The psychiatrist looked up as his newest patient entered his office. His examination began with an evaluation of her physical appearance.
The face she showed the world looked entirely normal for a young woman of twenty-three. Her attire was business casual, consisting of a maroon colored silk blouse, tucked into a gray wool skirt that fell to perhaps an inch below her knees. She had good legs to go along with a body that appeared to be in excellent condition. She was slim in a willowy way, but not so thin as to suggest an eating disorder. Her hair was shiny and clean and fell to her shoulders. Whatever issues she had in life hadn’t caused her to let herself go. She looked nervous, but only in the sense that most patients who choose to enter into a dialogue with a member of his profession might be.
“Good morning, Miss Chambers,” he said, his voice mellow. He glanced at a folder lying open on his desk, which was otherwise clear of any object. “How may I help you this morning?”
“I think I have a problem,” she said, tentatively.
“We all have problems,” he said, smoothly. “Please, make yourself comfortable. Would you like coffee? Tea?”
“Do you have any black chai?” she asked, still standing.
“I believe we do,” he said.
He punched a button and asked someone named Helen to bring the tea while the patient surveyed the options in the office for “relaxing” in. There were two straight-backed, upholstered chairs that faced his desk. The couch she had expected to be there was along an inside wall to his right. Two overstuffed arm chairs formed an L with the couch, and had an end table between them. Wall sconces provided a low level of lighting that somehow made the room feel warm, though not oppressively so.
“Should I lie on the couch?” she asked. Her cheeks blossomed pink. “I’ve never done this before.”
“Maybe later,” said the doctor. “You don’t even have to sit. The agenda for right now is simply for you to feel as comfortable as possible.”
“I’m nervous,” she admitted.
“You have nothing to fear in this room,” he said, softly.
“Oh, I know that,” she said, sounding impatient. Her appearance gave no hint of impatience, though.
“Why don’t you tell me why you think you have a problem,” he said, making her decide on her own whether to remain standing, or choose a place to sit.
“That’s easy,” she said, standing stock still and looking at him with an unflinching gaze. “I’m twenty-three and still a virgin.”
His eyes widened, but he concealed his surprise, otherwise. She was a beautiful young woman, obviously attractive to men. The forms she’d filled out prior to being shown to his office indicated she was an interior decorator, so she obviously had the opportunity to meet men.
“Virginity is not a disease,” he offered.
“So you believe that a twenty-three-year-old woman in America who has still never had sex is completely normal?”
“It’s a little early in the process to proclaim you either normal or otherwise,” he said, calmly. “Please. Sit down. Or lie down if you wish. I will admit I am intrigued. I don’t want to sound unprofessional, but you are a beautiful woman, and I suspect there have been many other men who observed the same thing. That your virginity is intact is a valid concern, if only because it causes you to worry. I hope we can find a way to help you remove that worry from your life.”
“You’re too kind,” she said, her tone acerbic. “Are you going to stretch this out as long as possible? Eighty dollars an hour is a pretty good reason to do that.”
“Anger is rarely productive,” said the doctor. “I can promise you I won’t make you spend any more time in this office than is required to resolve your concerns.” He glanced at her folder again. “Believe it or not, I’m not in this for the money. If your financial situation requires it, we can come to an agreement to reduce your fees, but please, let’s not worry about that right now. Instead, let’s proceed with this initial visit so I can determine how best to help you.”
The patient folded her arms across the maroon silk of her blouse, under breasts that seemed to thrust almost insolently from her chest. The doctor amended that thought, understanding that it was the insolence in her facial expression that he had applied to those delightfully full breasts.
Finally, she dropped her arms and sat in one of the chairs facing his desk.
“I think I know why I have this problem,” she said. “At least I know who I blame for it.”
He waited, just looking at her. He did have questions, but, initially, he wanted her to reveal whatever she was thinking at the moment. He didn’t need to ask her who she blamed. She wanted to talk about that. She wouldn’t have brought it up, otherwise.
“I blame my uncle,” she said, her voice tight.
“Your uncle,” said the doctor. Simply repeating what a patient said often caused more information to flow forth, concerning the comment. It was an odd facet of human interaction. By repeating the comment, you verified that you’d heard and understood it. For reasons still not understood by science, however, such repetition seemed to demand further explanation.
