It was a typical weekend morning, and since my mother didn’t have an upcoming trial, she was probably cooking something new. Cooking was her favorite thing to do when she wasn’t busy with the law firm. When I went to the kitchen for breakfast, there she was, in an apron near the stove.
“Right on time,” she smiled, pleased that everything was on schedule.
The food was prepared and we sat down to eat together. She asked me about college and all the usual things. It seemed like she was in a great mood this morning. Then she switched gears completely. Suddenly she was serious when she reached for something on the end of the table.
She slid a pamphlet across to me. “I’ll be attending Dr. Rossii’s two-day seminar in a few months from now. Have you ever heard of him?”
It looked like another therapy related thing that my mother has been involved with these past few years.
“Yeah, I think so,” I replied, briefly looking through the pamphlet. “He’s been on cable news a bunch of times, right?”
“That’s him. My therapist recommended him to me. They’re close friends. I’m also scheduled to have a few private meetings with Dr. Rossii since he’ll be in town for a week.”
“Yeah, and I’m guessing those private meetings aren’t free either.”
“The price is listed on the back,” she said.
I looked at the back of the pamphlet and I couldn’t believe it. “Jeez, mom, you’re paying all that for a seminar?”
“Well, I’ll be paying more since I’ll have private meetings with him. It’s worth every penny.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“You can’t have a stellar reputation like Dr. Rossii has unless there’s substance and legitimacy behind it. My therapist recommended him for good reason.”
“Yeah, and if this seminar is a scam, you could always sue him,” I joked.
“That wasn’t very funny.”
“I couldn’t resist. But seriously, this much therapy?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” she replied.
“How do you know?”
“You just wouldn’t,” she replied with a little more authority.
“I think I’m old enough. I mean, if you need someone to talk to, besides a therapist or a famous doctor, then I’ll gladly listen. Seriously, I don’t mind.”
My mother gave me a kind-hearted smile. “You’re so sweet. You really are. It’s touching to hear you say that.”
“What else do you expect?” I smiled back, like it was no big deal. “I guess I’m a nice guy.”
“Of course you are,” she replied, half sarcastically.
Months later. It was late at night on a Saturday. I was sitting in the living room watching tv, when I heard my mother park in the driveway. She had just returned from a private meeting with Dr. Rossii. When she opened the door, there was a tense look on her face. As always, she was professionally dressed.
“So how did it go?” I asked, unsure of what to expect since she looked so serious.
She put her shoes away. “I won’t be seeing him anymore in the future. Don’t ask about him anymore.”
Of all the possible things she could have said, I wasn’t expecting to hear that.
“Long story,” she replied. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
She looked like she was about to head upstairs to her bedroom, but instead she just stood there and lingered around the living room. It was like she was debating with herself whether to tell me or not. Finally, she did.
“He asked if I wanted to go back to his room,” she reluctantly stated. “When I asked why, he insisted that it was for a deeper discussion. When I declined, he told me to close my eyes, then he tried kissing me and squeezing my breasts.”
I was taken aback by my mother’s explicit story. “What did you do after?”
“What do you think? I pushed him away and left. I made sure to call him a ‘creep’ and a ‘sleaze’ and an ‘asshole’ before I got the hell out of there.”
“That’s messed up. Too bad you didn’t kick him in the balls.”
She hesitantly nodded. “I should have. He breached the trust. As a doctor, he should know where the boundaries are, just like I do with my clients.”
“I shouldn’t be saying this, but you’re – you know – pretty attractive. He probably couldn’t help himself.”
“Are you justifying his actions?” she asked, shooting me a death glare.
Immediately, I had to back off.
“What? No way.”
“It’s really unfortunate,” she said sadly. “He’s a great guy. And I can’t see my regular therapist either.”
“How come? Was here there too?”
“No, but they’re close friends. It would be extremely awkward meeting with my therapist again after everything that’s happened with Dr. Rossii.”
“What’s so important about seeing a therapist anyway?” I asked.
“Talking is therapeutic. It’s nice having someone who’s paid to listen to my ramblings. Gosh, I wish Dr. Rossii wasn’t such a creep. He was the best listener I’ve ever met, and he’s extremely smart too.”
