Sex so awesome it scares me

He took me to sexual heights I didn't know existed, but after six years he still won't commit.


Garrison Keillor
April 27, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a 44-year-old woman, divorced, and I have had only a few
men in my life. But I met a man right after my divorce, fell madly in
love and he took me to sexual heights I never knew existed! The sex is so
awesome it scares me at times. I never thought I could experience this
kind of passion and lust with a man. The affair has gone on for almost six
years now. He will not commit to a serious relationship; he says he is
afraid to do so. I know in my heart he will never truly be mine or love
me the way I want to be loved. He has several marriages behind him, and
a lot of women. I know this affair is hopeless and going "nowhere." But
I just can't let go. I have tried many times, to no avail. I am hooked on
the sex and can't get him out of my mind. Is this normal? Is something
wrong with me?

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Hopelessly hooked

Dear Hopelessly,

I don't judge your story, and I can't say if something is
wrong with you. It's odd for a relationship that is purely sexual to last so
long, and I assume there's more between you and him than simply lust.
You seem happy and anxious at the same time, living in a situation that
pleases you but also isn't what you imagine for yourself. An odd bargain,
like having a million dollars and living in a place where you can't spend
it. If you feel the affair is a dead end, then close it out gradually: ration
your encounters with him, keep reducing the ration. I recommend that you
pay more attention to other aspects of your life -- work, family, your
spiritual life, your friendships (which you may have neglected in your
intense involvement with this man) -- and build them back up, and see if
that doesn't give you a clearer perspective on things. And a better
independence, so you can make this break if you need to.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I've had a very happy relationship with a man for several years, and
we've pledged to share our lives together. But he suffers from a
paralyzing lack of initiative. Recently,
I started taking dance classes with a male friend. It's like I suddenly
reconnected to the fundamental source of passion again. This
passion is so strong it scares me, I feel so attracted to my male friend. Am
I falling out of love with my boyfriend? Neither
man suspects how I'm feeling, and my male friend is in a relationship
already. I don't know how much longer I can go on without letting on, but
I don't want to destroy these relationships that mean so much to me.

Another fine mess

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Dear Another,

The pledge was premature, apparently. Or else the
Macarena has a power previously not known. I think you're young and
healthy and enjoying yourself and not ready to settle down. You don't
need to make any big announcements about this, but let your relationship
slacken and don't look too hard at the future. Chances are, you're marking
time, waiting for someone else entirely, maybe a better dancer than either
of these guys.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a young woman living in New York City and am having a difficult
time with a new roommate, a hypersensitive, moody, negative and
extremely needy individual who takes offense if I don't say hello, if I am
reticent after a long day, if I don't do this or that. I have become
uncomfortable in my own home, fearing that I may set off her irrational
sensibility. I don't know what to do. I cannot afford to move out. I need
a different perspective on this situation.

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Discontented roommate

Dear Discontented,

A good roommate is civil and pleasant, not a friend
but someone you like well enough and who has that gift, important in
close quarters, of making herself unobtrusive, of not imposing her
problems on you. This individual clearly falls short. You can try to train
her -- give her the rules, smile, say, "Here's how it works" -- but that's a
long shot. It's a pain to move out, but better to be done with this than
suffer month after month. Be careful in picking a new one. Rule No. 1
is, Never live with one who doesn't have a good sense of humor. (This
rule applies to other situations, too.)

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Dear Mr. Blue,

Life is wonderful since I left the groves of academe and ventured into the
corporate world. I love my job, I love not having to grade papers, I love
my Christmas bonus and being close to my family. I have it all, almost.
As a divorced woman and a single parent, at 43 I feel my youth and
attractiveness slipping away. Most men my age seem to be seeking
younger women, and frankly, men in their 50s look like my
uncles. And the men I have met on the Internet are
all damaged in some way. While my life is in other respects full and
wonderful, I despair of ever again having a boyfriend. What shaIl I do?

