Friday, July 16, 2021

"I Don't Want to Know the Name of Your Cat!"

For some people, intimacy is too intimate.

Free, I don't want to be stuck in the city
With the cars and people downtown
Waiting in a line
Wishing I was far away
Where no one knows my name
Or my address, it's a place I've never been
When it gets too familiar I'll be gone

I met a fellow at a gay campground, and he described meeting up with people for sex.  Yes, I know, act shocked, some people actually like having sex and do it a lot.  Perhaps it is not wise - a good way to contract an STD for example.  But I am not one to sit in judgement.

Quentin Crisp famously wrote a book called "The Naked Civil Servant" - as he posed nude for art colleges and was paid by the government.  I think he also "serviced" the needs of numerous men, anonymously, in London after the war.  One quip of his was that "There is no great dark man!" which is not a racial slur, but a reference to the fact that many women (and men) seek out or fantasize about the "tall, dark, and handsome" mysterious stranger, who populates romance novels and porn films.  His take is that such men simply do not exist - they are a myth or a fantasy, the subject of action-adventure films, but rarely, if ever, found in real life.

I see this a lot in the gay campgrounds or bars, where on "leather night" people are dressed up in thousands upon thousands of dollars of leather gear, replete with scary tattoos and piercings, as well as big Engineer's boots and pointy leather Nazi-hats. They look threatening and intimidating, until they open their mouths and say, "Hey, Girlfriend, howa been! Darling!" and then squeal with delight.  You later find out the tough-looking leather dude in real life is a florist who can't change a light bulb without breaking a nail - not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anyway, I was talking to this fellow, and he mentioned the same effect.  He was forever searching for the "dark man" - the tall, dark, and handsome stranger who would sweep him off his feet, if only for a one-night stand.  The problem is, he said, that while the sex was hot, the effect would often be ruined when the "tall dark stranger" would let slip personal details about his life, such as the name of his cat or that he lived with his Mom.  "I don't want to know the name of your cat!" he said.

The great dark man doesn't have a cat named Mittens.  Or if he does, you'd rather not know about it.

I thought it was an interesting observation, that has application outside of sex clubs or whatnot.  When we travel by RV, we usually stay in one place for a few days to a week - rarely much longer.  However, in many campgrounds, there are "perms" or permanents, who live in the campground full-time or seasonally.  Most campgrounds in Florida have seasonal visitors, staying for months at a time.  If you stay in a campground for a few days, you enjoy it and take it at face value.  Stay for a week or more, and you will get button-holed by a "perm" who will then tell you all the campground gossip and whatnot - about how awful the owners are, or how so-and-so is a nogoodnik.

I don't want to know the name of your cat!

It takes an impersonal situation and makes it too personal, and in the process, something is lost.  Sometimes it is better not to know these "back stories" (which may or may not be true or even relevant) and to enjoy things at face value.  One advantage of RVing, is that, unlike owning a vacation cabin or cottage, you can move on after a few days, before it gets too familiar, as they sing in the song above.

But even when not traveling, we tend to pull away from intimacy.  Let's face it, a little of me goes a long way, and I can wear out my welcome pretty quickly.  Some of our friends like to get together every Friday for drinks, or on Sunday.  Or Monday.  Or pretty much every day of the week.  Lots of fun, but my liver has filed a protest as a result.  That and, well, I don't want to wear out my welcome with these folks.

And also, the name of your cat.   If you hang out with people too regularly, you end up knowing too much about them - and others, as everyone loves to gossip about others' foibles.   So it is better to pull back a bit, we think, than to overdo it and end up burned out.  We've seen this firsthand, too - people come to our little island and throw themselves into volunteer work, or groups and associations or social circles and end up feeling a little used.  Edna at Parcheesi club feels the "newbies" need to be hazed, while Irene feels that she can use this free labor as though they were slaves. The net result is that people get burned out and vow, "never again!"

Some of the social groups on the island are rigidly constructed - like supper clubs. You have to be invited to join, and every month or whatever, they meet at a specific place or a member's house, and have a meal and drinks - just an intimate group of a few dozen or so. That sort of thing was quite popular back in my parents' day, but seems to be falling from favor with the younger set.  I know this as they are so desperate for members now that they actually asked us to join.   And while we're flattered, it seems too structured for people of our generation - to have parties on specific dates and locations, planned years in advance.

But some people like that - and live that way.  Tuesday is leftover night.  Wednesday is pork chops.  Thursday is casserole.  Friday is dinner out at the club.  I guess that is literally comfort food for many folks - the idea of consistency and regularity.   I have nothing against it, it just isn't my own style.

But I digress, yet again.

Perhaps fear of intimacy is a mental problem or the result of a troubled childhood.  Or, maybe, it is just a personal preference, like whether you like pistachio ice cream or not.  Myself, I guess I like intimacy in small doses - to see a friend and have an intimate conversation with them, but not every freaking day.  Others, well, they want an in-your-face on a daily basis - the needy friend who says, "Don't be a stranger!" because you haven't seen or called them in two days.

Perhaps also it is a matter of habits and customs.  A friend of mine grew up in an ethnic enclave near New York City in the 1950's and as they put it, "we were in and out of each others' houses all day long!" The housewives would get together to do ironing on Wednesdays and watch soap operas and gossip.  If you needed a cup of sugar, not only did you knock on your neighbor's door, you went in and took it, if they weren't home.  No one locked their doors back then - no sense of "privacy" and nothing worth stealing.  At dinner time, you might be feeding a neighbor's child, while one of your kids was eating at someone else's house.  In a way, it sounds like paradise, in another way, it sounds like a living hell.  And no doubt, Old Man Bosworth, who lived down the street was seen as a "crank" for not going along with this freewheeling way of living.

We all have different patterns of living.  But I think today, we tend to be more private and reserved and remote from one another - probably as a survival instinct.   Maybe it is just me, but the crazy factor has really cranked up in recent decades.   Maybe back in the 1950s, the most disagreement you could have with a neighbor was whether they were Democrat or Republican, Catholic or Protestant.  But today, we have such far-out political opinions - each of which is predicated on wiping out the opposing party - that you can't discuss anything other than the weather and the condition of the roads.

I don't want to know the name of your cat.  And I don't want to know if you are an anti-vaxxer or a Qanonsense believer or a Antifart, other than if I knew these things, I probably wouldn't want to know you.  A friend of ours, who is very left-wing hippy-dippy, refuses to get vaccinated because they "read something on the Internet about it!" which as we know, trumps a medical degree from Harvard.  Some friends want to intervene and try to convince them otherwise, myself I would consider it a waste of time (people retreat into their beliefs when they feel challenged or threatened). It makes me sad to know this about my friend, but on the other hand, I didn't want to know the name of their cat, either.

But maybe there is a connection there - this absurd "need for privacy" that people invoke today, while spilling their guts on Facebook or Twitter. People feel a need to retreat to their own ideological cubbyholes, and as a result, we are less intimate with one another.  Intimacy no longer gives us pleasure, but induces anxiety.  As a result, people tend to keep things more superficial these days.  When one wrong comment can result in you losing your job and your career - as well as being on the receiving end of a lawsuit - no wonder people don't want to let their hair down anymore.

I don't want to know the name of your cat.