[Two Pronged] Obesity and penile dysfunction
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes. Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years, as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Together, they have written two books: "Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality" and "Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons."
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer (translated from Taglish):
I want to share my story about what happened to me and my friend (male) when I started discussing ED (erectile dysfunction) and PE (premature ejaculation) with him. We had been chatting for almost a year and once I mentioned about obese or overweight people having problems in this area. He is overweight and when I mentioned those things with him I was not particularly referring to him. I just want to inform him about what I know about these things.
He was offended and started showing indifference and became kind of "cold" whenever we chat. He said he didn’t expect women to discuss these things. He was even more surprised because, in addition to being a woman, I am also a very religious person.
This makes me angry too because, for him, it is not seemly for a religious woman to discuss things like ED and PE. I told him that talking about those things has nothing to do with my gender or how religious I am because ED and PE are dysfunctions. This is scientific talk and there was no malice when I opened up the subject.
Never did I expect him to have such a narrow mind. Now we no longer talk to each other. I’m frustrated because he has a child from his annulled marriage. How can he teach his child about these things when he himself is not open to such topics?
I really got depressed because I expected a more mature response from him, given that he’s 44 years old and I’m 46. It’s pretty obvious we’re both already adults.
Somehow he must have experience about these things because he was married whereas I am “single na single.”
Does this make me a bad, vulgar person, Doc and Mr Baer? Perhaps I am also at fault because I was so sure I knew him well even if we haven’t met in person yet. Does his reaction have to do with his past? His wife left him for another man. Is that why his reaction was like that?
I just want to know or maybe justify my action. I want to know if I was really wrong, or is he so medieval about these things? Thank you so much! - Ellen
Thank you for your message and your story, which I have to confess has left me feeling rather unsympathetic to your cause.
After chatting for almost a year to your overweight friend (let’s call him Joe), you say you decided to give him the benefit of your scientific knowledge about the interrelation between obesity and the dysfunctions ED/PE. You claim that this was not because Joe was overweight himself but because you know a lot about the topic.
At this point, most rational people would suspect that you had gone beyond the boundaries of your Internet friendship and entered some very dangerous waters indeed. Unless Joe had given you very clear signals that he would be relaxed about this sort of conversation, and you make no mention of any, it is difficult not to sympathize with his negative reaction. He obviously thought that your comments were directed at him personally and furthermore that you had abused the relationship between the two of you by discussing matters which were none of your business, even if you dressed them up as science.
Up to this point, I would have said that perhaps you had been foolhardy but that your intentions had probably been honorable. However, the rest of the information that you have given us suggests otherwise.
You say that Joe was surprised that a woman — and a religious one at that — would raise these subjects with him. You accuse him of immaturity for not being open-minded enough to discuss these topics and you castigate him for being potentially a bad parent as he will be unwilling to teach his children about ED/PE. You even suggest that his wife leaving him might be related to his reaction to your "scientific discussion."
You seem totally unaware that Joe might think that you have abused his friendship. Discussions of ED/PE are not the stuff of everyday chats, whether on the Internet or any other medium, and many men are unwilling to talk about sex — much less their own intimate sexual problems — with any woman, even a doctor. Furthermore, given that many religions take a rather conservative view of sexual matters, a conversation with a religious woman would be even more uncomfortable and unwelcome. Unless Joe clearly gave you permission to broach these topics, it was arrogant, insensitive and inconsiderate in the extreme for you to do so.
As for all this nonsense about maturity and parenting, it does not seem to have occurred to you that just because Joe did not want to talk to you about ED/PE, that does not mean he would not discuss these things with others.
So, are you a bad and/or vulgar person? No, I don’t think you are bad or vulgar, based on your story. You just seem to be short of a few social skills, like understanding the limits of friendship and being sensitive to the relationship between what are appropriate topics and the stages through which a friendship develops. Addressing these issues will make life a lot easier for you in the future.
Best of luck. - Jeremy
Thank you very much for your letter but we cannot really help you with what I feel is what you really want. Ostensibly, you want to know if you were a “bad, vulgar” person for what you did. But it is obvious, even to you, that you were not. So asking us this is merely wanting a kakampi (ally), someone 100% on your side, “right or wrong.”
This issue here is not about who behaved appropriately, but if either or both of you want this relationship to continue. It is clear you definitely would, despite all that’s happened between you.
Because if you didn’t, Ellen, you wouldn’t need to justify your actions. If your relationship with him wasn’t important to you, you wouldn’t have felt as frustrated, depressed and tried so hard to convince him that this was “scientific talk” and not meant to be personal. If your relationship wasn’t important, it would’ve died a natural death by now, with you shrugging an easy “win some, lose some” to yourself or anyone who asked about your relationship.
But you are still raging, Ellen. It is time to look into yourself to see why you are. Is it really only because you are angry at him or angry at yourself for having misjudged your relationship, for how you were indignant and pikon (ungracious) when, instead of marveling at your scientific knowledge, he told you what he thought of you. Granted, attacking your seemingly innocent attempts to deepen your relationship may not have been the thanks you’d hoped for, but you did not have to counter-attack him. You could’ve apologized for your miscalculation and he would probably have left it at that.
Bilal Ilyas, a Pakistani-born religious leader and founder of a Muslim religious organization once said: “To be kind is more important than to be right…Many times what people need is not a brilliant mind that seeks, but a special heart that listens.”
Perhaps this is what he had hoped for from you and, I daresay, what you hoped for from him. Maybe it is not too late, but you will have to make the first move. And just in case it is too late, one can always learn from one’s mistakes, yes?
All the best - Margie
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