Single soccer mom

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Dear Single,

This is going to take some more time, and what you shall do is look after
yourself, enjoy your good life and try not to think too hard about what
you're missing. And do something about your feeling of youth slipping
away. You're too young to feel that way, or so thinks Uncle Blue, so get
on the exercise bike, hang out with younger women, get your hair done,
do what you need to do to rejuvenate. You're obviously a wonderful
woman, and someone will come along who thinks so too, but it's going to
come as a big surprise to you and probably won't be the result of smart
strategy on your part, just love walking in and driving the shadows away.

Dear Mr. Blue,

After ending a marriage of 14 years, I find myself in a
relationship with a man who is very nice and loves me a lot, but whose
little habits start to annoy me. He likes to turn on the TV in the morning;
I like
waking up to coffee and quiet conversation. We share some wonderful
interests, but the guy leaves empty milk cartons on the counter,
dirty dishes in the sink. When I talk to him about these things he improves
for a while, but I really hate to nag. Should I end the relationship in
search of a guy who's more
conscientious, or try to ignore the little stuff?

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Gritting my teeth

Dear Gritting,

If an empty milk carton on the counter has you gritting
your teeth, I don't say you should ignore it. Or the TV in the morning.
On the other hand, it's going to be awkward to select a new lover on the
basis of tidiness: I mean, good housekeeping is not where a romance
begins. So many of the tidiest men are gay. So before you dismiss this
nice man, you might consider how to go about replacing him. Maybe you
could locate a few candidates first, by hanging around home-appliance departments
and watching for guys shopping for vacuums. But do keep in mind that
there is no relationship between two people that does not include irritation.
You might get a very tidy man who has the irritating habit of complaining
about your housekeeping.

Dear Mr. Blue,

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I recently sold my first book to a major publishing house. The book is
about a rather controversial subject, and the house bought it only at the
insistence of the acquisitions editor. The Big Cheese above my editor hates
the book idea and put
the kibosh on the big advance the editor was poised to dish out, and in
general has been a sourpuss about the whole project. He's
the guy who will determine how much will be spent promoting
the book when it's written. Now that I'm set to sit down and write it, all I
can think about
is the Cheese, and instead of writing, I imagine
him tossing my manuscript into the circular file. I also keep
the rejection letters from the other houses by my desk, and read the
editors'
comments ("over-clever," "self-conscious wit," "something about the tone
bothers me," "I'm not sold on this difficult subject") to try to figure out
what I'm doing that's so repulsive. How do you write
unself-consciously and well when you're thinking about your
detractors? Also, is it prudent to try to ferret out what about my book idea
has turned off the Queso Grande?

Glum chum

Dear Glum,

Take a couple days off and do something nice for yourself --
ride your bike, sail, go to movies, lie in bed reading mysteries, whatever
you love to do. And purge yourself of this mild obsession with defeat.
Every writer has plenty of detractors. You'll have even more of them after
you publish this book. Ignore them and do your work. Burn the rejection
letters. I mean it. And then get to work. You will write this book, day by
day, a few hundred words at a time, following a plan, making
notes -- you know the mechanics -- and by this steady application, and
by the regular strokes of inspiration that come to a focused person, you'll
write the best book you can. What happens to it then is a question you
can't consider now. Bring the child into the world, and then worry about
its future.

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Dear Mr. Blue,

My husband of 40 years has begun to slip into some very bad social
habits.
Out at a nice restaurant he blows his nose into the napkin. Among other
gross habits. Where do I go
from here?

Embarrassed

Dear Embarrassed,

You share a little of your embarrassment with him.
You lean over and you say, "Don't do that. It's gross." You say this in a
mild tone of voice, as if imparting information. It ought to shame him
slightly and make him stop. If it doesn't, then you'll have to consider
grimmer possibilities, such as taking him to restaurants where everybody
blows into their napkins.

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Dear Mr. Blue,

This is a sad story. I just split up from the woman I have loved for eight
years. It was my decision, on account of unhappiness, incompatible sexual
needs. I feel terrible guilt because she is 35 and wants a family and now
she feels she is too old. We had our first serious problems three years ago,
and she thinks if I had ended things then it would have been better for her,
but now her life is ruined. She is a very attractive and intelligent woman
but very bitter toward me.

