The book that I am about to introduce arose out of one of those innocuous moments during a nondescript social gathering I was attending–an opening at an art gallery, actually–, when I offered an innocent observation that unexpectedly elicited a disproportionate, clamorous response. I probably should have known better, since this sort of thing used to catch me unawares when I was a graduate student in a neuroscience laboratory. The group of us in the lab were studying the role of a particular neuropeptide in different animal behaviors. We’d be sitting at lunch in the Blue Wall Cafe discussing the penis-licking response of male rats prior to intercourse, or the lordosis position of the females and how hard it was to identify the moment of penetration, and we’d abruptly realize that the room had gone quiet, and that the wait staff were treating us like scum.
Same thing in principle at that art gallery. I had meant to be supportive of a friend who was going through a divorce, when I happened to mention a detail or two about a man who had carnal relations with one of his farm animals. I didn’t mean anything by it, really, but for some time afterward I was asked by colleagues, with friendly but obvious disbelief, whether I have actually, really known a farmer who had sex with his cows. One person went so far as to question how the act could be done at all.
To address the last issue first, it was done–while the poor creature was secured by its head in its milking stanchion–by standing behind it on a milking stool. I have further, procedural details, too, like what to do about securing its tail, but under the heading “Way Too Much Information” I will keep such instruction to myself for now. You can ask about it later, if you want to.
To address the first question–whether I have ever known such a gentleman as I am describing–will necessarily introduce descriptions about what a neuropsychologist does all day. Or at least, what this neuropsychologist did while practicing at a large tertiary care Medical Center in New England: he, which is to say I saw a notable range of people–children, adults and elders–with neurological insult of one sort or another. This particular farmer was one of my patients, and had a frontal dementia that was wildly disregulating his behaviors. It was a fatal, degenerative disease–and from just about any position of empathy you can think of, his end couldn’t come soon enough.
As you might imagine, I also saw a large number of absolutely horrified family members, relations who were beside themselves with terror, anxiety and shame. And grief. Because this was not the man they had always known–not the father, not the husband, not the friend. And there was no telling what he might do next.
So I have many stories, and buried among them are probably the elements of why I couldn’t keep doing this anymore. Pretty much every day was a revelation, nothing I ever did was boring.
Let me tell you about my day.