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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Thursday, May 18, 2006
So, Is It OK?
It was told this story today by a (male) drug rep, and it happened to him in the last several days while making his rounds at a local hospital. Everything past this paragraph is this drug rep telling me the story.

I was in the hospital lobby and the guard walked up to me.

“Are you a doctor?” he asked me.
“No, I’m a pharmaceutical rep.”
“Can I ask you a question? I have a problem.” He continued. I don’t know if he didn’t hear my answer. He spoke in very broken English. “My wife had to have a surgery. She had a bump on her vagina, and the doctors had to take out her uterus and her ovaries.”

Now, we’re in the middle of a busy lobby and there are people walking all around us, and also, did I mention that I’m not a doctor? But he keeps going.

“And ever since the surgery, she can’t be with me anymore the way she used to, you know like a wife. Before the surgery, whenever I needed it, you know, what men need, I would smile at her, and she would smile at me, and we would understand what that meant and you know, we would behave like married people, and it was fine. But now if I even mention the bedroom, all that happens is a hug.”

And he makes this big horizontal hoop with his arms in case I didn’t understand what “hug” means. And I’m staring at him mortified, like a deer caught in headlights, which I’m sure he misinterprets as concerned interest, because he keeps going.

“But she understands that I am a man. It’s true. I am a man. And she told me that she understands that. So she told me that she does not mind if I go and pay for it. She said that it is all right with her. And so that is what I do, but when I come home, I feel guilty. So, is it OK?”
He doesn't need a doctor. What he needs is a priest! And he'd best go after he does it and get over with the confession, too.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! That must be true - no one could invent something that funny.
I guess to a guy this story sounds funny, to me it sounds sad and depressing. A man with a problem that's eating at him and no one to confess to or to turn to for advice but a drug rep in the lobby. Or maybe he asks everyone he sees the same question, it's still depressing. I hope the drug rep at least had the sense to give the guy the name of a real doctor.

I just finished reading a fascinating and horrifying book called *Pox* about the history of syphilis and lots of famous people whose lives were destroyed by it. Yeah there's penicillin now but the guy who can't tell the difference between a drug rep and a doctor could catch something nasty and not know enough to get treated. He needs his wife to be OK, is what I think.
I must confess to seeing the depressing side of this story, as well. But it is also true that the guy doesn't need a doctor - at least not the kind it seems he's asking for. He needs some sort of counselor - whether from the clergy or from the psychological field - who speaks his native language.

On the other hand, was your drug rep friend sure there were no hidden cameras?
Ayelet: Yes. That’s the impression I got too, was that he was seeking absolution, not medical advice.

Oven: I really busted a gut while he was telling me this. I also got the impression that he wasn’t making it up, mostly because (1) there were some other details that I didn’t post and (2) though he realized the story was hilarious, he seemed honestly a little embarrassed.

Ms. Katz: I don’t think it has to do with whether the listener is a guy or a gal. The story sounded tragic to me too. The mood of the story has entirely to do (I think) with the person with whom the listener is identifying. When you identify with the poor guard, it’s tragic. When you identify with the poor drug rep, it’s hilarious. I was actually very impressed with what the drug rep did (which is another thing that makes me think the story is true). He said at the end of the guard’s monologue he wanted to sprint away, but instead said “As long as there are no secrets, it’s OK.” For a guy in a horribly inappropriate situation with no professional experience (his wife is a psychiatrist though, he said) to come up with that on the spot I thought was pretty good. Of course counseling about sexually transmitted diseases and condoms would be in order, but given the location of this conversation, I think that would be expecting a bit much from our story teller.

Ralphie: It is certainly mortifying enough to be a premise for a “Candid Camera” type of show. But in those shows to use the footage they have to eventually tell you that it was a gag and ask for your permission to broadcast the tape. That didn’t happen.
Maybe it's not OK. Consider: A marriage is a contract between a man and a woman. It is certainly OK for people to agree to dissolve a contract - it happens all the time.

But wait. I left out God. For many people, a marriage is a contract between two people and God. What does God say about Mr. Guard going out and paying for it?

From another angle: What does Mr. Guard say about Mr. Guard going out and paying for it? He feels guilty because he thinks he is doing something wrong. Is he?

The guard should do the right thing, not necessarily the thing he most wants. So what is the right thing? In my opinion, the guard should keep his promises. I wasn't at his wedding, but if he said he'd love his wife for better or for worse, I sincerely hope he could bring himself to find some joy in that.
That's worse than PT's aristocrats story!!!

That poor drug rep is to be commended for offering any advice at all, but I agree with Oven. Also, after the surgery the couple should have been received some counseling and advice about how to have fun without penetration, if that was really impossible.
Oven: Of course. Adultery is wrong with a capital W and consent of all people involved doesn’t change that.

Kiwi: Sure. I don’t know any of those details, though, so I have no clue what actually happened. I also don’t know of common surgeries that make penetration impossible. There are clearly layers of linguistic and cultural barriers that may have caused miscommunication between the couple and her doctors, and between the guard and the drug rep.
Adultery is wrong with a capital W.

Yes but.

Here is a husband and wife making a practical arrangement to ensure that both spouses are happy in the marriage. She doesn't have to deal with sex (whether the problem is physical or psychological) and he doesn't have to go the rest of his life without sex, or hide his extra-marital activities from his wife.

She has been very kind to him. The only question I have is, does she actually prefer this arrangement? Or is she secretly troubled by his trips to see a prostitute?

If I was the priest dealing with this scenario, I would let the couple work it out to their private satisfaction, and commend them to the mercy of a compassionate God.
Q: Nice to see you here again!

If I was the priest dealing with this scenario, I would let the couple work it out to their private satisfaction, and commend them to the mercy of a compassionate God.

That is exactly my reaction as a private individual and is in the spirit of what the drug rep actually told him.


How can you say that if you were a Priest? (Or for that matter, a Rabbi?) Don't you have some obligation to get them to find a non-adulterous solution to their problem? Consent is not at issue with adulety after all, meaning the commandment has nothing to do with the secrecy or the wife's opposition. If all parties are in complete agreement, the religious view is still that the act is sinful. I have no interest in brow-beating the poor guy or inflicting needless guilt on him, but I also didn't go into the rabinnate. Can a biblical commandment be abandoned so easily?

Yet again, I fear we're sliding towards the religion of consent which you and I have already discussed at length.
What if he keeps the woman he's sleeping with (say it's just one) in a nice condo in Malibu, and pays her expenses? Wouldn't that basically be like having a concubine? God's cool with concubines, right? Or did he issue a retraction on the concubine issue?
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