Our problem was that she was abused as a child and she seems to need
rough forced sex with a man who can control her against her will (her
words). The few things we've tried (bondage, fetish
pornography) don't do anything for me. In therapy, I came to realize that I
have a great and passionate love for her and that she needs
some serious help before she and I will be sexually compatible. I don't
wish to lose contact with her in case she and I can one day be together
again, but she is so angry and bitter she is making my life hell at the
moment. Do I deserve this? Should I put up with the insults and anger and
hope that one day she realizes why I ended things?

Midnight blue in Copenhagen

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Dear Midnight,

A dreadful situation. You can't fight her bitterness, and continued contact
with her only exacerbates it. You did a reasonable thing; don't brood
over it and keep checking it from different angles. Stick with the
decision, and put some distance between yourself and the insults and
anger. And ride your bike up the coast to Bellevue and Taarbeck and
through Dyrehaven and enjoy the great good luck of being in Denmark in
the summer.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm working on a story I am really happy with, and I was feeling very good
about it until the horrible shooting in Littleton, Colo. The climax of
my story involves a child trying to solve her
problems by using a gun. I don't intend to romanticize
violence, but I fear it may be read as such. Should I put this out of my
mind and go ahead and write what I feel? Or is there a time
to sacrifice our art so that it won't inspire readers to inflict pain on
others?

Remembering the victims

Dear Remembering,

Take it as a challenge, to write the story so it won't
be misinterpreted. If, when you're done, it doesn't seem right, then you
needn't publish it, but don't abandon ship now, unless the tragedy in
Littleton simply has confused the story in your own mind.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I often think of my first love, whom I met after I had spent several years
overseas in the military. We
met, fell in love, planned to marry, and when I returned overseas she met
another. This
was over 20 years ago. I met a wonderful woman and we have been
married for nearly 20 years. We have great children and a very good
life. Still, I think of the first woman I loved. I don't really yearn for
her;
I think I yearn for the memory of how we were and for my lost youth. Do
we all think about past loves, or is it just me?

Wondering

Dear Wondering,

You and Keats and Emily Dickinson and everyone who
ever lived, with the possible exception of Thoreau. We all receive out of
the ether occasional thoughts of lost loves, thoughts that can't be
dismissed, and so we sit in contemplation of the past, brooding over the
course that events took. Let your memory roam, and enjoy what you find.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a 42-year-old single mother of two children who are three and six
years away from college age, respectively. My ex-husband is irresponsible
and sees the children only about four days a year, if at all. I used to
arrange an occasional weekend to myself by sending the kids to the
grandparents, but my parents are getting too old and my in-laws aren't
available (and the kids find them boring anyway). I am a communications
writer for a big corporation, and I want desperately to write fiction. I wrote
a story that was rejected but with an encouraging note, and I want to
repair it and resubmit it. I know I am a good writer. I read Fitzgerald's
early stories and I know I'm already better than that. My job takes a lot of
time and my kids don't want to lose their mom to her study for all the
hours that she's home, and I don't want to miss my kids these last few
years that they are still at home.

The only time I get a good stretch of writing time is on some Saturday
nights, after about 10 p.m. I want to be able to write for four to six hours
a day.

What the hell should I do? (If you met my kids, you'd tell me to stop
whining.)

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

Make a beachhead. Take Saturday night, starting at
suppertime. Your kids can easily give you that, and anyway they ought to
be out gallivanting with their friends, not hanging around with Mom. Then
take Sunday morning, while they sleep late. And then claim another
evening. This might give you 15 hours a week, and that's enough to
accomplish some good work. Your kids need your presence but not your
constant attention, and if you let them in on what you're up to, they'll be
even more understanding.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I recently found myself in the position of having a young man whom I
like profess his long-standing and deeply felt love for me -- in a bar, after
work. Alcohol was undeniably a factor in this conversation, and I told him
so. He said, "That's your opinion. I am in love with you and have been
for at least a year." The problem is: I am 36, he is 24 and I know
him from work, and though I am attracted to him, I can't honestly say I'm
in love with him. Is it immoral to explore the possibilities of a relationship
with someone who has already made such grand declarations, if you don't
feel quite the same intensity?

