I got home from work one day this week, and there it was: a little cluster of fingernail clippings. They weren't mine, that was for sure, because I pretty much just let my clippings fall to the floor. I suppose neat little piles are more civilized, if you clean them up. If you leave them sitting there on the living room coffee table for the dog to eat or your fiancee to find, well then my way is clearly much better.
I had a little epiphany right then, about being engaged. These fingernail clippings are going to follow me around for the rest of my life. In fact, I'm going to participate in a ceremony where I will stand in front of everyone I'm willing to pay to feed and promise to deal with fingernail clippings until either me or the grower of those clippings dies. Vowing to stick with a person is romantic, but even with "in sickness and in health" right there in the script, I'd never really thought about sticking with their body or them sticking with mine.
Bodies are gross. I think this is a fundamental fact of life. I met a woman once who was telling me how her bellybutton piercing had popped out as if it had been rejected by the host, a tiny ball of ornamental scar tissue falling to the bathroom floor, and her friends thought it was a nasty story that you should never ever tell in polite company. I shrugged, because I am not polite company, and said, "Having a body is gross." Her eyes lit up like she'd suddenly discovered me to be a kindred. She went on to talk about how she felt like her body was just a vessel for her brain, and I guess she expected me to be excited at her insight, but all I could think was that our brains are the body, too. Hit your head good and hard and you might be a different person than you were.
Having a body is gross, but luckily everyone else has one, too, so it's all even. Some bodies are nicer than others, others are better-maintained, but unless a body meets a terrible accident (gross), it will only get older and grosser.
Intimacy is a concept that expands before me. At first it meant telling secrets, then it included "telling secrets" (wink-wink), and it turns out now that it means fingernail clippings, too. Later, it could mean creating life between us or cleaning bedsores or donating kidneys or changing adult diapers or all of the above, plus more that I don't know enough to imagine. And it's not just me selflessly doing these things for him out of love, it's me letting him do these things for me and seeing that I'm gross, too. I'm not sure which is harder.
I guess it's all the same - sharing the experience of being human. Being gross together, because it sure beats being gross by yourself.