I'm a man in my early 30s and I have never been in a serious relationship. I started seeing a therapist to "get to the bottom" of my relationship problems, and her opinion is that they may stem from an incident that happened years ago. I was raised by a single mom. When I was about 15 years old, she went through a very bad breakup, and while I was comforting her, we wound up having intercourse. I was a virgin. This only happened once, and we've never spoken of it.
My therapist feels that the first step in overcoming my relationship problems is to confront my mother, but I'd really rather not do this, since my mother and I have a good relationship now and I don't want to destroy it. My therapist is pressuring me to speak with her, and it's very hard to get a second opinion on a matter like this. I don't think the incident with my mother caused my current problems, and further, I don't see how talking to her about it will do any good. Any words of wisdom for me?
The Good Son
Oh man, I fucking hate Tom Cruise. After his spaztastic therapist-bashing meltdown last year, it's impossible to say anything negative about shrinks without people accusing you of being a closet Scientologist.
But I'm going to risk it: Fuck your therapist, TGS. She's not your parole officer—you don't have to do what she says, and you're free to go find another therapist if she's pissing you off. If you don't want to screw up your relationship with your mother, and if you really feel that this one hugely fucked-up sexual encounter did not cause your current problems (plenty of men who've never fucked their mothers have relationship problems), then your therapist should stop hectoring you and start listening to you.
Oh sure, your therapist may have your best interests at heart, and it may be what she, with her fancy education, sincerely thinks is best. But she could also be one of those conflict junkies who pass themselves off as therapists. Tell her for me that ripping open old wounds doesn't always lead to scenes of weepy reconciliation and newfound emotional health. Sometimes it just makes a bloody mess of things.
But if you decide, after carefully weighing my advice against your therapist's, to go ahead and talk to your mom, perhaps your therapist might agree to recast this conversation? Instead of confronting your mom, maybe you can have, I don't know, a conversation with her?
Unless she was blind drunk when it happened, your mother remembers. Getting fucked by your 15-year-old son isn't something a woman ever forgets. If your mom is a manipulative, dysfunctional sack of shit, she may deny that it happened. But if she's a reasonable human being (albeit one who once made a terrible, criminal error), she may be relieved to finally have a chance to talk about this with you. It's entirely possible that she longs to apologize, but has never broached the subject for fear of embarrassing you. Tell your mom you don't think it did you any significant damage (which is true—that's what you think), but that you wanted to finally acknowledge that this thing happened, that it was supremely fucked-up, and that she, as the adult and the parent, owes you an apology.
After a fun-filled night, my wife and a group of friends decided to call it a night. We were intoxicated and crashed at a friend's house. I took a couch, my wife took a futon on the other side of the room, and a friend, let's call him "Wilbur," took another couch. A couple of hours after everyone passed out, my wife woke up to the sounds of Wilbur undressing in front of the couch I was sleeping on. He then started masturbating over my feet while working his asshole. Horrified, my wife did not know what to do. He finished in his sock (not on me), and went back to his couch. I was told of the incident the next day. We don't know if this was a drunk thing or a deliberate act, because no one wants to confront him about it. I really hope it wasn't a deliberate thing. Thoughts?
Jerked Off Near
You're afraid of confronting your friend because it would make him uncomfortable. But he did something deeply creepy/relatively harmless that made you uncomfortable. So why not lob the discomfort back into his court? He may blame the booze, or insist that he doesn't remember, or tell you that he sleepwanks, but he needs to know that he was spotted that night.
Listening to pundits discuss George W. Bush on the radio, I was inspired by your brilliant acronym (DTMFA) to yell: "Impeach The Motherfucker Already!" I'd love to see a line of bumper stickers and T-shirts bearing that sensible message: ITMFA. We need a shorthand for the obvious—think of the boost to productivity we'd get if we could cut half-hour conversations about Bush to five simple letters! I appeal to you to bring this acronym into our everyday vocabulary!
Dumped My Motherfucker Already
I've resisted all previous calls to launch new santorum-style campaigns, DMMA, but your suggestion appeals to me. It takes a lot to lift my spirits these days—something about knowing that George W. Bush is going to be in office for three more fucking years makes every day a gloomy one—but contemplating the sight of ITMFA buttons, T-shirts, lapel pins, and bumper stickers definitely lifted my spirits.
But I need to consult my readers. While I get all the credit for launching santorum-the-substance, it was a reader who suggested a contest, and another reader who suggested the winning definition. It was my readers who made Rick Santorum what he is today—an international laughingstock. So I put it to those same readers: Should Savage Love get behind a campaign to popularize ITMFA? Would you wear buttons? T-shirts? Lapel pins? Would you help push the website to number one on Google? Would you put ITMFA bumper stickers on your cars?
Dear Dan Savage: I was flattered to hear that you and your readers had picked up our reference to santorum in The Economist, but I just wanted to disagree with—or hope to disagree with—your reader who ventured that they were unusual in reading both Savage Love and The Economist. I hope very much they are not. Although nonreaders often think of us as a conservative magazine, we've actually always been socially highly liberal, whether on immigration, gay rights, or many other things, including favouring the legalization of drugs. The Economist was among the first mainstream publications, on either side of the Atlantic, to advocate legal recognition of gay partnerships when I ran a cover on the subject in 1996 and then another in 2004.
Our readership is younger than that of other current-affairs or business publications, and I like to think that, like us writers, they are thoughtful, intelligent folk. But you were right: It is not only gay activists who use the term santorum in that way. Maybe being edited in London explains why we got that wrong.
Bill Emmott, Editor
The Economist, London
Thanks for being a big enough editor to admit that you were wrong, Bill. I was about to call for the entire staff of The Economist to be beheaded, but hey, now there's no need. But could you print the definition for your readers who aren't familiar with it?