By Tom Hathaway
Can having a love affair with your mother strike a blow against patriarchy? Author Tom Hathaway seems to think so.
He and his mother set out in 1968 to become "the Che Guevaras of sex." As he reports in TABOO: A MEMOIR, it began in the psychedelic aftermath of a Rolling Stones concert when he was 18 and she was 36. Back home after the concert, stoned on mescaline, they started dancing to the Stones' records, and one thing led to another.
The next day they both felt guilty, but guilt was unhip. Stopping the guilt was easier than stopping the sex. When the world didn't fall in on them as they had expected, they kept doing it.
Perhaps to justify their incest, they saw themselves as sexual subversives working to overthrow patriarchy. Rather than a crime against nature, their affair was cultural anarchism in action.
The mother was a radical from the Beat Generation days, so a rebellious lifestyle was appealing to her. She had raised the son alone and was now a career woman, a left-wing lawyer.
The father was a deadbeat beatnik poet who had become a drug dealer and gone to prison. But when dad was paroled, their troubles began. He wanted back in the family, and when they rebuffed him, he suspected what they were up to, then caught them at it and tried to blackmail them.
They managed to outsmart him, though, and send him back to prison.
Tom and Diana eventually got married in a private ceremony and stayed together until her recent death from cancer. "I still miss her terribly," he writes. "My life feels incomplete. I seek her in my dreams.
"Years ago we had wondered if we'd be punished, if something terrible would happen to us. Now I realize that my punishment is that no one can take Diana's place. Her loss has devastated me. She was both wife and mother, and that seems to not just double but square the grief I feel.
"Despite the pain, I'm so glad to have known and loved her in the way I did. We were so close for so long. Although it had its stresses and traumas, this love was right for us, the most rewarding and joyful part of our lives.
"However, that doesn't mean it would be right for everyone. Our story shouldn't be seen as a blanket endorsement of incest. I find the way it is often practiced to be deplorable, degrading, and usually destructive for all parties concerned. A father or mother aggressing their young children is harmful and wrong. Children shouldn't be having sex with any adult, especially a parent; it interferes with their emotional development. Children are still dependent and often haven't started building their bridge from parental protection and care to a place of self-love, self-esteem, and self-sufficiency. They haven't yet become persons in their own right. Thus, having sex with a parent can overwhelm them and interfere with this maturation process."
He claims, though, that, "Incest between consenting adults is a different issue, one of personal freedom, really no one else's business, especially now that birth control has removed the genetic risk. Once we get over the superstitious dread, it becomes another private preference, an activity that will appeal to some people and not to others. As with many matters, we can live and let live, love and let love."
Although his writing sometimes gets a bit flowery, it's usually very good. In places, the book is even humorous. Hathaway manages to make incest, well, human. He also captures the spirit of the 1960s quite well. There's a sample under the Love section of the Dandelion Books' website, http://www.dandelionbooks.net.
If the book is true, Tom and his mom had an amazing life together. If it's not true, it's still a good story. All in all, I liked it.
But with my mom? No way!