It’s not your imagination. You had an intimate encounter with a friend, and somehow, it seems that your genitals zapped them through to the Twilight Zone. Suddenly, they are calling you “bro” and “pal”. Or perhaps planning your wedding? Or even serving you up some cold, fresh apathy?
What gives when you give someone head one time and they let it swallow every meaningful thing that previously happened within your friendship?
I thought I had intimacy issues. And I do. I can’t stand to be touched unless I’m very comfortable or familiar with someone. Even then, it’s no guarantee – not by a long shot. Most of the time, proximity is a poison to me, but I have a lot of experience with my own idiosyncrasies and my own inexperience. I try to respect my own boundaries, but at the same time, assure others that the problem is mine and I’m working on it. My own mental health issues and my social unbecomings are points of sharp awareness and clear visibility, perhaps to the entire universe. No matter how embarrassing, I like to explain myself and over-explain myself, just to make sure no one is seeing my issues as a reflection of themselves.
I think lots of people with higher self-esteem and a more experienced touch than me have intimacy issues too, but rather than clumsily acknowledge them, it is far more unspoken. The blame ends up falling upon whoever stumbles into its haphazard path. It’s difficult not to take other people personally in respect to what they make you feel, but it’s important to live through that emotion and observe its patterns. Eventually, the results will come back negative: it really isn’t you, it’s them.
Sure, sometimes it seems initially awkward to interact with someone after a sexual encounter. But it becomes quickly apparent when temporary awkwardness morphs into a completely different beast. Genitals may look like aliens, but friendships shouldn’t feel that way.
I have known some amazing creatures and some utterly bullshit humans. Mostly, though, they have fallen somewhere in between. The complexity of imperfection is that it is difficult to distinguish who is a good person treating you badly, and who is a bad person who treats you well when it suits them. Even my life’s villains have not always been figureheads of cruelty. Generally, they are apathetic, selfish or just emotionally reckless. People don’t tend to realize they’re doing something unkind, either through denial or ignorance. If they did, I like to think that they wouldn’t do it. Nonetheless, the accountability is still there, but so is forgiveness for those who deserve it.
Dysfunction sometimes comes to a head during intimacy – pun intended. Other than their flesh, people are a bit like computers. And while sometimes you might need an expert’s help to tinker and debug you, it’s pretty handy to have some basic savvy with your own circuits and to understand malfunction in those of others. You can’t learn anything about why someone operates in the way they do without cracking open some motherboards to see what makes them tick, even if it doesn’t always go as expected.
Perhaps I cannot expect everyone to be super in-tune with their thoughts and actions at all times, but I can sure call attention to it and see if they respond with a willingness to communicate openly. Sometimes, the plain truth can shock others into sincerity. “Is there a reason for the fact that ever since we fucked, you’ve been refusing to stand without a six-foot buffer zone between us, as if you’re standing at an appropriate distance in an ATM queue?” may sound like a horrifying mouthful, but it’s scarier on the receiving end and its directness commands a similar directness in return. When it incites defensiveness or cock-and-bull excuses, there is an answer in that behavior as well. Bare butts are a lot less frightening than looking someone in the naked eye and owning your words.
Sex shouldn’t have an impact on how humanized or dehumanized someone makes you feel. Hang up on their hang-ups.
If they try to make it weird, make it weirder.