“My mother’s brother, my Uncle Bob,” said Miss Chambers.
“You blame your Uncle Bob for the fact that, at twenty-three, you haven’t had sexual congress with a man,” said the doctor.
“Or woman,” she added, her voice whisper soft.
“You have interests in that direction?” asked the doctor.
“I have interests in every direction,” she snorted. “I blame him for that, too.”
“Let me tell you what I heard you say,” he said. “If I’m wrong, please feel free to correct me. I heard you say that you’re still a virgin because of your relationship with your Uncle, and yet that same relationship caused you to have sexual interest in relationships with both genders?”
“I admit, I am intrigued,” he said. “Would you feel comfortable talking about that some more?”
“It’s why I’m here,” she said, her gaze level with his.
He closed her folder.
“Then let’s begin,” he said, softly.
She was lying on the couch. Her shoes were off and her ankles were crossed. The skirt had ridden up a few inches, exposing her knees, and perhaps two inches of skin above them. She wasn’t wearing hosiery and had the legs to pull that off beautifully. The fingers of both hands were interlaced and lying on her abdomen. She seemed to have no concern about lying on her hair. She stared at the ceiling, instead of the doctor, who sat beside her in his desk chair, which he had rolled away from his desk. That chair was probably the most comfortable one in the room.
“Let’s go back to the beginning,” he said. “Tell me about your relationship with your uncle. What is your oldest memory of him?”
“Oh my,” she sighed. “I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t there. Even before my father left, Uncle Bob was there a lot. He and my mother were very close.”
“Tell me what you remember about your father leaving.”
“I thought we were talking about my uncle,” she said, rolling her head to look at him.
“Your uncle wasn’t the only influence in your life,” he said.
Her head rolled back and she stared at the ceiling again.
“He left when I was eight. Mom would never tell me exactly why, but when I grew older I figured it out.”
She subsided and he waited, letting the silence make her uncomfortable. As expected, she spoke to fill it.
“He left for another woman.”
“Why do you believe that?”
“Because I remember them fighting. He used to come home late sometimes and they yelled at each other. I remember Mom asking him why he smelled like perfume. One time she asked what was wrong with her and then cried when he left the house. I didn’t understand at the time, but when I was in my teens that all began to make sense. Except it didn’t make sense. My mother was beautiful, the nicest woman in the world. She was a good cook and a good mother. As far as I was concerned, he had to be an idiot to leave her for some other woman. I still feel that way.”
“Passion can cause erratic, incomprehensible behavior,” suggested the doctor.
“Everybody knows that,” she snorted.
“It sounds like you have some unresolved feelings about your father,” he said, ignoring her barb.
“Not at all,” she said. “I hope he suffers from boils that cover his entire body. I hope his hair falls out and women find him repulsive. I hope he catches a sexually transmitted disease that causes him to waste away in terrible pain.”
“I see,” said the doctor. “Just for the sake of argument, let’s talk about how you hope your father has no options for romantic or sexual involvement with a woman. Is it possible that has caused you to feel that way about all men?”
“Not at all,” she said, immediately. “I don’t hate all men. I don’t hate sex, either. I’d love to find a man to have that kind of relationship with. I’ve tried. I’ve dated tons of guys. And I’ve felt passion plenty of times. But none of them were the right man.”
“And you know this because... ?”
“Are you married, Doctor?”
“We’re not here to talk about me,” he chided, gently.
“You’re not a bad looking guy,” she said, ignoring him. “You have a nice office, and at the rates you charge you’re not hurting for money. I assume you’re not gay and I doubt that your profession requires you to work late night after night, or be gone for extended or frequent trips away from home. So why hasn’t some woman snatched you up? Are you opposed to marriage or long term relationships?”
“All right. I concede your point. You want me to say I haven’t met the right woman.”
“Thank you,” she said. “It’s not that easy to find the perfect mate.”
“Of course perfection is elusive, and I understand that relationships are complicated. But discussing your feelings about those relationships is important if we’re going to resolve your conflict.”
“I suppose so,” she sighed.
“Let’s get back to your uncle,” he suggested. “Did he become the father figure in your life, once your biological father left?”
