Have you ever really loved someone, but not known how to tell them? Have you wanted to touch someone – not to seduce them – but to feel close without words getting in the way? Has the complication come because this person was “just” a friend, or even a complete stranger, and there are no social norms for expressing this kind of emotion to someone who isn’t either family or lover?
I recently stumbled across an essay that perfectly describes this previously unnamed feeling in my chest. It’s so perfect that I want to re-post it here in its entirety before I speak to it.
Can We Be Lovers & Not Have Sex?
I want a life of a million lovers.
I want to love you.
I want to love you if you are male or female, young or old, single or married…
When I see you we will embrace and hold a hug long enough to glimpse some insight from each other’s heartbeat.
When we walk down the street we shall link arms, pause frequently, and turn our toes and noses towards the other to speak directly without modesty.
I would like us to share the couch together, rather than creating a “do not cross” line where we may as well be sitting on brick blocks seated four feet away. Give me your knee, your foot, your thigh—let your body dangle on top of my body so I can know you the way litters of kittens know each other.
I want to show up to you and look into your eyes instead at your eyes. I want to feel your hand and be consumed by it until the rest of the world ceases to exist. I want to be in your presence and be in want of nothing.
I would like you to leave our time together feeling loved and free and full of your most vibrant and luscious hue of you-ness.
Please do not get confused: I do not want to have sex with you—whether you are male or female.
I have no sexual agenda, as you know, because we laugh at the freedom we feel to speak to strangers for reasons other than because we have to or because we’re hitting on them.
For me, sharing sex with someone requires a certain alignment, and I do not take that lightly. My sex requires that I can possibly foresee living with a person and combining all my stuff with all of their stuff (and I mean physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual stuff—the stuff that just feels heavy if it’s not the right fit, but feels buoyant beyond imagination when it is). It is delicate, it is careful, it is not presumptuous or impulsive.
And I do not think that our connection is somehow weakened because we do not share our bodies with each other.
For love is love is love is love, and that is what I want.
I only want us to fall in love.
Now I realize that at some point, either you or I may change our minds and crave sexual expression with each other.
For I am human—as are you—and we have wants that change and grow.
But if that desire should spring upon one of us, I hope that we will talk about it, the way we talk about the universe, cultural tropes, the nature of depression, what makes a good cup of coffee, and how your day was yesterday.
I hope that that topic of conversation is no more avoided than talking about the latest episode of Doctor Who or how to effectively clean one’s mouth from Oreo breath.
I would like you to share yourself with me—every stitch of you—so that I may be warmed and nourished by your tapestry. And I would not like you to worry that some of your threading is inappropriate or uncomfortable to share with me, because I am only here to accept you exactly as you are and to take interest in the way you step through life.
So lay on me your doubts, your troubles, your faux pas, your suffering, your sadness. Lay on me your hopes, your dreams, your excitements, your curiosities, your guilty pleasures.
I want to see you how you see yourself.
And while you tell me all of this and more, I would like to rest my eyes upon your eyes, and take my hand upon your back, and laugh up to the ceiling as you divulge, because it is in these moments of pure exposure that I bask in the ever-so-specific you, and I become the ever-so-specific me, and even though you’ve never stepped into the tides of the Pacific and I’ve never ridden a skateboard, I am more sure than I’ve ever been that we are the same.
I don’t care if I see you everyday or if I see you only just the one time when I happened to be in that coffee shop and you happened to be making my drink (which was delicious, by the way, and thank you for not rolling your eyes when I asked if your only non-dairy milk was soy)—I want to be your lover.
And I will have the lover whom I share a bed with, and it will be none the less—on the contrary, that love will be all the more—because I take on another million lovers.
So if you’re ready, let me see you and let me love you.
My insides, my arm, my couch, my laugh, my eyes, my toes are all for you.
I hope that is enough.
I too, want a life of a million lovers. On my best days, I see scenes out in the world that make me want to run up and tell people how devastatingly beautiful they are: “Oh, thank you for loving your dog so much. I can see how must she trusts you, and it gives me hope.” “I just wanted you to know that watching you throw pottery today sent shivers down my spine, and I’ll think of you when I think of grace.” But I don’t say these things, or at best I edit them to be calmer; less effusive, because I am an emotional wimp and I am afraid of creeping people out.
Then there are the special cases: the people in my life who appear again and again, and every time they do I’m overcome with love for them. The boy who I’ve adored for years, slept beside, taught students with, trusted quite literally with my life… and yet I’ve never told him that I love him. The bond and admiration I feel for him goes so deep that it’s beyond friendship. It’s not romantic at all, and yet the only ways I can think to adequately express it seem to contain a terrifying risk of confusing him about my intentions, or angering his lovely girlfriend. “I love you so much. Just looking at you makes me instantly happier. I’m glad you exist, and that night we sang together in the moonlight is one of the memories I’d save if I could only choose ten to hold onto.” I’m sure there is a way to tell him this without making everything weird, but I feel too awkward to try. Meanwhile, feeling it is enough, and I imagine that, deep down, he feels it too.
Of course I have friends who I hug and nuzzle all the time. But most of them are women my age, or they’re children, and they’re safe to hug. I’d give so much to live in a world where I could lay my head on anyone’s shoulder, hold anyone’s hands, stare into anyone’s eyes in silence. Maybe I’ll build up the courage to start sharing more compliments. But my dream of sitting relaxed on a couch, throwing my arm around my favorite college professor’s shoulders, thanking her for all she taught me and absorbing her through osmosis? I’m just not sure that world can be a reality, no matter how brave I become. She’s hugely important to me, and cherished – but there’s this professional distance.
If you asked me why I yearn for these possibilities, I’d say it’s because I’m just not into secrets and barriers where there could be shared joy and open communion. I’ve always been an intensely physical person: back rubs and hair petting are more alluring to me than chocolate or a warm bath. I know not everyone feels this way.
So what about you? Would this level of touch, of boundary-less communion, be welcome in your world? Or would it just be bizarre?