Simon knew something was up the first time he heard Eddie fart in bed. They had just kissed good night and were drifting off to sleep, when the sound bubbled out from the covers. Eddie didn’t excuse himself, or roll over in humiliation. In fact, a second or two later his arm dropped casually onto Simon’s side in a gentle cuddle—as if nothing unusual had occurred.
But it had.
“Like it or not,” Simon said to me over brunch a few weeks later, “that was the moment. That was when I knew it was working.”
“What was working?” I asked. “His digestive system?”
Simon rolled his eyes and waved a fork in the air. “The relationship, you nitwit.”
“You judge your relationship by a fart?”
“Look,” he said, “that’s not something you do with someone you’re not really, really close to. I mean, how intimate does it get?”
“Farting is your definition of intimacy now?”
“Well, it was the first sign. If he was comfortable enough to do that in front of me, then I knew he wouldn’t be afraid to share other things.”
“Like what, vomiting?”
“Always playing devil’s advocate,” he said snippily. “You know what I’m talking about.”
And of course, I did. My ex-boyfriend farted in front of me, but he always joked about it afterward. In fact, one of his favorite games was Dutch Oven: he would let loose in bed and then pull the covers over my head to make sure I inhaled the intoxicating fumes.
But, to hear Simon tell it, Eddie wasn’t like that. He didn’t call attention to his bodily functions: he just did them, as if sharing that sort of stuff were the most natural thing in the world.
But where do you draw the line? I wondered. When does sharing become oversharing? How much intimacy is too much—physically or emotionally? Just how human do you want to be in front of your lover?
Every gay man I know (and probably most of the straight ones, though it’s harder to picture) routinely pees with the door wide open, or even with his partner standing beside him, at the sink. But when another friend’s lover walked in on him sitting on the toilet, it was nearly cause for a double myocardial infarction. As Bob opened the door and caught a glimpse of Keith, he screamed and staggered backwards, finally slammed the door like it was on fire. You’d think he had seen a zombie eating the cat rather than his main squeeze keeping the porcelain seat warm. But to be fair, I suspect that the only reason Keith didn’t freak out as well was that he didn’t want to upset Bob further.
There are taboos in life, certain things you’re supposed to do alone. And of those, number 2 is definitely number 1.
The line is a little harder to draw when it comes to sex.
Even Simon’s a little confused about this one. “He’s seen me masturbate,” he says. “I mean, that’s half of what we do together.”
For some reason, this conversation merits cocktails and darkness—none of brunch’s clear light of day. He toys with the swizzle stick in his vodka tonic and finally looks up at me. “So the other night, we had really hot sex, but I was too drunk to come. I was hoping we’d fool around again in the morning, but he just got right up and took a shower.”
“Why didn’t you ask?”
Simon shrugs. “I don’t like to seem needy. And I was hoping, maybe later, y’know?”
“So what happened?” I ask. Simon’s practically sweating now.
“Well, we went out for a walk, and it was a really hot day. You know what the heat does to me.”
He nods. “Anyway, when we get back from the hike, Eddie sits in the chair to read the paper, and I lie down on the couch to relax. I have my eyes closed and I’m kind of dozing off, but all I can think about is fucking. I mean, I had it bad. You know what the heat does to me.”
“Yes, Simon, I know what the heat does to you.”
“So I put my hand down my pants and …”
“What’s Eddie doing all this time?”
“I’m not sure; I had my eyes closed. But after a while I heard him put the paper down and just sit there. I was afraid to look. I kept hoping he’d just appear by my side and, you know, help me out.”
Simon shakes his head. “He suddenly announces from the other side of the room, really casually, ‘Well, I think it’s time for me to go.’” He starts to laugh. “You should have seen it,” he says. “I was like a teenager getting caught jerking off in the bathroom. I pulled my hand out of my pants so fast I practically castrated myself.”
“Did he say anything?”
“No. And neither did I. I just pulled my pants back up and walked him to the door.”
“That was it?”
“That was it. Neither of us has mentioned it since. It’s like it never happened.”
Maybe, I thought, even intimacy is all about context. Just because you can fart in front of each other doesn’t mean you should be blowing taps through your ass every five minutes. And maybe masturbation is best kept to the bedroom—or at least somewhere where both of you are naked at the same time. Maybe a gentle tap against your pants with a come-hither look is as far as you should go without some sign of encouragement.
“Sure I’m embarrassed,” Simon says. “But it’s not like I’m ashamed of beating off. I guess what I’m ashamed of is that I was so brazenly trying to seduce him. I knew he wasn’t interested, but still I did it. That’s what made me want to curl into a little ball and disappear.”
“And did you?”
“No,” he says. “As soon as he left, I finished the job.”
“Good boy,” I tell him. “But did you make sure the curtains were closed?”