Detached

Dear Detached,

Have a few nonalcoholic evenings with the young man, and see how
intense he is then. If he only loves you when he's drunk, he's a poor bet. But
there's nothing wrong with letting yourself be courted by an ardent
admirer. You're old enough to know your own mind, and if, after you've
seen him for a while, you feel bad or confused or think the whole thing is
silly, then let him down gently.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm a nice guy with an OK job, I'm decent to my loving
girlfriend, I volunteer to help kids with math, I ride a bicycle to
work. But I write these vile little mocking stories and poems about my co-workers, friends and neighbors. It's the only time I feel glee, when
I'm writing something sarcastic and mean and share it with
people. Some feelings, naturally, have been hurt, some friends have been
lost. I've tried writing nice things about people, but it sounds like
something you'd read in a church bulletin. I wish I had the imagination
to make up stories about people I don't know, but that's like writing
about marionettes. The real people I know are in my head and they
are hilarious!
What can I do about this sinful glee?

Bicyclist in Virginia

Dear Bicyclist,

It's not the vileness of the stories or your pleasure in
writing them that strikes me as odd but your compulsion to share them
with people who know the butts of the jokes and (if I understand you
correctly) with the butts themselves. This seems perverse and guaranteed
to leave you friendless, but perhaps you feel a need to rearrange your
social life, I don't know. And if you can make new friends who enjoy
being pissed on, then it doesn't matter.

Dear Mr. Blue,

My boyfriend and I have been together for three happy years, and we
plan to get married in the near future, although no official
proposal or announcements have been made. My concern is this: When the
time comes, I want an engagement ring. He and I
are pretty laid back and don't care about luxuries or status, but I want
one. I have dropped a few hints,
but I can't seem to come right out and talk about this
with him. How can I make my wishes known without seeming like
some shallow gold digger?

Pining for diamonds

Dear Pining,

If you really intend to marry the gentleman, then you're
going to need to be able to communicate with him after marriage about
matters far touchier and more complicated than your desire for an
engagement ring. You've got some work to do, ma'am, in the realm of
reality and how to impart it to one you love.

Dear Mr. Blue,

Our life is good together, we have a good home, good friends, good
neighbors, good jobs. The problem is a jealous couple across the
street, once friendly, who now hate us, lie about us. There have been
angry moments, vandalism, staring, taunts. We are looking for a new
house to get away from this. Is it right to give up like this?

Defeated

Dear Defeated,

Yes. Go. Good luck. Don't look back. And get a nicer
house, one with a few features you love, so you won't regret the move.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm a shy man, married with kids, 42, and I don't
make friends easily, but I finally found a good friend at work. She is
bright, witty and interesting and makes me feel the same way. Our
lunches, phone calls and e-mail are often the high points of my day. Our
spouses and kids even like each other and we sometimes do family
activities together.

The problem is that my feelings for her have grown to be more than
friendly. I'm good at keeping them bottled up. I don't know whether the
feelings are mutual and don't really want to find
out. I'll admit to some worries about what carrying such a strong torch
could do to my marriage, or to myself. But I don't want to
throw away a friendship unnecessarily. Must I stop seeing my friend?

Fire in the hole

Dear Fire,

Don't give up a friendship simply out of fear of strong
feelings. Feelings come and go; the imagination is powerful; everyone has
a big secret life, replete with strong urges and fantasies. But a friendship
is precious and can be enduring. And we both know that mature married
people don't simply fall into bed together in a crescendo of naked
passion -- it takes a lot of scheming and lying to get there. Try to
balance this friendship by paying attention to your wife and spending time
alone with her, and you may find that through the power of imagination
you can channel these romantic feelings toward her.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm a 36-year-old man who still lives with his parents. I recently fell
for a woman who rebuffed my advances. She said we are not sexually
compatible because of my nonaggressive behavior. I think she sees me as
a momma's boy. I've seen this before with two other girls, the moment I
told them I lived with my folks.

My parents are near the end of their tenure on Earth, and
they need help on a daily basis. But I need to take control of my life and
move out and find my way as a grown-up male. Am I being selfish? I
want to do what's right for my parents, but I'm still
living the life I've led since I was a teenager -- same bedroom, same
strange behavior by my parents. Sometimes I just want to scream, I'm so
frustrated. And I'm still pining for that woman.

