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Intimacy vs. Intimidation

The connotations of the word “intimacy” were flooding through my mind on the way home from work. Is intimacy the tiny details we pick up from daily interactions with people? I shared an intimate secret with a woman who is most easily described as a customer. We know nothing about each other’s lives except her love of cooking and her passion for inspiring ingredients. Her unconscious aroma is lemon. We talked about essential oils and I shared my signature scent, the perfume I have worn daily for over 30 years; Annick Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien. I first found it while working in Harvard Square. There was a small, hole-in-the-wall shop that carried only finest European soaps and perfumes. You could find a real, boar’s bristle hairbrush, exotic toiletries, and you could test out wondrous scents from decades ago. The intimacy I witness in other arenas of life are the ones that came to me on my drive. I thought of the small rituals of personal hygiene that I have developed with my hospice client (and that phrase is so cold and wrong for what my friend and I share.) We have surpassed the need for apologies when bodily functions require a break in our moments of reflection. Long ago, my first job was as a nurses’ assistant in a nursing home. Two terms in the last sentence need explanations; nurses’ assistant meant I was on bath, bed pan and feeding duty, nursing home was where the aged were parked to die. The kindly woman who was in charge of the “Men’s Wing” took me aside and said there was a tremendous need for care in her department and did I have a problem with old, naked men or urine? I was too naïve to know what to say so my answer was “No?” She taught me that at some point in life you will have to ignore the differences of our sexes and recognize the basic need for comfort and care. “The old guys are so appreciative and fun, if you can get past the sexuality of it, you will understand.” The first time I held a shriveled male penis in one hand while wrapping a hot wash cloth around his balls, and ignored the unbidden sigh of joy, I understood what she was telling me. To give comfort and carry on a light repartee, was key to preserving everyone’s dignity in the situation. Gently applying a Q-Tip to someone else’s ear-wax, reaching into their mouth to remove their teeth, or holding a tissue so they can blow their nose, are intimate acts we take for granted when we are able to do them for ourselves. When bodily functions occur without the usual warnings, I have steeled my gag reflexes and moved slowly yet purposely to remedy the situation, being mindful of the intimidation we are both feeling. Now, I’m a little intimidated that I have shared too much intimacy here in my story…

14 comments on “Intimacy vs. Intimidation

  1. Doppleganger says:

    U Da Best. Don’t be intimidated, once again, you have written Truth. We all know that what you say is not only true but a reality, usually not shared as openly as you have here, but, her lies your talent…… An honest description of Life. Simple as that. Anyone that has a problem with that, or accepting that this is a great part of life as we all get older, and live longer, needs to get their head out of the sand. they will at one point or another…. it’s providing that “unbidden sigh of joy” we need to focus on… not so much on me, me, me…. You Rock!


    1. Aww, thanks. This world could use a little less “me, me,


  2. Touring NH says:

    I once thought intimate was reserved for the person you are closest too, be that lover, spouse or friend, but I have learned through the years it can refer to many other situations. You can be intimate with complete strangers. Sometimes that is the easiest because you have no fear when opening up to someone you will never see again. I have also learned it doesn’t always have to be worked for, sometimes it just happens.


    1. True, the broader meanings are sometimes the most surprising encounters!


  3. cheryl622014 says:

    I wanted to write something to let you know how moving I found this…but it seems superflous so instead just Amen


    1. Thank you Cheryl. I am humbled that it touched you so…and that you took the time to comment.


  4. I couldn’t do it but I’m very thankful that there are people like you out there who can and do.


    1. Thank you, I am so often inspired by your dedication to the research and patience it takes to write and photograph your posts, Allen. I could never do that!


  5. julieallyn says:

    Oh, please don’t feel that way, Martha. This was LOVELY. 🙂

    Your post, beautifully written!, made me smile and provided ample opportunity to recall my dad’s last days under in-home hospice care. I remember how he, even though in what we understood to be some kind of coma-like state, moved to cover his shriveled legs from my husband’s view when we changed his bedding. The moment amazed me. So much that we don’t know or understand about the dying process. At least for me that is true. But I suspect no one knows for sure. For how can they?

    Loved this!


  6. julieallyn says:

    Reblogged this on A Sawyer's Daughter and commented:
    Re-blogging this wonderful piece from a dear blogging friend of mine. I haven’t “known” her for long but I very much enjoy her writing and her photography. What I know of her from her blog, she is one very amazing and interesting person. Good job Martha!


  7. missterrilee says:

    This was awesome, and you’re very inspiring, because I want my entire career to be in service of others.


    1. Thank you missterrilee! Just remember to take care of your self first so you have something to give…


  8. mariekeates says:

    It takes a very special person to do what you do Martha. Thank you for sharing.


    1. Thanks Marie, it takes special people to allow me to do this.


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