Welcome to the New Paradigm of Radical Intimacy.
I was at a masquerade party a few months ago when my eyes connected with those of a stranger from beneath our masks. I had come to the party alone with no goal in mind, and so far everyone I had met had been kind, sweet and somewhat superficial. “What do you do for work?” “Who do you know here at the party?” That sort of thing.
Then, during a simple introduction, my eyes locked with those of a man whom I had never met and something palpable passed between us. We gently made pointless conversation until the people around us moved on to another circle or to the drink table, and then we spoke in earnest.
For a moment it was like we were secret agents who had finally heard the right password. Needing to be 100 percent sure though, our voices dropped and became surprisingly intimate as we began to ask more subtle and probing questions.
“Who are you?”
“What’s happening here?”
“Are you always like this?”
“Are you this beautiful under that mask? I want to see.”
As I glanced out from under mine he let out a long out-breath. Damn, we really were going to have to do this.
He quickly gave me the Reader’s Digest version of his relationship to the woman with whom he had come—unapologetically letting me know that if something happened between us that would be okay though he hadn’t come to the party looking. It was like getting the coordinates to the check-point, stated matter-of-factly so that the real and dangerous work could begin.
At another time in my life, I would have thought that we were falling in love, but that’s not what this was—at least not the “will we sleep together, or maybe even become partners?” kind of love. It’s just that, as one of my friends likes to say, we had business together.
What this business was, neither of us knew. What I did know was that it was wet.
By wet, I mean that we weren’t here to exchange information, to network, or even to hit on one another. Like falling into a pond, you get wet all at once and there is simply no way to pretend it didn’t happen. It’s the same with looking into someone’s eyes that suddenly deepen and soften, sparkling with recognition and anticipation—without any suitable back story of why that should be so. Wet eyes. Always wet.
He and I recognized each other immediately, and it had taken less than a few seconds of eye contact to establish a shared world between us. I used to think that this was how soul-mates find each other, but actually that’s not necessarily so. A wet meeting is more like a kind of infection that spreads from one open system to another, as we actually “catch” a new kind of love. Viruses thrive in warm, wet environments.
The first time such a meeting happened to me was about five years ago. That wet meeting was infinitely more dramatic, but it may also have seemed so because I wasn’t used to it. At the time such a sudden and total moment of intimacy threw the underpinnings of my whole life into turmoil. I was married and had, kids—hell so did he. Besides that, I didn’t even know what was happening. Neither of us wanted it, and yet like a tractor beam neither of us could deny it.
Everything in me rose to meet him. Who cared what life I would have to leave behind? I had found the very thing which I now realized my whole so-called life had been a defense against having to live without. I began to talk the way people do when they find God—becoming blissful fools without a care as to how the old version of themselves would look at the new one. How can you care about the judgments of the blind when your eyes now see?
Since that life-changing opening, I have had about a half a dozen wet meetings—and here he was again. A different man, but the same channel of connection. Still secretive and unsure, neither of us knew what this wet relating wanted from us, or where it would go. So I asked.
“Want to talk?”
“No,” he said, “I want to dance.”
I love to dance, but I have rarely had an experience with a partner in which I felt both free in myself and also connected to him. Usually I dance “in parallel” with my partner, enjoying touching and flirting occasionally but keeping my own space to move in. Not with him. My eyes closed as I melted into our mutual movement, and he tracked every nuance of me. We danced close, very close, and yet I sank into a euphoric motion that sprang entirely from within. He could feel it. It was like a combination of making love and meditation.
When the song was not quite over he excused himself saying that he had to use the bathroom. I passed him a few minutes later, talking to friends on the other side of the room. Our tryst was over, our business concluded.
Was this meeting simply so that I could experience another magical physical and spiritual connection? Was it about the impact on him—which could have been anything from shock to awe to confusion to guilt?
Who knows. Wet relating has a life entirely of it’s own, and if there is one thing I have learned it’s that it is always unpredictable.
From what I have observed, though, there are certain marks of wet relating.
First, it is sudden—not something that is sought out.
Second, it is recognized immediately by both parties, and—for the uninitiated—often characterized by one or both of them trying feebly to pretend that it is not happening.
Third, and probably most important, both people suddenly start speaking in truths—simply and straightforwardly the way you might if someone has just been shot or run over by a car. “Is he okay?” “Who knows the most here about medical care?” “Has someone called the ambulance.” All ego-defenses drop away in the face of the raw reality of the situation, simply because anything other than pure truth becomes patently ridiculous.
The final sign of a wet meeting is just this: beauty.
The other person becomes exquisitely beautiful in your eyes. The man I met at the party was not “my type,” and I doubt that I was his. He was perhaps 10 years younger than I am, and I was not especially enamored by his style or circumstance. Wet relating happens out beyond the ordinary breakers of what we think we want. If you were on a raft at sea for six weeks and someone came by on a sailboat, damn if they wouldn’t look beautiful to you. Or perhaps more accurately—if you awoke one morning on that same raft, burned and parched, and glimpsed land.
Once you have “met wet,” it has it’s own purpose and it’s own timing. It doesn’t consult you, and you are usually taken on a bit of a wild ride. A new kind of truth emerges spontaneously out of the intimacy, and for an extended period there are no veils. We are caught, naked and exposed, but also real, relaxed and feeling strangely at home—completely at the mercy of whatever is next.
Ed: Edith Lazenby