"Ask Dr. Tracy"

9/17/2000 Advice Column

Old Porn Star
Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been dating a man for two months who I met at a professional singles mixer. We are both in our fifties, youthful, active, athletic. We have each been married twice before. We have been to parties, movies, concerts and family social events. He is a medical professional, and seems good, sincere, intelligent, stable, and nurturing. He treats me nicely, is affectionage, and doesn't pressure me for sex. We certainly have good chemistry and communication; lately I have been exploring whether we have shared values.

I recently learned from my investment club partners, nurses who worked with him at a hospital in the past, that a rumor went around the hospital that he had starred in pornographic movies. I asked him about it when it was apropo. He claimed that he had acted in just one film about twenty-five years ago; however he was neither contrite nor remorseful. In fact he was proud of himself, although a little defensive, saying that "some people just like to deprive others of their fifteen minutes of fame"..

My research located at least two films with his credits (not as a star, but as a supporting "player"), and others where the name was similar but not identical. One of my boyfriend's films had a fourteen year old girl in it. The really shocking part is that his ex-wife, who he had previously described as "an actress and swim suit model" also starred in these movies. In fact she starred in many other porno films and was described as a very hot number.

I have been sad and depressed to learn these sordid facts, which have triggered all kinds of fears, jealousies and self-doubts. The only good part is that one of his films got very good reviews as a "golden-oldie" of porn, back when the porn films had good plots and good acting.

I am a modern, sensuous woman, not a prude, but I am not comfortable with casual sex, child sex, wife swapping, pimping or sleaze.. I would appreciate your perspective and guidance here.

Dear Sad and Depressed,

It's hard to believe you'd be worried because your 50-plus year old boyfriend acted in porn films 25 years ago. If we all were held to blame today for what we did 25 years ago, there would hardly be enough blame to go around.

He's got the right idea. There's no use being contrite or remorseful about what you've done in the past. The past is over. And besides, what he did was no big deal. He didn't really do anything that terrible. He's not a bank robber or a murderer. He's not a drunk or abuser.

Actually, you should be glad he's sown his wild oats with wife number one and got it out of his system. He's more likely to settle down and be happy with you and not have fantasies about the wild life, like other men who've never had those experiences. And if wife number one was a hot number, so what? Be flattered that he thinks you're just as hot.

Not only that, but you could benefit from his sexual prowess, his obvious lack of inhibitions, and his healthy ego and sex drive. Nobody has even suggested that you should get involved with casual sex, child sex, wife swapping, pimping or sleaze. And you really don't have any proof that those are his values, or ever were. Lots of today's top movie and television stars got their starts acting in porn movies. Nobody holds that against them today.

He's a professional, and has lots of good qualities, plus you like him. Don't let what other people say ruin your relationship. Face the "problem" and have some fun with it. Rent one of his golden oldies of porn and enjoy it together. You say you're not a prude. Stop acting like one.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My girlfriend Ruth and I lived together, practically in a state of bliss, attending the same college, for 2 years. It was and is still the most intense and deep relationship I have ever been in. But towards the end of the two years, we began having trouble for two main reasons. First, because Ruth is an extremely moral person (she does not condone casual sex and has little respect for those who practice it) and although I admire her greatly for that, I often felt unworthy of her. Secondly, because our schedules didn't allow us to spend much time together, we missed each other terribly; but we both felt the other wasn't making the same effort to find time to be together, and we were too consumed with work- she is a med student, I am an architectural student. Sometimes there were issues over whose work was more important. During our last month living together, we had some very serious discussions about needing to spend time apart. We decided to see other people.

Ours was her first relationship, and although it was my third relationship, she is the first person I have ever loved. I had slept with one other person; Ruth knew about this, and although she had been very upset with me at first I think she eventually forgave me. During our "break" we both dated people we had been friends with, hers from her med program and mine from my studio. It was not a happy situation. We both were jealous of the new relationships, and we were just making each other miserable. One night I made a terrible mistake: I drank too much and had (safe) sex with the person I was seeing. I couldn't tell Ruth. I was too ashamed and guilty. Even though it wasn't technically cheating (we had broken up), I know in my heart it was just as bad. Soon I broke up with the person I was seeing, on good terms, and I no longer drink. I am very angry at myself for my behaviour, which has been short of model. I'm trying to improve myself, to grow up, become more responsible, less selfish. Among other things, I've become vegetarian and begun exercising, and I am trying to be more available to Ruth if she should need me.

Now Ruth has moved out and started med school about 20 minutes away, and I am still living near campus in a different apartment. I miss her so much sometimes it makes my chest hurt, and even though I have roommates, I am lonely without Ruth. After a lot of arguing and serious discussion, we are starting to build a tenuous relationship. We can have fun together again. I think she has almost forgiven me for my "fling." But I still haven't told her that I slept with that person. I don't think the fragile framework we are building can withstand that.

Ruth is in California for a month, visiting family. When she comes back, I want to make a fresh start with her and see if she still loves me as much as I love her. I believe (idealistically perhaps) that if you really love someone, you don't keep secrets from them. But I also believe that you can hurt someone only so much before you lose them.