“Is that all you need? Someone who listens to you?”
“It’s what most women need.”
“I can be your listener,” I offered. “For a small fee, of course.”
“For the right price. I can listen and give you comments. It’ll be like a part-time job for me. You’ll save a ton of money too.”
I was mostly joking, but kind of serious. That’s the kind of joke we’d often make with each other, that either of us could be the cheap version of whatever is available in the marketplace.
She sharpened her eyes. “I appreciate the gesture. I really do. But it might not be very appropriate given the subject matter.”
That caught my attention. The fact that she had anything inappropriate to say seemed surprising.
“What kind of subject matter?” I asked, instead of telling her that I was just kidding like I normally was with these sorts of ‘job offers’ of mine.
“Adult related topics,” she said seriously, seemingly oblivious of the joke.
“Are you interested? Or not?”
Now I was backed into a corner. “Sure, if you need the help.”
“Well, I’d like to accept your offer,” she smiled.
I tried my best to keep my jaw from dropping. Sure, I wanted my mother to be happy. Sure, I wanted to help her in any way that I could. But I never thought she would actually take the offer. By the look on her face, she was ready to do a lot of talking- and with me of all people.
“Oh, what makes you want to hire me?” I replied, trying to sound as diplomatic as possible.
“You’re a great listener, which is what I need most. You’re also mature for your age, which is important because the topics I’d like to discuss are mostly sexual.”
When I heard the word ‘sexual’ coming from my mother’s mouth, my attitude immediately changed. Suddenly I found myself becoming eager, and interested, in ways that I hadn’t expected.
“That sounds like something I can handle.”
“I’m glad you think so,” she replied. “I also think this would be a great opportunity to develop your communications skills for when you become a lawyer one day. This type of one-on-one interaction is extremely useful when dealing with clients.”
“That makes sense,” I nodded, completely agreeing with her. “Plus I’ll get to make some cash too, since you’ll have to pay me.”
“Great. Then it’s settled. Our first session is tomorrow.”
Her mood became light and she headed up the stairs to her bedroom, after securing me as her new therapist. She was completely serious about the whole thing.
My late night ‘job training’ consisted of doing an internet search of how a therapist would approach things.
The next morning she seemed eager for us to begin. She was playful about it and even referred to me as her new therapist. But at the same time, I could tell that she was taking this seriously. My mother is someone who loves talking and needs to get things off her chest to feel relieved.
When I got to the living room, I saw that my mother had rearranged the furniture so that it would look like an actual therapist’s office. She turned the couches so that we’d be facing each other.
“This is a therapy zone,” she explained. “Whatever is spoken here, stays here. You’re being paid to do a job, and I expect you to take things seriously. In exchange, I promise to treat you like my actual therapist.”
“You can count on me. I’m well prepared.”
We both sat down. Then we began. It took a moment to get used to and we both kind of giggled at each other. Then it turned serious and it was time to work.
“What do you want to talk about?” I asked, trying to sound professional.
“I’d like you to ask me anything,” she said, laying down on the couch.
I thought as fast as I could for a question that would be reasonable, yet professional. I wanted to take this seriously because my mother put so much faith in me, and because she gave me a hundred dollars.
“What’s your biggest fear in life?” I finally asked.
She thought for a moment. “At this moment, not finding a husband. I’m not getting any younger. My clock is ticking. Men don’t keep track of these things, but women do. Our appearances are important.”
“Then what’s stopping you? You rarely go on dates, even though there are plenty of guys who would be interested in someone like you.”
She paused for a few seconds. “It’s complicated.”
At that moment, I realized that this was the issue that my mother was seeking therapy for. She was clearly apprehensive about telling me her secret. But deep down, she wanted to talk about it, otherwise she wouldn’t have asked me to be her ‘therapist.’ It was an important issue she was still struggling with.
“We’ve got plenty of time,” I replied.
We went through the motions of softball questions that weren’t going anywhere. It served as a good warm-up for what was to come.
She paused again, thinking to herself. “I’ve always had a problem with nudity. It makes me uncomfortable, no matter who I’m with. Obviously that makes it difficult for me to be intimate with another man.”