Momma's Boy

Dear Momma's Boy,

Your parents can get help in other ways and you can
work all that out later. Right now, look for a suitable apartment, one
that's far enough away from them that you'll feel detached and
independent. Get enough furniture to start housekeeping and start spending
nights there. Do this immediately, without deliberation, and when you get
good and settled, then start thinking about your parents again. But the
important thing is to make the move. You can only help your parents as a
mature male, and you need to leave home to be fully adult. And when you
do leave, you needn't tell anyone you lived at home so long: You shed the
distinction the moment you move out.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm 29 and have been divorced for about two and a half
years. We were married four years and it was an amicable divorce, based
on personal differences. We remained friends and I never stopped loving
her. Last night she tearfully confessed that she had an affair several
months before the divorce. She apologized, and before she left last
night, she said she loved me.

I feel betrayed. Not so much for the adultery during our marriage, but
that she would remain friends with me after this betrayal. And that some
mutual friends probably knew and did not speak up.

She wants to "clear the slate" and begin our relationship anew, but I'm
torn. If I had known this during the divorce, I would have walked away
without looking back. But now I don't know. Any advice?

Bewildered

Dear Bewildered,

My advice is to let go of this and stay friends with her.
She remained friends with you because she loves you, not to shame or
embarrass you, and if you can put the past behind, it'll be so much easier
for you. Reviving the relationship is a separate question. But do forgive
her adultery.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a 25-year-old woman who has never had a real relationship, partly
because I am very much attracted to women. About six months ago, I
went on a "business" trip to fulfill my fantasies of being with a woman. It
was wonderful. Now she and I call each other every day. She says that
her feelings for me are love, and I am in love with her. Now here's
the problem: No one knows that I'm gay. I hold a political position with
my state, and I fear losing the support of my community and the respect
of my family. None of them will understand. I don't expect the "love of
my life" to wait while I make my decision; that will take forever. What
do you think I should do?

Confused

Dear Confused,

Six months is not long, and you may want to give this some more time, let
things go along pleasantly, get to know each other. But if you know
you're in love with her, then what is your choice? To reject your love is
too sad for someone your age. You're young, it's time to be brave. It's
none of the state's business, or your community's, or even your family's,
that you love this woman, and it's entirely your choice whether to tell
them. But if she is really the love of your life, how can you afford to tell
her that you don't dare? Life without love is too dreary. Take her to your
heart, and deal with the rest of it later, as problems arise, and give your
family the chance to understand.

Dear Mr Blue,

I am 31, I live in Manhattan with a career I love, I'm a good-looking guy who
goes on many dates -- and almost all of the women I go out with want
to pursue things further, yet I usually lose interest very quickly -- and I
am still single. I love meeting women but I really want to settle down with a woman I am truly in love with. I don't know what to do. I have never been in love and feel there must be something wrong with me. Any advice?

Lonely in Manhattan

Dear Lonely,

If you love meeting women, then why discard them so
quickly? Are you keeping a lifetime tally? If you're looking for love, it
tends to blossom slowly, sometimes with delicious languor. Settle down,
sir, and take an interest in the conversation, and don't keep jumping up
and running to your next appointment. Enjoy the pleasure of the company
for its own sake, not as a step toward a goal.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a 19-year-old college student. Last August I met someone, and we
made a serious commitment to each other. He is 31, the most wonderful
person I have ever met. The other day we talked about getting married,
and possibly soon. We love each other, have a wonderful
friendship, have fun in bed together and agree on mostly everything.
I am wondering if getting married is the right thing to do.

Ms. Nervous

Dear Ms. Nervous,

This seems a little rushed to me, and you're right to
be nervous about it. Nineteen is young to get married; I don't care how
wonderful he is. You're still figuring out who you are and what you want
from life and what you believe in and how to manage as an independent
person. Surely you can afford to put a two-year moratorium on marriage.
Don't even consider it until you're 21. There's no reason to, in
your case.


Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor is the author of the Lake Wobegon novel "Liberty" (Viking) and the creator and host of the nationally syndicated radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," broadcast on more than 500 public radio stations nationwide. For more columns by Keillor, visit his column archive.

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