This I Believe

Michael - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Entered on August 30, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: love, parenthood
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I Believe in Intimacy

When I was a boy, intimacy with any man, including my father, was met with overwhelming feelings of dissonance and fear. I believe that I was programmed from a young age to avoid and resist intimate experiences with other males. It wasn’t until I was anticipating the birth of my second child, and first son, Diego, that I realized how strong and pervasive this fear was. At the time I had an indescribably rich and fulfilling relationship with my 2-year-old daughter, Camille. But I was afraid of my unborn son. I was afraid that he might need or expect an intimate relationship with me. I was afraid that his arrival would require that I somehow overcome these underlying fears. And ultimately, I was afraid that I would fail in my relationship with him, as I had in all of my previous relationships with men.

So when I found out we were pregnant again I convinced myself and all of my family and friends that I wanted another girl. This was easy, because Camille, and the father-daughter relationship we had, was so special to me, and obvious to them. But privately, I was deeply ashamed and confused by my true feelings. My fear, shame, and confusion intensified, until that poignant day when Diego arrived. When I held Diego in my arms for the first time, my worries and fears seemed to wash away forever. I loved this little boy immediately and intensely; and somewhat inconceivably at the time, with the same amount of joy and passion that I experienced with my daughter. Now, after 2 wonderful years spent with my adorable and loving son, I look back and wondered, “How could I have suffered so long with such an ill-conceived notion, that intimacy between males was abnormal, or elusive, or wrong?” I learned that day that love between men, between brothers, between friends, and especially between father and son, is not just possible, but normal.

My fear of intimacy was learned, and in those moments when I first held my newborn son in my arms, it was rapidly, and gloriously, unlearned. I was a victim of male culture, which tolerates and all-too-often explicitly promotes fear of intimacy. I believe that the fear fostered by these cultural norms can promote other negative states like anger, hatred, and greed, which ultimately motivates men to do unspeakable, if not heinous, things. I also believe that because intimacy is learned, men have the capacity to experience a level of intimacy in their relationships with others that is deep and fulfilling, not unlike what I experience with my son. This kind of intimacy fosters positive emotions, like joy, love, and compassion, which have the ability to transform fear-filled and violent cultures into cultures of love, peace, and goodwill. I believe in intimacy. And I believe that by fostering intimacy, we can transform the fear-filled, violent lives of men.