Thus my dilemma: now that I have realized my awful mistake, and am changing my life in an attempt to be worthy of Ruth again, how important is it that I tell her about my mistake? Is it important enough that I risk losing her for good? I am afraid that is a very likely outcome if I tell her. Is morality still intact if I keep this from her?

Dear Truth Teller,

There are truths to tell, and there are truths to keep to yourself. Don't tell Ruth about your fling, especially since you and she were apart and free to see others when it happened. You already have a strained relationship, and you are just starting to get it back on track. A confession now would not just be the wrong thing to do, it could throw your relationship off track, maybe permanently.

So don't aggravate Ruth right now. She's starting out at med school and the last thing she needs in her life is a confession about what you did during your "break." She needs to feel free to concentrate without the angst of a relationship in trouble or a confessing boyfriend.

You're feeling ashamed and guilty. You're angry at yourself. But you'll just have to live with those feelings in order to save your relationship. You're wrong to think that if you love someone, you tell everything, even if you know it will hurt that person a lot. If you need to confess, see a therapist or a priest. Confessing to Ruth might make you feel better momentarily, but in the end you'll feel worse and so will she.

Personally, I think you're making way too much of your fling. Lighten up. You and Ruth had agreed to date others. Dating can lead to sex. That's the way the world works. And even if you saw the sex as a mistake in the cold light of the morning after, so what? No one got pregnant, no one got a sexually transmitted disease, and you broke up with your fling on good terms. No harm, no foul. It's not a big deal, like it would be in a committed, monogamous relationship. You're young and unmarried. That's when people are supposed to experiment.

So forgive yourself for a minor mistake and move on. Your desire to confess is partially a desire to be punished for your bad behavior. You think that by confessing, Ruth will punish you and you will suffer and therefore your penance will be complete. Nothing could be further from the truth. Real penance is suffering in silence and not dumping on your loved one.

Since you value your relationship with Ruth so much, do her the favor of continuing to make yourself a better person instead of confessing. Give her time and space to study in her demanding chosen field and give your now tenuous relationship a chance to heal.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 38 year old divorced mother of 2 girls. I have been single for 7 years now and am not into the bar scene. I am confident and independent.

My girlfriend turned me on to a free online dating service. Within 2 weeks I received my first response. We conversed for a week and he mentioned he would like to meet me on several occasions. He appeared to be talking from the heart and so I offered to send him a plane ticket. He was shocked, but agreed. My view was nothing ventured nothing gained.

The night before he was to come he sent an emergency message. He was not able to make it. X wife in the hospital. He practically begged to reschedule and make it for the following week. So I called the airline and changed the ticket and paid the transfer fee.

He was to arrive Saturday morning. Thursday evening I phoned him and we talked about what he was going to bring with him etc. He even asked me to give him a wake up call. By this time we were responding with terms of endearment. Really feeling emotionally close. Next step to see if there was chemistry.

I went to the airport to pick him up. He stood me up. I tried to phone, write email, no response. I was terribly hurt. Physically ill from the emotional stress. I wanted an explanation .

His last and only response to me since the no show was...... that if I came to his town, called, wrote any more he would file harassment charges. OK I got the picture. No need to go where I am not wanted.

Now there is a 200 dollar plane ticket that is non refundable. In his name. I purchased it on my credit card. I am not able to change the name on the ticket, just the dates within a year for a 50 dollar fee.

I believe I was deceived into believing that he would be here. I was deceived into believing that there was an emotional connection. I want restitution for the plane fare. I am planning to file in small claims court for the airfare and mental cruelty. No person, man or woman should be allowed to deceive another in such a way and not have to pay for the monetary value invested.

The heart will heal. And I have learned a valuable lesson. I will accept any losses . Small claims is only based on the principle of the matter.

Your comments would be appreciated

Dear Deceived,

A confident and independent woman like you is always in danger of trying to control the relationship, of taking matters into her own hands and making it work, without waiting for time to take its course or to find out if a man is really who he says he is. And I'm afraid that's exactly what you did.

I know it's tempting to just take over and arrange things in a relationship, just as you would in your confident and independent life. However, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, which can also be the hardest thing to do.

In this case, you acted too swiftly. Even you noticed that he was shocked when you offered to send him a ticket. Making a big romantic gesture, especially the first one and one that involves considerable expense, should still be the man's responsibility. There's nothing wrong with reciprocating after he's made the first expensive move, but don't take the first one yourself.

You are guilty of giving too much too soon to someone you didn't know well enough. The next time you meet someone on the Internet, check him out more carefully. There are several sites online where you can find out about someone before you get too involved. And don't be tempted to jump through hoops, financially or emotionally, for someone you haven't met.

He was probably married and playing around on the internet. Lots of married men do, for cheap thrills. One way to avoid them is to look into the more expensive dating sites that require a monthly fee. Married men don't want a cyber dating site charges showing up on their credit cards or in their checking accounts. Also, when people pay for something they often value it more.

All in all, $250 is a small price to pay to learn such an important lesson. I doubt if small claims court will give you a satisfactory outcome. After all, you volunteered to send the ticket. There was no contract or written agreement between the two of you. But write again and let me know if you get a favorable ruling.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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