“I wouldn’t have called it that,” she said. “Though I did always feel safe and protected in his presence. I thought of him more as a special friend ... a very special friend.”
“What made him special?”
“You used the right word for it, earlier,” she said. “Our relationship was complicated. I’ve thought a lot about this, and I think it was because he was responsible for ushering me into puberty.”
“You say that with conviction.”
“That’s because I’m sure about it.”
“Puberty is amorphous, in terms of how it plays out and how each person responds to it,” said the doctor. “Most people have difficulty remembering what it was like to go through that period in their development. It’s a tumultuous time in a person’s life, and is often the root of many problems that surface later in one’s adult years.”
“I remember it very clearly,” said the patient.
“Why do you feel your uncle ushered you into puberty?”
“Because he taught me about my body ... about the feelings I was having ... about sex,” she said, softly.
“Your uncle molested you?” The doctor’s voice was tight.
“Most people would have called it that,” she said, sounding unconcerned. “But I didn’t feel abused. Nor did my mother act like he did anything wrong. She knew about all of it, and never ... corrected ... his behavior.”
“I want to hear more,” said the doctor, “but I have another appointment. Would you be willing to come back for more sessions?”
“Of course,” she said, sitting up. “I want to resolve the issue.”
“I wish I didn’t have to put you off now. I think it would be productive if you could tell your story without interruption. I don’t usually work on Saturdays, but if we met then I’d have more time with you.”
“Saturdays are no problem,” she said. “I usually go to the gym on Saturday, but I can do that in the morning and then come see you afterwards. Would that work?”
“That would be fine. Let’s make it this coming Saturday. Is that all right with you?”
She stood and smoothed her skirt with delicate hands.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “I’ll see you around ten.”
He chose to dress down, both because it was Saturday and because he wanted the atmosphere to be as casual and comfortable for the patient as possible. He was mildly surprised when she arrived still wearing what she’d worked out in. That consisted of a one-piece spandex upper that hugged her body like a second skin. He imagined the gusset was narrow, because she’d covered her loins with a pair of running shorts, loose and made of cotton, the complete opposite of what covered her upper body. Her blond hair was done up in a ponytail. The overall effect was one of blatant, healthy sexuality, and he felt a tightening in his groin. His eyes went naturally to her breasts, looking for her nipples, and he was mildly disappointed when all he saw were smoothly rounded tips of breasts that were tightly confined by the stretchy fabric.
“Jennifer,” he said, choosing to use her first name to establish a less formal atmosphere. “Please come in. You didn’t have to rush right here.”
“Doctor,” she replied, formally, apparently not wanting things to be as casual as he did. “I usually prefer to shower at home. I hoped you wouldn’t mind if I came straight here from the gym. I was on the climbing wall and didn’t want to stop until I reached my goal.”
That explained the traces of white chalk still on her hands.
“So you’re a climber,” he said, just making conversation.
“And a kick boxer, and a runner, and a swimmer,” she said, easily. “I play racquetball, too. I have a lot of stress in my life, and I’ll do pretty much anything to work it off.”
“I wouldn’t have thought an interior designer would be subject to an overabundance of stress,” he said, smiling.
“Sexual stress,” she said, looking directly at him without embarrassment.
“Ahhh,” he said. “Which brings us to the issue. You have chosen other than the ... shall we say conventional ... methods of reducing your sexual stress. I understand the issues surrounding finding that ‘right’ person we talked about before, but in this day and age young people often engage in sex with no ties, simply to deal with those feelings.”
“I’m not interested in casual sex,” she said, choosing the couch again. Again she crossed her ankles and lay her hands on the tightly stretched spandex covering her flat abdomen. “I want something with more substance. Something that will last. I think I have a lot to offer the right man, and I don’t want to waste my time doing what amounts to complicated masturbation with the wrong one.”
“I don’t mean to compromise any moral stance that may support your position on this, but sometimes building a good, long-term relationship involves a certain amount of preliminary sexual intimacy. I think of it as a pathway to happiness. One must walk the entire path. You can’t just jump to the end.”
“I don’t think my moral stance has much to do with things,” she said. “I think my uncle ruined me for other men.”
“That might be a little extreme, considering the fact that you are, as you said, still a virgin. Perhaps we should talk about a definition of that word. What does ‘virgin’ mean to you?”
