Would you share a toothbrush with your other half? Wax your moustache in front of them? Annaliza Davis, for one, won’t do a number two.
What’s the most intimate thing you’ve ever done? I mean, with another person?
I have a clear memory of chatting with my best friend on the school sports field one summer lunchtime. (Sorry but no, this isn’t an experimental lesbian flashback.) We were discussing Lisa and Simon, the golden couple of our school, and how Simon had stayed over at Lisa’s and used her toothbrush. And that she was fine with this.
“Ewww!” we chorused.
What’s touching to me about this memory is that we both, unequivocally, found toothbrush-sharing to be disgusting, oddly more so than various other possibilities of putting another person’s bits or belongings in your mouth.
Having now shared two decades with the same man, I’ll admit that we, too, have shared a toothbrush on occasion (usually when he’s packed in too much of a hurry), but it still feels a little icky to me. So what are the stages of intimacy, and do we all agree on the scale?
You might not want to share a toothbrush with every person who’s seen you naked. And even if they’ve seen you in your birthday suit, it doesn’t mean you’re comfortable enough to fart in front of them. You could draw Venn diagrams on this stuff. My own random and unscientific survey suggests there’s no consensus on whether farting ranks above or below nakedness in terms of intimacy.
(On this, and so many other points, I should be clear that rugby teams are a law unto themselves.)
Showering in front of your partner is deemed fine, although most people admit that as the relationship progresses, what begins as seductive lathering (“Ooh, didn’t realise you were watching…”) gradually evolves into functional hygiene (“No, you cannot join me in here, I’m late for work”).
“For me, the person who’d rinse off your knickers when you had that little accident or will hold your hair out of your face while you’re helplessly vomiting from a migraine is a hero.”
How would you feel if your partner walked in on you shaving your armpits or legs? No biggie. What about while you’re waxing private parts or are slathered in hair-removal cream? One friend says that she has no problem with farting, toothbrush-sharing or even masturbating (probably not all at the same time) but she can’t bear her husband seeing her exercise. Because that feels too private.
If you’ve been with someone long enough you’ll almost certainly have seen them ill, vulnerable, crying or cringing with shame over something or other. These are all intimate, shared moments.
For me, the big one is illness, because when you’re seriously unwell, no amount of makeup or kind lighting or flattering pose is going to save you. For me, the person who’d rinse off your knickers when you had that little accident or will hold your hair out of your face while you’re helplessly vomiting from a migraine is a hero. Even if they had to tie your cardigan around their nose at the time.
Yet here’s an odd thing. I spent most of my childhood making poo jokes that my brother and I thought the height of sophisticated humour, but as an adult, I’ve found the transition difficult. I can’t say, “I need a dump”; I have to say, “I really need the loo” or if I’m feeling daring, “The trains are queuing up outside the station.” The alternatives are too vulgar, even to say, let alone type. (Twelve years living in France, am I really still that British?!)
So I’m sorry, people, but you’ll understand that even after two decades, I can’t be doing a number two in front of anyone else, not even my other half. No. I would do (almost) anything for love, but I won’t do that. No audience for toilet-time, thank you; that’s my ultimate intimate and I’ll do that alone.
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Annaliza Davis is run by her own business that involves magazine features, translation and many, many Post-It notes. Finds joy in: tea, pyjamas, family film night, inappropriate jokes and singing along to London Grammar.