Ice cream for intimacy?
by Edward Pershwitz
What is the nature of friendship, love, romance? When we enter relationships, what are they based on? Do the friendship with your college roommate you carried through the years and the friendship with your boss feel the same? What about intimacy with the love of your life and a casual fling, does that have the same meaning, the same power over you?
We enter relationships for different reasons and very few of them are truly genuine. They masquerade themselves for what they are not but deep inside we know which ones have this “what can you do for me” overtone and which ones are deep and unconditional. We’ve become such masters of pretense that we don’t even stop to think about it, and when we do we discover things about ourselves that surprise us, not always pleasantly.
We live in a society where instant gratification has become the norm, where pills treat the symptoms instead of the disease, where everything has to be easy to be popular, where friendships are about having a good time, and where sex is expected at the first spark of romantic chemistry. Long term investment into education, health, or relationships is a foreign concept to most of us.
Then we meet our first horse we call ours. And here, just like with the fellow humans, we enter this relationship for different reasons. One universal theme however, is that we want the horse to do something for us. It could be as simple as greeting us at the gate, or as involved as doing courbettes and caprioles, but we want him to do something he wouldn’t do on his own, and so we begin to train.
Equipped with all kinds of internet knowledge and a lifetime of experience with humans we bring a bag of carrots, a rope, and a whip. We give him carrots when he does well and use the whip when he rebels or just to help him understand the task at hand, and in most cases we can get him to do what we want. Not greeting us at the gate perhaps but things like piaffe, bow, or lying down. He quickly figures out that he can get a carrot out of the human by doing the trick, which is a much better choice than being tied or whipped. The human’s happy: look at what I taught my horse to do! Easy and nearly instantly gratifying.
Whether you realize it or not, the horse just entered a “friendship with your boss” relationship with you. It may appear genuine but it’s mostly based on the discomfort of not being in it – more danger of being punished and less hope for a spot award. He will do tricks for you as long as he gets treats in return and it would look like he really likes you. He may even meet you at the gate if he wants a carrot particularly badly that day.
You know who would also act like she really likes you? A red light district diva. She would also make you feel special and perform all kinds of tricks for a moderate reward. The ease of the relationship and the instant gratification may have a positive side to it but you must be delusional to call it genuine. You could be perfectly fine with purchased love, just don’t kid yourself, alright?
Is a hooker capable of a true love and a true intimacy? It would be hard to imagine this not to be true. No one is born a hooker. Selling your affections is a learned skill, a result of shattered dreams and physical or psychological coercion. A skill of being used. A bag of carrots, a rope and a whip turn love into a commodity. You cannot be trained to offer yourself; all you can be trained to do is shut off and offer your body.
Is true affection possible between the human and the horse? We must ask ourselves how true relationships form between humans. What makes us want to do things for others? How long it takes to earn their trust and build ours? There is nothing instantly gratifying about building a relationship – it’s full of ups and downs, moments of elation and anguish, discovery and uncertainty. You get to know the other person by trial and error, by watching their reactions in different situations, by learning what they like and fear, by getting “on the same wavelength.” This is what makes it real, authentic, genuine.
Being a social animal, the horse is naturally equipped for building relationships by pretty much the same mechanism we do. They spend time together, watch each others reactions, learn each others habits, signal a wide range of emotions to each other, and rely on each other for physical and emotional well-being. They will bond with us in the same fashion if we allow them to, if we lose the training mindset and start listening, and speaking, and taking interest in their lives, and sharing ours.
Most horses are shut off to us as a result of years of physical or psychological coercion. They offer their bodies and go through the motions but they are not really there. To bond with us is as hard for them as it is for the hooker to experience true love for one of her clients. But if it does happen everything changes. Offering yourself is no longer a learned skill to avoid beating or get paid but an art of making another happy. And the reward becomes simply doing so.
And then he will seek you just as much as you seek him. He will offer to do things for you just because it pleases you, like we do for the people we love. Yes, the exact same side passes, and piaffes, and pirouettes. Not as a learned trick for a tasty treat but as a gift to make you happy and to feel important and appreciated. And giving him a carrot for a bow will become as unnatural as offering your beloved ice cream for intimacy.
Karissa Danielle Hunter