I was completely taken aback. How was I supposed to respond to that? But I became far more curious, even though it was incredibly inappropriate for me to even ask about it.
“Was there anything that caused you to be this way?” I finally asked. “Or did you always have this phobia.”
“It was something I was conditioned with. My parents are the most religious people I’ve ever met. To them, nudity was impure. It led to impure thoughts. It leads to immoral behavior. So I was expected to always dress conservatively. I would always be shamed by them whenever my skin was showing.”
For the very first time, I was getting a glimpse into my mother’s hidden sexual side. It was intriguing, even though I shouldn’t have heard that. Under normal circumstances, she never, ever would have told me this.
I did my best to give a legitimate answer. “That sounds common with a lot of people with religious backgrounds. Some of them stay that way, some of them rebel against it later in life.”
“I know,” she replied. “When I was younger, I used to be so afraid of nudity and exposing my own body. When I became older, I had strong fantasies of wanting to be naked. Maybe I wanted to rebel against my upbringing in some way. When I was 18, something happened that changed me.”
“Tell me what happened,” I said, curiously.
There was a long pause and an awkward feeling in the room. Both of us looked at each other without saying anything. Mom looked morally conflicted about this whole thing.
Both of us got comfortable in our seats. There was an awkward feeling in the room as we both looked directly at each other with nothing to say.
“I’d rather not go there,” she decided. “That might be a little too personal for us. I hope you understand.”
I was denied the rest of that conversation. Sadly, I wanted to know the rest, but I understood mom’s perspective.
“So what’s been on your mind lately?” I asked instead.
“Mostly work,” she replied. “I spent the past week trying to reach a settlement with the opposing counsel. That sort of thing can be a real nightmare. Nobody wants to compromise during legal disputes. But luckily, we have more leverage on our side, so I think this case should be wrapped up within a few days.”
I wasn’t very interested in my mother’s legal work. I simply nodded, to look as though I was fascinated. What I wanted was to steer the conversation back towards sex, but I didn’t want to be obvious about it.
“That’s very interesting,” I replied. “It sounds like being a lawyer is a great career choice for you. It suits you well.”
She smiled, “You don’t really care about that, do you? I can see the look of boredom on your face all of a sudden.”
“I don’t know what you mean. It’s interesting.”
“Therapists are supposed to be good at pretending to be interested,” she said playfully. “It’s so obvious you’re bored now. You want the other topic.”
I shrugged. “To be fair, I don’t have a degree in psychology, and I’m not a real therapist.”
“Fair enough,” she replied. “Would you rather continue the other topic?”
It was my chance. And now, she kind of seemed eager to want to share with me, to have someone to open up to. But I had to act cool about it and not seem creepy about wanting to know her secrets.
“Sure. It seemed important to you.”
I tried my best to act uninterested, but my mother could tell that I was curious about it. She gave me a lighthearted smile, as if she knew what I really wanted.
She thought for a moment. “The way that my parents raised me had a lasting effect, even until now. Every time I undress in front of anyone else, whether it be a doctor or someone I’m dating, I feel like I’m doing something dirty. That’s why I never wear revealing outfits, even on hot days.”
“You mentioned something about an event that happened when you were 18. Do you want to talk about it?”
“Oh, that. You’re really delving deep here.”
“Well, it seemed important to you. Plus you’re paying me, so I might as well act like a real therapist.”
“I’d rather not discuss it,” she replied, after thinking for a moment. “It’s a little too personal for me to share with you. I hope you can understand that.”
“If you’re going to keep secrets from me, then it defeats the whole purpose of even doing a therapy session. We’re supposed to be open and honest here. If not, then this isn’t going to work. I can return half of your money.”
She nodded. “I’m impressed by your tenacity. I think you’re going to be a great lawyer someday.”
“Thanks mom,” I proudly replied.
“This stays between us. I don’t ever want you to repeat this to anyone, or else I’ll never trust you again. This will always be our secret. Do you understand?”
The playfulness in her demeanor was gone. She had become serious. The more serious she became, the more interested I was in hearing what she had to say.