“It means I’ve never let a man have sexual intercourse with me,” she said.
“You specified ‘let’ in that sentence,” he said. “What I would have expected a woman to say is that she’d never had intercourse.”
“Oh, plenty of men have tried to have intercourse with me. I just wouldn’t let them.”
“And you blame your uncle for this.”
“Perhaps we should get to the root of why you feel this way about him. Let’s get back to how that started. Do you remember anything about that?”
“I remember it all,” she said.
“I’m listening,” he encouraged.
She was no longer staring at the ceiling. Now her eyes were closed.
“When it started, there wasn’t anything sexual about it. All he did was hold me when I got hurt, and kiss my owies. I sat on his lap and he hugged me, and talked to me. He was there almost all the time after my father left, at least at first. Later he’d come over two or three nights a week, and most Saturdays. We played catch in the yard, and worked picture puzzles, and read stories to each other. I know this sounds like the kind of thing a father usually does, but I never looked at him like that. My biological father never did those things with me. I never thought of Uncle Bob as filling the role of my father. He was just ... Uncle Bob.
“Then I had my first period, and it was awful. I had cramps and even the pill my mother gave me didn’t reduce the pain. I was miserable. I remember I was crying, lying on the couch, using him as my pillow and he started rubbing my belly.”
Her hands came apart and her right one made a circular pattern across the smooth spandex over her abdomen.
“It felt good, and I asked him to keep doing that. He massaged me there for a long time and slowly I relaxed and the pain went away. After that, whenever I had cramps, either my mother or he would rub my belly. It always helped. But Mom was usually too busy to do it for long, so Uncle Bob was the one who would spend hours smoothing his hands over the hurt and making me feel better. It seemed like his hands were pain magnets or something.
“Then my breasts started to develop. They seemed to grow overnight. One day I was flat, like all the other girls, and the next I had these mounds that were awful. They were tender and hurt. So I asked Uncle Bob to rub them too. My mom was right there. I remember her saying, ‘Why not?’ so I lay down on the couch with him again, using him as my pillow, like always, and he rubbed my breasts. He was so tender and caring. And he made them feel better.”
“Did you have sexual feelings while he did this?” asked the doctor.
“No. It just felt good. And we talked about things while he did it. What I mean is we carried on normal conversations while he did that. We didn’t talk about my breasts. Not then. He just rubbed them while we talked about normal stuff.”
“You said ‘Not then’. I assume that changed. When was that?”
“My breasts only hurt for a month or two,” she said. “But I really liked lying on the couch with him like that. And I always needed to have my belly rubbed when I had my period. So when he was doing that, I pulled his hand up to my breasts and had him rub them too. It just felt good. I didn’t feel anything sexual until I was thirteen.”
“Do you remember how that happened?”
“Yes. It was one night in the dead of winter. It was so cold outside and it was almost bedtime. I was already in my pajamas and I was having cramps so he was rubbing my belly. Mom had put a quilt over us because it was so cold. His hand was under my pajama top, rubbing my belly, and I pulled at his wrist. He knew what that meant by then, so he just slid his hand up to rub my breasts. But this was the first time he’d ever done it inside my clothing, and his hand felt different, somehow. His fingers paused to tease my nipple and then he squeezed it. I thought I might pee my pants right then and there. I’d never felt anything like that. I must have made a noise, because my mom came running into the room and asked what happened. He told her my nipples were developing and then pulled my top up to show her. My nipples had never gotten hard before. It was amazing.”
“And your mother didn’t seem to mind that he was exploring your nipples?”
“I’d have to say no. I didn’t know what was happening to me then, but I remember her telling him not to be too hard on me, and that I was at a vulnerable stage in my life. I didn’t even know what ‘vulnerable’ meant. I even said that, and he said he’d explain it all to me.”
“And did he?”
“I don’t know how long it actually was, but it seemed like he spent hours and hours during the next couple of years teaching me all about my body, and what was going on inside it. I learned about my menstrual cycle from him, and why my breasts reacted the way they did to the various things he did to them. It was amazing how he could rub them one way and it just felt good, and then he’d rub them a different way and I’d get all antsy and worked up. It wasn’t until I was fifteen that he taught me what to do when I got worked up like that.”
