Sitting in the airport today, and a man next to me (who looks like an Orthodox Jew but is actually just a hipster) is getting the shit pet out of his beard.
What is it about someone petting my beard that would turn me on so much? The idea of growing out a goatee and laying on a woman’s lap while she reads a book and runs her fingers through my face hair, I mean, that would be enough. Maybe it’s tangled with an adolescent fetish that could never really be actualized until I’m older, and because it was so unfulfilled for so long, I couple it with stroking my manhood. There is a vulgarity about it, like voyeuristic if she was stroking it in public. On the other hand, it really wouldn’t make a difference if I got a beard-stroke in the back of a movie theater, in a cab, or at my parents’ house; it’s not adventurous in that way. It might be because it’s so casual, like incidentally sexy. You could compare it to putting your hand on your partner’s knee while at dinner. The position has to be right, natural, convenient yet something a little extra. That’s kind of how my grandmother views her life now, since she’s past the average age of death. She calls her remaining years “icing on the cake,” and I think that’s more or less what a stroke-off is. A beard stroke-off. But remove sex for a moment, maybe I’m totally wrong and it’s not even about that. If it were more benign, it could be its nature of subtle intimacy. My mom used to just touch my head whenever she could, smell my head when I was a baby. I just like being pet.
I don’t think I ever had much of a problem with being intimate. Like here at the airport, people won’t sit down in a waiting area chair too soon after someone else has sat in that chair. I could be speculating, but I think it’s because people don’t like sitting on seats that other people have just been sitting on. Not because the act of sitting where someone else is sitting is inherently intimate; it’s because the seat is still warm. People are grossed out by that, which is fine. And for whatever reason, I really like it. I like that someone else’s butt is warming my butt. It’s fine if some people don’t. But I just feel as though 9/10 people who don’t like someone’s butt to warm their butt would love a heated toilet seat, and that’s your butt-warmth from the burning of fossil fuel.
Add a little bit of fear, however, and people totally forget about their petty aversion to intimacy. People bond together. The fear of flying is amplified by loneliness; I don’t think anyone wants to be in a row alone if there’s an incredible amount of turbulence. They want to hit an air pocket, accidentally grab the hand of the attractive _____ next to them, and then screw the reason they were going to Paris in the first place and spend the whole time with that person falling in love and starting a bilingual family. Intimacy is as flippant as our denial of it. People deny even their largest fears. The entire Millennial generation has curbed their fear of flying by accepting a statistic that may or may not be true: that flying is in fact the safest way to travel. But really, think about it; how is that supposed to make us less afraid of being high enough to not only fall to your death, but to ponder your death. The statistic, whether it’s accurate or generated by the airline industry, avoids the root of the fear. I’m not scared of dying when I fly, I’m scared of the time between when I find out we are falling from the sky and the time at which I die. If there was a study that showed 99% of Millennials lose consciousness during this descent, I’d feel much better about flying. And since no one I know has fact-checked the statistic on the general safety of flying in comparison to any of mode of transportation, I don’t understand why a person of authority can’t just tell us all that the second statistic, which I made up, is actually true. It wouldn’t matter; it would just remove the fear. Why? Because our denial of reality is our escape from fear, and our escape from fear is our escape from suffering, in a way.
So when my grandmother finds out she has cancer, I don’t blame her that she don’t want to get much treatment. She looked at me and cried before I got to the airport because she was thinking about the legacy she’s leaving. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing because she kind of cried a lot. But she doesn’t want to deal with that period between finding out she has cancer and dying for all that long, the descent. And she certainly doesn’t want to deny the inevitable because that’s some sort of escapism that I guess she got over at a certain age. She shouldn’t have to ponder her legacy; no other animal does. Reproducing is enough for any other animal. The human brain has evolved too far. And besides, the human experience is too universal for people to be wrapped up in legacy.