Friday, February 14, 2014

Intricacies of Intimacy

ValentineCookies-CakeCentraldotcomWe’ve all seen these gorgeously decorated cookies in stores. How can you help but be impressed and drawn to picking them up and taking them home?

My cookies, on the other hand, when I bother to bake, come out ragged around the edges and usually a touch scorched here and there, and if I decorate, which is unlikely, the frosting is rough and uneven.

But, and this is a big but to me (no jokes, please), those gorgeous, perfectly decorated cookies rarely taste good once you bite into them. Mine, on the other hand, (not taking credit since it’s Mom’s recipe) taste incredible, so incredible that even this mostly-sworn-off-sugar gal can’t resist them. I’ve learned to easily bypass those “perfect looking” cookies and if I want cookies, I make them (or have a daughter make them, which is far better) and then I can enjoy what truly matters: how they taste. It is food, after all, not art. The taste is the thing.

Wait. How is this about intimacy? Well, it’s really the same thing. I learned long ago to bypass relationships (or at least keep relative distance) with people who look so perfectly “gorgeous” on the outside, and I don’t mean actual looks; I mean appearance-wise. I prefer a man in sweaty, dirty, work clothes to a man in a suit. He looks far more real to me. That’s perhaps my blue collar upbringing -- my grandpa coming home from his service station with black oil and grease stained fingers, even after carefully washing, with the same smudges on his clothes, but with a big smile for his family because he’s so glad to be home with them after a productive day. To me, that’s beautiful. I can’t fully trust anyone who always looks perfect. And you can’t have an intimate relationship with anyone you don’t fully trust.

[Disclaimer: I am not at all saying men (or women) in suits are less trust-worthy! It’s only a personal thing.]

In-To-Me-SeeSee, the thing is: I’m so far away from being one of those beautifully decorated cookies myself that being around those who are so beautifully decorated is intimidating. You also can’t have an intimate relationship (of any kind, not only romantic) with anyone who intimidates you. I need the rough edges, the dirty fingernails, the clothes I don’t want to touch but enjoy seeing, and the forgiving nature of that imperfect soul willing to accept how fully imperfect I am. I cannot be intimate with anyone too self-confidant because I can’t understand it and it’s hard to trust something you don’t understand. I understand defensiveness. I understand rough edges. I understand doing things you wish you hadn’t. I understand having a hard time admitting that you did something you wish you hadn’t. I understand having a hard time with apologies (it’s defensive). I understand messy, slightly overweight, occasional laziness that makes you drop something wherever you are instead of putting it where it belongs, and wearing old stained sweats at home and hoping no one drops in. I understand awkwardness. I understand bad hair months. I understand being so far out of the current fashion trend you can’t even see the edge of it, and not caring at all. I understand blue jeans and T-shirts that look like they’ve seen better days. In all honesty, I suppose I have, too. But like those jeans and tees, I’m far more comfortable than I was in my “better days” whenever those were supposed to be.

I won’t lie. (I can’t do that well; ask my family.) My husband and I have had some rough years. Those brand new stiff and shiny blue jean days were often hard to get through. He will say the same. We both had our defenses. We both had our scorched spots. Through it all, though, we saw the bright glow from within each others’ imperfect souls and uneven edges, and we stuck it out to keep digging underneath. Some days the digging went smooth and gave us the rush of a job well done at the end of the day. Other days we looked at the nicked and scarred shovels and nearly tossed them aside. It’s never been easy other than the rare day of perfect riding weather when too many other things weren’t pressing on us to take care of or to handle or to stew over. Those are the vacation days of marriage that are to be relished and remembered through the scarring and healing days of growth. Trust me, if you haven’t tried marriage yet: there are far more work days than vacation days.

gingerbreadcoupleAfter 26 years, we finally have more and more of those vacation days and the shovels can often just sit and wait while we sail along on that well-earned rest. Even now things can come out that never have in the past 26 years. And you know, that’s a beautiful thing. That’s intimacy. Others may only see the uneven slightly scorched cookie couple that we are. That’s okay. Because at the heart of that cookie is true flavor that’s impossible to resist. There are things we have been through together that no one else in the world can ever truly understand. We’ve earned that scorch along with the … a-hem, gray hair. 

So today, my DH calls from work where I’m sure he’s covered in sawdust and stain and whatever else, as I sit here in my sweats and old slippers and messy hair working on a career that pays so far under minimum wage I can’t even see that edge of the pay scale, and tells me to go look in the closet. He used to buy me roses. By this time, he knows spending that kind of money on cut flowers that will just die in a couple of days is not on my wish list. Instead, he now buys one beautiful, shining gold-plated rose covering a real rose so it’s both real and still always beautiful, no matter how wilted and browned it may get inside. I see those gold roses as a symbol that the faint, scorched glow inside is finally making its way out where it can be seen. The effort may not show to anyone else. It doesn’t matter. It’s a part of intimacy not meant for others. 

True intimacy is real and beautiful and unending. It may flicker at times, but it never burns out. 

Of course the card he got to go with it was not only not in the envelope, but also unsigned. I had to laugh. That’s intimacy.

DH and me at our daughter's wedding
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Paul M. Bucalo said...

This is so you, what I expect and home to read. Kudos to you both for weathering the storms to cherish the sun filled seas. Happy Valentines to you both. I saved a greasy rag for you, too. ;)

LK Hunsaker said...

Paul, nice to see you again!

Thank you. Guess I'm 'coming back' again, too. That rag smells like home!