“He taught you?”
“He showed me. I didn’t say this earlier, but after he started rubbing my breasts, whenever I had cramps, and he was rubbing my belly, sometimes his hand would slide down between my legs. Not far between them, but more like his fingertips would barely reach my clitoris. Of course I didn’t know what a clitoris even was, then. It’s hard to describe. He didn’t fondle me. Not really. It’s more like he included my pubic mound in the massage he was giving my belly. I liked it, though.
“Then, when I was fifteen, and we had discussed all the things that were happening in me, the only thing we’d talked about that I didn’t really understand was the orgasm. He told me I needed to ask my mother what an orgasm was like and when I did that, she got all flustered and said I should talk to Uncle Bob. So I went back to him and he said he’d help me have one, so I’d know what it was like.”
“And this was all right with your mother?”
“She stood there and watched it!”
“You sound shocked.”
“I wasn’t then. Everything seemed completely normal then. I didn’t realize how strange all that was until I was a senior in high school.”
“And when you realized how strange that was for him to do those things to you, how did that make you feel about him?”
“Between the first and second semesters of my junior year, during the holidays, I confronted him about it,” she said.
“And what did he say?”
“He said he loved me, and hoped he hadn’t done anything to make me feel uncomfortable.”
“There are many kinds of love, and even at that young age you must have known that. Did that confuse you?”
“Not really. I knew he didn’t mean he was in love with me. Not romantic love. But I also knew that his love was ... special. It wasn’t like the way anybody else loved me.”
“Can you describe that?”
“This is hard. There’s so much to think about. I’m having trouble putting it into words.”
“Why don’t you just ramble, then, and I’ll simply listen.”
“Okay,” she said.
But she didn’t continue speaking. He remained silent, assuming she was thinking.
“The first time I learned that uncles don’t normally do the things he’d done to me, that uncles aren’t supposed to do them, was at a slumber party. The word ‘pervert’ was bandied about in discussions about men who touch young girls like that. The girls all firmly believed it was wrong. What complicated that for me was that my mother, who I knew loved me more than anything else in her life, hadn’t been concerned about it at all. She even approved! So when I got home the next morning, I confronted them about it. Part of that conversation ... argument ... there isn’t really a good term for it ... part of that marathon discussion we had was about why my mother allowed him to touch me like that.”
The psychiatrist stayed quiet.
“She told me that sooner or later every girl discovers her body, and how it can be touched to create pleasure. She said that usually happens on dates with boys who are just as confused and inexperienced as the girl is, and that things can go terribly wrong in those situations. I wasn’t allowed to date yet, but I understood what she meant, because of the stories I’d heard from other girls. She said she preferred that my initial education about my body be supervised by Uncle Bob, who she knew we could both trust.”
She subsided for so long that the doctor eventually had to speak.
“Yet, from what you’ve said, all he ever did was touch your breasts and give you one orgasm. Is that correct? Was it only one orgasm?”
“Yes. Up to the point where I confronted them, that was all that had happened.” she said.
“You said, ‘Up to that point.’ Does that mean your ... education ... proceeded after this conversation?”
“Oh yeah,” she sighed. “I think maybe that’s when Uncle Bob actually ruined me for other men.”
“What did he do?”
“Oh ... only everything. Well, everything except fuck me.” Her head rolled and her green eyes stared at him unflinchingly. “Am I allowed to use vulgar words in these sessions?”
“Use whatever words best express what you’re feeling,” he said, gently.
“Okay then. He did everything except fuck me.”
“How comfortable would you feel being more specific than using the word ‘everything’?” asked the doctor.
“As I said, it was a long conversation. It lasted all day. It’s hard to remember in terms of being able to relate it in the order everything was said. And I found out things that turned my world upside down. Such as the fact that Uncle Bob had been sleeping with my mother ever since my father took off.”
“I can see how that might be rough,” said the doctor, softly.
“What made it rough was that I felt stupid. I got straight A’s in school, but hadn’t figured out what it really meant that Uncle Bob was there for breakfast so often. We had a guest bedroom, and he had some clothes and stuff in there. I always just assumed that’s where he slept. A lot of things became clear quite suddenly, and I felt stupid because I thought I should have figured it out much sooner.”
