A interesting piece on Modern Love by Emily Demaionewton. Sourced from The New York Times:
My friend Nathan and I were walking to a picnic when we passed a woman named Xenia. I stopped to say hello, and she kissed me on the cheek so intimately that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. She had asked to hook up before, and as the sun set and Nathan and I packed up our hammocks, I texted her accepting the offer.
I was lonely. I was cold. I wanted to kiss someone before I turned 20.
I told Nathan I was going to Xenia’s room, and I could tell from the way he looked at me that he knew why I was going. When he didn’t try to stop me, something in my chest caved in. I wished that, instead, he had offered to kiss me.
Here is the problem: I rarely experience sexual attraction. I wanted to kiss a few boys in high school, but by the time I wanted to kiss them we were close friends, which, for me, seems to be a prerequisite for feeling sexual attraction. Unfortunately, on their end, the close friendship deemed me unkissable.
I’m demisexual, an orientation I didn’t even know existed until I discovered the term on the internet after realizing I seem to spend extraordinarily less time thinking about sex than my peers do. Demisexuality is on the asexual spectrum. It means that I don’t experience sexual attraction until I first develop a deep emotional intimacy with someone.
Sure, many people don’t have sex until they establish an emotional connection. But I don’t experience sexual attraction at all until then. I don’t see someone in the coffee shop and think: I might want to kiss her. I don’t go to parties and wonder what it would feel like to sleep with the guy in the corner.
The first time Nathan and I stayed up late talking was after watching “The Dead Poet’s Society” in my dorm room. When it finished, we lay on the bed and talked until 2 a.m. Even as we got too tired to speak, I didn’t want him to leave.
Nights like these became a habit. But after a few weeks of feeling like this was heading toward more than friendship, I needed to address something. Sitting together by a nearby pond, I said, “You have a girlfriend.”
He looked surprised. “Yeah. Why?”
“Well, I feel like some of the stuff we’ve been doing, like reading to each other in the middle of the night, is more intimate than something friends do.”
“I suppose it does seem that way,” he said. “Maybe we should put up clearer boundaries.”
This wasn’t the answer I had hoped for, but I said, “Yeah, O.K.” Then I added: “But I want to be clear that I might have a hard time with that, so a lot of it will have to be on you. Is that O.K.?”
He smiled. “Of course.”
Two nights later, Nathan lay in my bed and whispered, “Shut the lights.”
When I crawled back under the covers, he wrapped his arms around me and I felt close to someone in a way I never had before. I wanted desperately to stay like this, but along with the glow in my chest, guilt twinged.
“Should we be doing this?” I asked.
“Shh,” Nathan whispered. “Go to sleep.”
That night, as we lay in each other’s arms, I hardly slept — having another human in my bed was distracting — but I didn’t mind one bit.
This moment may have been the turning point, the moment when, had I known asexuality existed, I would have realized I didn’t quite fit into that category. Because in this moment, I finally understood why someone might want to have sex.
With Xenia, I knew just seconds into kissing that it wasn’t for me. It felt strange, wet and cold. I felt no attraction because we had never been emotionally vulnerable with each other. I didn’t tell her I wasn’t enjoying myself; that would have been unkind. She was good at asking what I wanted and didn’t, so it wasn’t unbearable. But those aren’t words you want to use to describe your first kiss.
After our night together in my bed, Nathan told me how guilty he felt. I mostly listened, but I was thinking about our earlier conversations about sex — how I told him I never felt the desire for it. But that night was the first time I fully understood how important it is to him and many other people.
I don’t know how I missed it for so long; I guess I just thought sex was something that crossed people’s minds from time to time. I was afraid about what this meant for me, afraid it was the reason I had never been in a relationship, afraid that my lack of interest in sex meant I would never find love.
While Nathan debated if he should break up with his girlfriend, I asked, “Are you afraid I wouldn’t have sex with you?” I didn’t add: Because I would.
He thought for a moment. “No, I don’t think that makes a difference.”
But I didn’t believe him.
Nathan didn’t break up with his girlfriend right away, though he did eventually. He stayed single for a while, then started dating another girl.
The night I was with Xenia I left her room with more questions than I had started with. Was I asexual after all? Was I just not attracted to women? Why couldn’t I make myself feel anything?