“Of course, mom. I won’t tell a soul. Promise.”
She paused for a long moment, then she took a deep breath. “My older brother and I used to rebel against our parents’ harsh stance against nudity.”
“Yes, your uncle.”
My uncle is mom’s only sibling. He’s a great guy. I rarely see him anymore since he moved overseas years ago to pursue a job.
“What did you and Uncle Jeff do?” I asked.
She took another deep breath. “Jeff became very open minded after he moved to college. When he came home for summer break, we used to talk about all of the things he did with other college students. Things that would make our parents absolutely freak out. He talked about swimming naked with other people at the beach. Things like that.”
“That must have been exciting for you to hear.”
“It was like hearing about a new world. I was captivated by everything he told me. But that was nothing compared to when he finally admitted to having pre-marital sex. I couldn’t believe it.”
Hearing my mother openly discuss “sex” and nudity was guiding this conversation in ways I never could have imagined. I was hooked to my mother’s story.
“Why was it so surprising?” I asked.
“Because we weren’t allowed to have sex before marriage. We were also told that masturbating was a sin. It was strictly forbidden by our parents. Nudity and sex felt like the two biggest sins in our household. Jeff violated both of them when he went to college.”
“No wonder you were so excited by it.”
She nodded. “It was exciting beyond belief. I constantly asked him questions. I wanted to know everything. I wanted every detail, no matter how dirty they were. I wanted to know how it all felt. Including the sex he had.”
My heart rate started to rise.
“How did he react to your curiosity?”
My mother smiled, “He loved to answer my questions. Jeff taught me a lot when I was young. I relied on him to teach me about life.”
“I’m sure he loved that role.”
“He’s my big brother. Of course he did.”
“Did it ever go beyond talking?” I asked, without thinking.
As soon as I asked that, I regretted it. But the look on my mother’s face showed that I had struck a chord with her. There was a bigger secret deep down.
“We did things together,” she admitted, in a coy tone.
She took another deep breath. “We used to get naked together. When our parents were at work, we got naked around the house. It was my first exposure to sexual freedom. It felt so liberating. I loved walking around naked with him. I loved letting him see my bare body.”
My breath became heavier. I was intrigued. I was interested. I was becoming sexually aroused by my mother’s story.
“Did it ever go beyond nudity?” I asked, almost without thinking.
She thought for a moment. “This stays between us. I don’t want you to repeat this to your Uncle. We swore to each other that we would never tell anyone. This would also ruin me if people in the neighborhood found out.”
“I swear. I won’t tell anyone. I would never do that to you.”
She took one last deep breath. “I was 18. I was preparing to move to college. I knew I was going to lose my virginity there eventually, but I wanted my first sexual experience to be special, with someone I loved. So I begged my brother to take my virginity. I begged him to have sex with me.”
“Did he?” I gasped.
“I had to convince him for weeks, and he eventually agreed. The first time we had sex was when our parents were at work. Without going into graphic detail, I still remember every touch and feeling. It was sweet and tender.”
Hearing my mother’s secret revelation was shocking to me. It was the last thing I ever expected to hear. At that point, I didn’t see her as just being my mother. I saw her as a sexual human.
“I’m glad it was a good experience for you,” I said, unsure of what else to say.
She smiled, “It was more than just a good experience. It was a life changing experience.”
I nodded. “Why do you still have issues with nudity then? It sounds like you became a sexually liberated woman after those experiences with him.”
“That’s how it should have ended. My life would be so much easier if that were the case.”
“What happened that was so bad?”
“Our father came home early from work and saw us naked together,” she replied directly. “I’ll never forget it. My brother and I were sitting on the couch watching tv, like most siblings do, except we were fully naked. There wasn’t a single piece of clothing on our bodies.”
“It was. I’ve never seen my father that angry before, ever. It was really bad. But thank god he didn’t catch us having sex. Things would have been so much worse. We would have been disowned.”
“Did you ever do anything with your brother again?”
She shook her head. “No. We never got naked around each other again. And we never had sex again. I was too afraid. Whenever I get naked in front of other people, I always think of how my father would react.”