“Were you angry? They were engaged in incest. Did you feel betrayed?”
“No. I wouldn’t say that. I think I got it. I mean he helped her feel better at a time when she was as low as you can get. And he’d helped me feel better all those times. He was sort of in the business of helping us both feel better. He didn’t live with us. He had a job that he went to every day and all that. But if we needed him, he was there. I knew he loved both of us and since I couldn’t imagine how his love for me could be bad, I couldn’t imagine his love for my mother was bad either.”
“You said it was during that conversation that he ruined you for other men,” prompted the doctor.
“To be precise, I should probably say it was afterwards, though that all-nighter did get things started.”
“I thought things were already started.”
“Up to that point, as I’ve already said, all he ever did was tease me a little and give me one orgasm. He did that with his fingers. He had never kissed me, or used his mouth on me.”
“Obviously, your implication is that, after this long confrontation, he did both of those,” prompted the doctor.
“Is that all you feel comfortable saying?”
“Why, Doctor, am I to understand you wish to hear all the sordid little details?”
“You said he ruined you. It might help to understand exactly what he did to make you feel the way you do.”
“Or it could be that hearing stuff like this has turned you into a bit of a pervert?”
“Jennifer. If you feel my interest in you is perverted, then I can only suggest you seek another therapist to assist you.”
“I didn’t say that. I was only suggesting it must be difficult for a man to hear lurid details about that sort of thing. As I recall you did say I was beautiful. And you’re a man, underneath that cool exterior, and all those framed degrees on the walls. I may be relatively inexperienced when it comes to men, but I know what men want.”
“What I want is for you to resolve your feelings about this uncle,” said the doctor, firmly.
Again her head turned, and bright green eyes pinned to his.
“Well, that would be easy. All he’d have to do is fuck my socks off and I’m sure I’d be cured.”
“My job is not to be judgemental, but you’re obviously aware that the culture in which we live would frown on that. Let’s not be either simplistic or hasty,” said the doctor. “I’d really like to hear more about these feelings that have developed for this man, and what caused them.”
“You mean things like that he used his mouth to give me an orgasm? Or that he put his finger inside me while he sucked my nipples, giving me a whole string of orgasms? Or that he got me a vibrator and taught me how to use it? Or that, eventually, I got to see him making love to my mother, giving her what I wanted him to give me so desperately? It could take hours and hours to describe in detail what he did to me and how I came to feel about him the way I do. I’d be happy to detail it all for you, but I’m not a wealthy woman, Doctor.”
The psychiatrist stared back at her. He felt a very unprofessional movement of blood into his groin. He seized on her reference to the expense of time to distract himself from the images flitting through his mind.
“I’m considering these Saturday meetings to be one session,” he finally said, addressing her use of the phrase “hours and hours.”
“Meaning you’re only going to charge me for one hour?”
“Each Saturday ... yes,” he said.
“Then I suppose we have hours and hours for me to give you all the dirty little details ... don’t we?”
“I feel this is important. I sense we’re making progress.”
“Oh? What kind of progress have you detected?”
“You’ve already suggested a way to resolve your issues.”
“You mean get my socks fucked off by Uncle Bob?”
“Yes. Not that I think that’s the best resolution, but you’re already thinking in terms of dealing with your emotions for him.”
“Oh, I’ve wanted him to fuck my socks off ever since then,” sighed the patient. “He just won’t. That’s the whole problem. I compare every man I go out with to him, and none of them can compete with him.”
“Admittedly, this ... crush ... you have on your uncle is troublesome, particularly since it has lasted so long. Do you have any idea why he is so resistant to your ... wishes?”
“He seems to be very much concerned about pregnancy.”
“There are many ways, these days, to inhibit conception,” said the doctor.
“He won’t use any of them. Nor will I.”
“May I inquire as to why?”
“Him, or me?” she asked.
“Both,” he said.
“Him. because he says that’s what making love is for, and it’s unnatural to try to prevent it. Me, because if anybody is ever going to get me pregnant, I want it to be him.”
“This is beginning to sound like more than a simple crush, Jennifer.”
“I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because he got my mother pregnant, and my little brother is just my favorite little person in the whole world.”