Surely, I was broken in some way. This was before I discovered the term “demisexual,” and having a name for it helps. But it only goes so far in a culture that includes sex at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
More than a year after we met, Nathan and I walked to an art exhibition on the edge of campus. It was spring, and plants were beginning to bloom. On the way, I stopped to take a picture because it looked as if someone had hung dryer lint on the trees.
When I turned around, Nathan asked, “Do you love me as a friend, or something more?”
I’m a terrible liar. I said: “You can’t ask that! That’s not fair — you can’t ask that.” But of course he could, and of course, my response was answer enough.
Nathan asked if there was anything he could do to make this easier for me.
I told him, “It’s more the stuff we can’t do that hurts.”
We were the only people at the exhibition when we arrived. One installation made repetitive thumping noises: three balls bounced in repeating patterns on the floor. The bouncing was the only noise, and as it kept repeating and repeating, I got the surreal feeling that this was the only room left in the world.
I stood for an inapt length of time watching soap bubble from a hole in the wall while Nathan stood yards away looking at a broom propped up by a kitchen knife. The questions that had floated through my mind for months all surfaced: What is wrong with me? Why do I hardly feel attracted to anyone? And how will I ever find anybody if I’m only attracted to one person every four years?
A year after Nathan slept in my bed, I went to a concert by the band Daughter with my friend Greta. More recently, Greta filmed a dance rehearsal for me, and as I changed back into my street clothes, I looked at myself in my bra in the mirror and wondered what would have happened if I had changed in front of her. If she would have looked up from what she was doing, maybe come over and run her hands along my back. But the concert was months before, when Greta and I were just two people who lived on the same hall and had lunch together now and then.
Right before Daughter came back onstage for an encore, I asked Greta if she wanted to leave and beat the rush. She said she didn’t mind, and we pushed our way halfway to the door before I stopped and said: “Wait. There’s one song I wanted to hear that they didn’t play. Let’s wait and see if it’s the one they’re playing.”
Daughter didn’t play that song, but the first lines of the song they did play caught my attention: “What if I’m made of stone? … I should be feeling more, draped over your bones.”
Greta and I stood listening to the song I now know is called “Made of Stone,” facing the stage with its soft purple lights reflecting on our faces. We dissolved into the ambient noise, watching Daughter’s lead singer hide shyly behind her bangs while singing soulfully to strangers. The air around us was dark; we, too, could hide.
Daughter finished their song, said one last thank you. And as we walked with the crowd into the damp night, the last echo of “Made of Stone” reverberated through my mind: “You’ll find love, kid. It exists.”
This is my wonderful CG. It’s crazy to think that I’ve only known my friends here for a little over 3 months.
As a CG, we convene every week as a means to deepen our relationship with God and engage in fellowship. Here, I find myself being fed not just spiritually, but intellectually, physically, and emotionally. It’s almost indescribable to explain the encompassing and enormous nature of the benefits and joy I’ve received from these gatherings. I’ve also noticed that I’ve become more alert and acquired a heightened sensitivity to the going-ons in the world around me… to the conflicts and celebrations arising day by day in the personal lives of those I care about and also of those I was previously indifferent to.
Every week, we challenge each other with our questions regarding issues present in our world and current events, and around scripture; we ask each other about our careers, our job searches, our physical well-being – whether that leg is feeling better and how much exercise it’s taking, whether x project/x presentation last week went well; we rapidly learn intensely personal things about each other (exhibiting an unbelievable level of vulnerability and trust) I’m not sure I’ve ever learned this quickly in my other relationships.
We build one another up, and the effects of this is enduring and lasting throughout the week. Together, we actively seek and discuss ways to address and alleviate the hurt rampant in the broken world around us and to better each other as young citizens and humans bonded by a common belief.
Sometimes I wonder if without this CG, I’d have ever befriended them or have even crossed paths with them. We all come from very different backgrounds and paths in life, and our personalities range across the entire color spectrum; it really would be hard to explain our deep friendships in relation to our compatibilities in the traditional sense of the word here.
Yet, these people have quickly become a home to me unlike any other I’ve found, and I can’t imagine a world not knowing them and not loving them.
I only wish I could explain to you better just how good this feels. How good he is to me.
“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles [Williams] is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald… In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.” – C.S. Lewis in describing his friendship with J.R.R> Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, and author Charles Williams.
