I read my guilty pleasure junior year of high school; a time when for many young men guilty pleasure means something else. I heard about a book of essays by Ian Frazier that was supposedly very funny. So I asked my Mom for a ride to the mall.
Back then there was no Amazon. Well, there was, but it was in South America. Fortunately, asking Mom if she’d like to go to the mall was sort of like asking Chuck Schumer if he’d mind going on television. Three minutes later, we were in the car. Mom asked the name of the book I was getting.
Here’s the thing: Frazier’s collection is titled Dating Your Mom.
I assure you it’s not a how-to book. The title essay jokingly proposes that since your mom gives you an unconditional love that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere, she’d make a good partner. I particularly liked Frazier assuaging any guilt you may have about cuckolding your Dad. “Let him go put the moves on his own mother,” Frazier writes, “and stop messing with yours.”
Instead of simply explaining that “dating our mom” was meant humorously, however, I panicked and blurted out, “I can’t remember the title.”
In the bookstore, I distracted Mom with a 30 percent off sale at Laura Ashley, grabbed the book and rushed to the counter like it was a bank heist — “C’mon! Put it in the bag! Faster! Faster!”
I really enjoyed the collection. Pieces such as “The Bloomsbury Group Live at the Apollo,” mix silly and smart in the same manner as Woody Allen. Another essay imagines Samuel Beckett as an airline pilot giving despairing in-flight announcements to increasingly frightened passengers. It’s a great book … aside from the title that marks you as a sexual deviant.
My Mom poked her head into my room one day and caught me reading it. She saw the title. “Oh,” she said, “I see why you didn’t want to tell me the name of the book.”
And that’s pretty much how things stood for the next 17 or 18 years: Me, resigned to the fact that my Mom thought I was an incestuous freak.
(As I veteran of the PC age, I almost added a Seinfeldian “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” qualifier to “incestuous freak,” so as not to offend the incest freaks out there. Then I remembered, “Oh, wait, in some cases ‘freak’ is appropriate.”)
My Mom passed away 10 years ago. Towards the end of her life, I decided I had to correct the record. You know, tell my frail mother that I didn’t want to have sex with her. Over lunch I explained everything about the book. When I finished, she laughed and said, “Wow, I don’t remember that at all.”
She didn’t think of it again, because she gave me the benefit of the doubt. Unconditional love.
Five years ago, I married a wonderful, caring woman. Whenever there is a silly misunderstanding and I’m scrambling to defend myself, she stops me and says, “Hey, I’m on your side.” Then she gives me the same look of unconditional love that I’ve gotten from one other person. I realize, in a sense, “dating your mom” isn’t creepy; it’s actually pretty good advice.
Did I mention she’s my cousin?
Tom Ruprecht’s latest book is the Amazon Kindle ebook, This Would Drive Him Crazy: A Phony Oral History of J.D. Salinger.