FM Weekly 4.9
26 March 2023
content notice for this issue: racism in health care, Black maternal morbidity and mortality, abortion restrictions, anti-gay and anti-trans legislation, eating disorders, transgender genocide, abortion restrictions
This summer will be the final semester of classes for my PhD coursework before I complete my written and oral exams. The only class I will take for that semester will be an independent study with one of my favorite professors from the gender studies department. I asked them if they would help me create a syllabus focused on “intimacy.” This is so I can start to craft my own thinking around intimate examinations, understand the overlap of that term with people’s intimate lives and the differences, as well as consider a holistic definition of what clinical intimacy might mean. To some of us as clinicians, to some of us as patients, and to those of us teaching students to understand intimacy and intimate exams from a place of learning, this concept matters deeply and could be better embodied by some attentive consideration.
I have a lot of topics I’d like for us to get to during our reading. Things like intimacy in sex work, intimacy coordinators and boundary coaches for actors, intimacy in friendship, and intimate grief. I’d love to know your favorite readings on the topic of intimacy in all its forms - one of mine recently was Melissa Febos’ memoir “Body Work,” which discusses the intimate experiences, both internal and external, of writing about oneself.
One of the weeks I’m most excited to read more about (if my professor is open to it) is on intimacy in the barbershop. I have long been fascinated by the deeply personal connection between men and masc folks and the men and masc barbers. Many describe (like here and here and here) a barber haircut as deeply intimate interaction, even one of the most intimate experiences. What I wonder, and hope to find answers to in this class, is what is intimacy in these encounters and what makes this level intimacy okay? Even sought after? What is understood between the barber and client, about boundaries and touch and conversation, that is similar to the patient and the provider? How is this intimacy healing and safe and unlike self or sexual intimacy?
Years ago, when I was figuring out what was broken in my life and my previous relationship, I realized that a huge missing piece in my own life was intimacy. With myself and with my ex, though at the time the latter was the focus and since then the former has taken hold and grown exponentially. In my quest to understand how I could have been with my own body for almost thirty years (this was over 8 years ago) and how I could have been with someone for almost ten and completely lack a conception of intimacy, I began asking everyone I knew to define intimacy for them. I remember folks sharing words like vulnerability, safety, love, risk, nakedness, and tenderness. I also remember folks not being sure at all how to answer the question, which at the time and still now is validating. It’s a complex concept worthy of a summer, if not a lifetime, of inquiry.
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