Asexual Affection

It is possibly the most hated day by all single people. The day when Hallmark, Russell Stover, and 1-800-Flowers all make their annual budgets: Valentine's Day.

And like most American holidays, the reason for its celebration has become so obscured by cult commercialism that imploring for a return to its ceremonial roots is at best idle folly. To be honest, I'm not sure if anybody knows for sure what those roots are (in other words, Wikipedia was no help). But one thing I do know: as a married man, I also do not look forward to this day. Not because it cheapens romance or imposes rules on how I am to love my wife. I dislike it for the increase in PDA.

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc
For those homeschooled like myself, PDA is a lame acronym for "public displays of affection." And we all know how it ramps up on this day. Most people don't mind seeing a couple's kiss or a warm embrace, but we all feel uncomfortable when affection becomes audible and there are no pets to be found. "Those are things best left in the bedroom," we say. True enough. Such moments were never intended to be hung on billboards, but it seems there's more to it than that. It's as if observing intimacy frightens us. And that makes me wonder if it also exposes a fear of engaging in intimacy as well.

Our culture is an interesting amalgam of post-Enlightenment libertarianism and post-Puritanical asceticism. As much as this country cherishes freedom, it was conceived in a time of reserved spiritual discipline. For centuries, the God of the Bible was championed as an impassible Greek deity of whom emulation would be truly biblical, if not deceptively stoic. And asceticism found its stronghold in the monastic traditions of the Middle Ages. By the time Jonathan Edwards rolled around, the truly pious were most likely all eunuchs.

But this was the cultural bath water into which America was born. Men and women were literally stitched into sacks to protect them from their "urges." And who can forget how 1950's TV portrayed married people as sleeping in separate twin beds.

It's all of this cultural history that makes me nervous to hug a fellow female co-worker. Actually nowadays, I believe that can be construed as sexual harassment. Now isn't it odd that affection is considered harassment? Other cultures aren't like this. Even the Bible often speaks of people kissing each other without implicit romance. Because affection isn't inherently romantic, it's simply a physical act of intimacy.

I bet some of you still read "sex" somewhere in that last statement. Fine. Merriam-Webster says that intimacy is, "marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity." Does that describe a friendship of yours? If so, what keeps you from showing that person affection?

I know, not everyone receives love the same way (I work at Moody, I've met Gary Chapman). But there's an undeniably strange stigma attached to affection that is undoubtedly tied to our culture's fear of intimacy. Someday I hope these things can be pursued in a healthy manner without any connotation of sex. Then we could all rejoice as PDA increases with the level of intimacy we share as friends.