“There’s nothing wrong with putting yourself on the ‘naughty list’ as you practice some fun new fantasies.”
Dr. John Climacus loved the holidays because they brought out the worst in people, and it was the worst in people that brought them to his widely serialized sex advice column. Nothing made him happier than opening his e-mail to discover an e-mail like the one he received two days before Christmas:
I have lately had so much sadness in my life. My husband wants to have sex more as men sometimes do. Yet I find him repulsive and I hate him. After fifteen years together (we have three kids now) he is just too much. Always says the same things and is just a obese jerk. Why did my life turn out this way? Are there any things I can do for maybe changing it? Is there a way to still love him with all of my heart and give him what it is that he needs? I am quite religious as we both are so please keep this in mind. Thank you so much Dr and all the best to you and yours for this Xmas.
Climacus enjoyed condescending to the unfortunate souls who had entrusted him with their deepest secrets and darkest thoughts. His own domestic life was a shambles, and the lives of others served as a useful and perhaps even necessary outlet for his rage.
The travails of someone like Rhonda C., who struck him as both god-fearing and utterly moronic, warranted his arrant contempt. Her own hang-ups about sex and unrealistic expectations for her future had undoubtedly combined to turn her fat slob of a husband’s existence into the shittiest of hells.
What were such people thinking?, Climacus wondered How could any woman passionately love her significant other after nearly two decades of cohabitation with him? Yet here it was: She wouldn’t even “give it up” for this poor man, who had obviously shared so much of his time and so many of his feelings with her.
Climacus knew what he wanted to say to her. It would go something like this:
I am sorry that your life hasn’t turned out the way you expected. While I am not sure how you expected it to turn out, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you get everything that you want, whenever you want it. You should make a checklist of everything that bothers you—no matter how trivial or inane—and give it to this bloated oaf. That way, when you’re henpecking him into oblivion in the manner of one of these stereotypical sitcom shrews, he’ll know exactly what he’s doing wrong and precisely how he should go about pleasing you. After all, your pleasure is the only thing that matters. You’re totally unlike the billions of humans who came before you: Raising three healthy children into adulthood while managing a household just won’t cut it. No, it’s clear to me from your eloquent and heartfelt letter that you deserve nothing but the best.
John Climacus, MD
But he couldn’t write that, because the last thing anyone wanted to read in an advice column was the truth. By contrast, the first thing anyone wanted to read in such a column was a facile, internally contradictory, and vaguely titillating exhortation to “spice things up.” Here’s what wound up getting published:
Sounds like things have hit a dull patch between you and your mister. In long-term relationships like yours, it is not uncommon for that special ‘spark’ from one’s early days to have gone out. Although it might not seem like good advice to our old pal Santa Claus, there is nothing wrong with putting yourself on the ‘naughty list’ as you practice some fun new fantasies. Talk to your husband about his secret interests and I’m sure he’ll be every bit as eager to ‘get it on’ as you are. Mistletoe might cut the mustard for teenagers and newlyweds, but Dr. John’s prescription is for a pair of stockings stuffed with bondage gear, latex, his-and-hers butt plugs, flavored underwear, and whatever else it’s going to take to get his bells jingling. Here’s an easy first suggestion: Try trimming your tannenbaum!
It was terrible and stupid, but that’s how people are. They can’t live together in an uneasy approximation of mature contentment. After all, that isn’t the kind of fast-paced lifestyle they’ve watched their favorite television celebrities act out. The cloying love songs on the radio aren’t concerned with such humdrum realities. A peaceful existence remains the rarest of goods, perhaps because nobody—not even Climacus—has ever actually wanted one.