talk more about the sex-related things I learn in class, while they’ll chip away at my sanity one cutesy gesture at a time. And that, my dudes, is where miscommunication arises.

Yes, I’m not my friends, and they’re not me. I might never be as willing to engage in acts of public intimacy as they are, to be honest. But, I think that’s okay. As any cheesy children’s TV show would point out, we’re actually all better for our differences. Though PDA still feels like nails on a chalkboard to me, I think I can learn to move past these negative feelings in time.

Sometimes getting along as a cat in a world of overly affectionate dogs is difficult, but I’m doing my best to manage it.

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