(cacophonous in composition yet utterly harmonious)
And lastly, why you and I cannot live without it:
“There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. For whom am I toiling,” he asked, and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment? This too is meaningless– a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – The Bible, Ecclesiastes 5:12
“Lovers seek for privacy. Friends find this solitude about them, this barrier between them and the herd, whether they want it or not…
In a circle of true Friends each man is simply what he is: stands for nothing but himself. No one cares twopence about anyone else’s family, profession, class, income, race, or previous history. Of course you will get to know about most of these in the end. But casually. They will come out bit by bit, to furnish an illustration or an analogy, to serve as pegs for an anecdote; never for their own sake. That is the kingliness of Friendship. We meet like sovereign princes of independent states, abroad, on neutral ground, freed from our contexts. This love (essentially) ignores not only our physical bodies but that whole embodiment which consists of our family, job, past and connections. At home, besides being Peter or Jane, we also bear a general character; husband or wife, brother or sister, chief, colleague, or subordinate. Not among our Friends. It is an affair of disentangled, or stripped, minds. Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.
Hence (if you will not misunderstand me) the exquisite arbitrariness and irresponsibility of this love. I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis
Some weekends ago, I met up for lunch with Jee, a dear friend of mine and talented retail analyst and curator. Having stuffed ourselves with the scrumptious food to be had over at Moma’s Cafe, we decided to partake in a much needed stroll over at MoMA’s permanent collections. Our promenade around MoMA’s floors was backed by the soft, intermittent patterings of female chatter– a soundtrack characteristic of a robust friendship such as ours. The program for the day revolved around the kinds of art we each liked and didn’t like.
I’ve always been fascinated by the individualities of seeing, how two people can regard the same object and come out with very different perceptions. So often do I come across a situation where one person finds something to be profoundly beautiful/good, while another comes to the polar opposite, yet equally certain conclusion for it (take this entire US election debacle, like how is that possible??! but the fact of the matter is, it is).
This conundrum is something I desire to understand on a deeper level: What are the makeups that have constructed the way you and I presently see and react to the realities and the stimuli around us?
What are the recurring laws or patterns if any, that can help me to understand? Maybe a knowledge in perceptual psychology, neuroscience (Read this fascinating article on how political orientations are correlated with brain structure in young adults), and an aptitude for emotional intelligence would help, mais quoi d’autre?
I know that for me at least, art helps to explore this question further. In this practice of seeing, I am able to dig a little deeper into myself – my memories, my feelings, my hopes, my disappointments, & the thoughts and the hearts of the people in my circle. And in doing so, I find I understand life a little bit better.
I wonder what devices you rely on to see.
Happy Election Eve..
Osamu Yokonami is a Japanese artist and photographer based in Tokyo who devotes his lenses to the development of photographs contemplating homogeneity. His group portraitures are regarded for invoking notions about identity, the collective, naturality, and youth.
I first became acquainted with Yokonami’s works at De Soto Gallery’s exhibition at the 2015 PULSE Art Fair in New York. His “Assembly” series was on display that day, and it most piqued my interest out of the swarms of art set out for many an art viewer’s purveyance. I ended up finding myself walking back to that booth section multiple times that Saturday afternoon, and since then, I’ve been following Yokonami’s activities for nearly two years now (that’s what good art does to you peeps).
I find pleasure in the idyllic qualities and the strange calm surrounding the odd symmetries of his photographs- unsettling, a little disconcerting, and also very beautiful.
I don’t really know what exactly I feel when I see his photographs, it doesn’t remove me and it doesn’t forcefully push me to a place where I’m aggressively thinking about an issue, a topic, or a stance.
Yokonami invites us to dwell on the journey for truth rather than the desination, I think. Or that’s what I feel.
The closest description I could put in regards to Yokonami’s effect on me is that his works put me in a deliberate state of an “in between” (As I see it, my mind occupies at this moment of seeing a super charged space with elements ie. high stimulation + calm + little sparkly little things firing everywhere in harmonious and purposeful direction, but I can’t really determine the end of where they’re going (not sure there’s supposed to be one, or if that’s the even the point/goal)). I feel curiosity seeing his works and pondering on them is an experience beatific.
Scroll through his series of 100×2 photos of female children posed with fruits (apples and oranges) on their shoulders– and you’ll feel something too I bet.