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(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Male Intimacy

Male intimacy. Three vignettes showing different aspects of it, yet all in a way related.

The first one: when I went to pick up my son at the airport, there were two young men -- 19? 20? -- also waiting for someone. Their parents came from somewhere in south-eastern Europe or the Levant -- olive skin, with one having warm coffee-coloured eyes and the other greenish-hazel; glossy dark brown hair; absurdly slim in the way so many boys turning into men are. They weren't of Greek or Italian extraction, because they would occasionally drop into their natal language, and I didn't recognise it. Perhaps Turkish or Yugoslav. They were both pleasing to look at, but the hazel/green eyed one was beautiful, in a way that perhaps only boys on the cusp of manhood can be.

At the arrivals hall, there is a sort of safety-glass barrier, and about a foot away from it, a stainless steel handrail. The one young man was slim enough to contrive to fit in between the glass barrier and the rail, so that he could be as close as possible to his friend and still face him. He rested his hands on the rail on either side of the other man, about 3 or 4 centimetres from his friend's body. I got the impression he was the one who longed more for physical contact, yet all the same his friend didn't move away. He stayed right there, in an almost embrace with his mate. They talked pretty much exclusively with each other, even though they were with two youngish women of the same ethnicity (sisters? girlfriends?) Their eyes would meet and hold often. They talked softly together, and from time to time the one between the barrier and the rail would move his hands from their position either side of his friend. Once he clasped his friend's shoulder, for several seconds, and the friend just smiled, his body totally relaxed. Another time he moved his hands up and down his friend's torso, not actually touching him, but as if that's what he wanted to do, to caress him. I would say that they probably weren't lovers, yet there was the intimacy and closeness of lovers, the way in which lovers in public will mould themselves and their space to each other, their physical and sexual intimacy making them a comfort to each other. It was very touching.

Annie Proulx said she wrote Brokeback Mountain after seeing an old cowboy in a bar wistfully watching two handsome young cowboys. And I wondered what any author watching me would have seen in my face, my body language. Embarrassing, really.

It made me think about a party I went to a couple of years ago (this is the second vignette).

As soon as the party started, the men and the women divided into two groups by gender. I went with men: it would not have done to go with the women. On ne se fait pas! But as I knew no one, and I didn't want to let them see what I was, I didn't speak unless spoken to. I just watched and listened.

These blokes were truck-drivers, foremen at factories or car-yards or tyre-shops; they had plumbing or electrical businesses; they were utterly manly and normal. As the evening progressed, and their inhibitions were loosened by the beers they were downing, they would reach out unconsciously to touch each other, and then, their hands halfway raised, would stop as the inhibitions drummed into them since childhood took control again. They laughed and smiled at each other, they were obviously growing to like each other or already did (because many of them seemed to be already acquainted) but every tentative reaching out was aborted. I don't think these guys were gay or bi (though no doubt there were the usual percentages present). They were straight. Because it might be misinterpreted if they physically expressed their liking for each other, they didn't touch. They couldn't bring themselves to do it. It saddened me so much.

And lastly, my son at 11 or 12 and his then best friend, standing in a line at school with their arms resting casually on each other, as close to each other as they could get, their love entirely innocent, and entirely untrammelled by any fear of sex or others' interpretation of what they were doing. My son wouldn't do that now, because he would be too aware of what it could imply.

The overriding point of these three vignettes? The Christian hatred for homosexuality and homosexuals has poisoned the wellsprings of straight men loving each other too. Men are afraid of touching other men, of getting too fond of other men. The deep cultural aversion to gayness, continually refreshed by churchly poison, makes straight men lonelier and less happy. The two young men at the airport were noticeable precisely because one so seldom sees this. And it was a lovely sight to see. How long until expressed affection between men is normal? How long before men stop not doing things because they're "too gay"?

Gay lib is straight lib too. Getting acceptance for us will in the end shift the male landscape, and make straight men less lonely. Eventually.

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