A brand new sleeping bag was tossed onto my bedroom floor.
“Pack your things, we’re going camping tomorrow,” my mother said with a firm sense of resolve.
“Camping?” I asked. “I thought you hated camping.”
“I do. My therapist found that out today and he suggested I give it another try. He wants me to get over all of my phobias. It made sense once I thought about it.”
My mother had been going to the therapist for the past several months. I never fully understood why, but it made her happy. I also would never criticize her for that either, since I was a psychology major in college. In fact, I was always 100% supportive of anything she did that involved self-improvement (not that I thought she needed it).
“Well, if that means we get to go camping, then I’m all for it.”
Her eyebrow rose. “It’ll only be for the weekend. Believe me, I don’t want to stay in the woods any longer than I have to.”
“The thought of you walking around the forest trying not to get your designer clothes dirty might actually be funny to watch,” I smiled.
“Don’t count on it mister,” she replied. “I’m coming prepared. I’ve already spend over $200 dollars on a new outfit and hiking shoes for this camping trip, that I’ll hopefully never have to wear again.”
“I’m sure we’ll have a great time.”
She nodded. “Thanks. I have no clue how this is going to turn out or what we’re going to do over there. But I have a good feeling about all of this.”
That sense of resolve remained on her face, and in the tone of her voice. This clearly meant a lot to her for whatever reason.
“So now that we’ve spent a couple hours out here, are you a little less afraid of being in the outdoors?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said hesitantly. “But at least we’ve got to spend a lot of quality time together, right? I’ve been so busy lately since my recent promotion, and you’ve got your hands full with college. So it’s nice to be able to connect with each other again.”
“Good point. We haven’t done anything like this in a while.”
She nodded. “Well I’m glad that this trip hasn’t been a total loss. I can’t wait until we get back to the city where there’s power and running water and a clean place to live.”
“What’s this fear you have with nature anyway?” I asked. “I think that’s what you mentioned yesterday, that you had a phobia or something. You never told me that before.”
“It’s nothing you’d be interested in.”
There was a passive look on her face, like she wanted to move on, but that only made me more curious.
“Come on mom, I’m majoring in psychology for a reason. Maybe one day I’ll be in the shoes of your therapist helping people who really need it.”
“Fine,” she said with a small huff. “When I was a little girl, our family went camping. One afternoon we went out for a hike and we ran into a grizzly bear. It wasn’t a close encounter or anything, the bear was minding its own business across the river. But I remember absolutely freaking out and running for my life in the other direction. Since then I vowed to never return to the outdoors.”
“That’s the reason?” I asked with a smile. “It sounds like the bear wasn’t even close to hurting you.”
“You weren’t there at the time to see it. It was big and scary.”
“That’s true I guess. So what about your other reasons for seeing a therapist? Running from a bear can’t be the only thing that’s making you shell out thousands of dollars to go talk to a professional.”
“That part is off limits mister,” she said in a motherly tone.
“Now you’ve got me even more curious. Come on mom. It’s just us in the woods. You said you wanted us to spent quality time together, right? That’s what people do when they camp and sit by the fireplace, they let their guards down and share revealing stories about themselves.”
She paused for a moment and stared at me. “I’m seeing a therapist because I have…intimacy issues.”
Mom looked genuinely conflicted about whether she should continue or not.
She took a deep breath. “I’ve only had three orgasms in my life because I have a hard time being comfortable with a man, or even with myself. There, now you know my little secret.”
“Oh…” I gasped, not knowing how to react.
“So there’s your honest answer. That’s why I never wanted to go into detail about why I’m seeing a therapist; because it’s embarrassing to talk about.”
“It’s really nothing to be ashamed of though,” I replied in a reassuring way. “Lots of women have intimacy issues. It’s definitely treatable based on the new research that’s out there.”
She gave a forced smile. “I know. My therapist says the same thing. We both agree that it stems from my own insecurities that I have. I’ve always been insecure about the way I look, among other things.”
For a moment, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There was no doubt she was an attractive woman and had always presented herself with confidence and grace. But like most people with these sorts of issues, you can never really tell what’s going on underneath the surface.
“That’s common with many women. Even famous supermodels and actresses say they feel insecure about their appearance sometimes. And for what it’s worth, I think you’re a very beautiful woman. Seriously, whenever we go out together, it gets awkward seeing other guys look you over.”
“Thanks,” she smiled. “That means a lot coming from a stud like you. But it takes a little more than a few compliments and a few random guys hitting on me to fix my issues. I don’t know. I had a special connection with your father and even that wasn’t enough for me to fully enjoy intimacy. It’s been impossible to find someone else that I can connect with like that.”
“So that’s why you haven’t been on many dates?”
“Basically. It could be a great guy asking for my number, and I would always find a reason to say no. Either that or I would find a way to screw things up because I always think he’s going to reject me in the end.”
“You’re the kind of woman who can get any man she wants,” I replied. “Seriously, you’re beautiful, smart, funny, and you’re pretty good at cooking and cleaning. You’re a total package.”
She laughed. “Oh really? I guess that does sound like a pretty good deal for a man, minus being able to provide good sex, since…well…nevermind. That was inappropriate. I shouldn’t have brought that part up.”