This week’s Dear Prudence column cracked me up. The lead item was, well, a little too familiar. My sophomore year in college, I dated M, a little blond rower boy who happened to be two years younger than me. This meant that he was a senior in high school and, as high school people tend to do, he lived at home with his mother, who was a nurse. Whenever I took the bus down to Boston to see him, we’d stay at his house and everyone involved tried to pretend that *nothing* was happening when his bedroom door was closed. Except that M’s mother decided to try and be cool about it, but in very unnerving ways. She left pamphlets about contraception on the breakfast table. She asked me what I was using just to be sure that there were no unexpected children on the way (her words, not mine). Every so often she’d knock on his door to make sure “we were ok.” And one very memorable time, after she’d returned from a whitewater canoeing trip and we’d stayed in M’s room until 2pm, we all ran into each other in the kitchen and she said, “My muscles are really, really sore. Are you guys sore?” And it was just so wrong and inappropriate and weird that my skin literally crawled and I had to leave the room.
Not that dating a high school senior when I was in college was a great choice on my part, or that M’s mother was wrong to try and find a way to deal with what must have been a deeply unnerving experience for her. But this was the woman who once told me that when M had been constipated in the not too distant past, she’d tried to help him out manually, a la Bobby and Whitney. There were no boundaries in that house. Eventually M realized this—years after we broke up, he graduated from college and moved immediately to LA, as far as he could get from Boston. I saw his mother once on the street in 2004. When she found out I used to live in LA, she said, “So people DO come back from the west coast.” I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “Not when they go there to escape their families.”