Usually your info is right on the mark, but your reply to June--who's in love with her cousin Bill--contained errors. First, and most importantly, first cousins are allowed to marry in 25 of our 50 states, and the marriages are honored as legal in all of them. Doctors have also begun to revise their opinions on the "high risk" of first-cousin procreation. The risk is higher than it would be if you weren't first cousins, but many first-cousin pairs have had healthy babies. Just see your friendly neighborhood genetic consultant before you start trying.
As far as "chilly receptions at family reunions" are concerned, that's not inevitable, either. When I first became romantically involved with my cousin, the relatives' reactions ranged from indifference to strong enthusiasm. Only a couple of family members actively disapproved, and even they are coming around now that we've been together for a couple of years and will be marrying quite soon. One big plus: you'll never have to argue about whose family gathering to attend on holidays!
Of course, some family members and friends may give you a hard time because there's a lot of ignorance on this subject (even Dan Savage was misinformed!). One thing you can mention if anyone gives you the "only uneducated trailer-trash types marry first cousins" line (we've heard that one): both Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin married first cousins. So, Dan, I understand, given your misconceptions, why you compared love between cousins to being gay, but I only wish my gay friends had the legal rights and family support for their relationships that I have for mine! Well, some day, if people of good faith refuse to shut up and go away, there may be real equality in this country. Anyway, I just wanted Jane and Bill to know that the picture is not as bleak for them as the one you painted. --A Happily Kissing Cousin in the Enlightened State of New York
Hey, Kissing Cousin:
Thanks for writing. I was so sure that first cousins couldn't marry that I didn't even bother to have Kevin, my sniveling research assistant, look it up. Interestingly enough, no one else in the editorial pipeline spotted the mistake, so the misconception must be pretty commonly held. You have all my best wishes, and I'm sure you and your cousin will be very happy together.
Sweetheart, you missed the point with T.C.'s letter concerning being forced to suck a dick that just fucked him. No one should be forced to perform any sex act they don't want to. Sex is fun, remember? Uh, earth to Dan: where in the hell are you? --Momma Sue
Where am I? On a planet that has not yet criminalized hyberbole, dipshit. It was pretty clear from T.C.'s letter--the tone of it, the questions--that he's involved in a BD/SM/Dom/sub kind of relationship, where being quote-unquote "forced" to do things by his partner turns him on. Earth to Sue: For some people, force is fun--and so long as it's consensual, there ain't nothing wrong with it.
I'd like to take issue with your "red-hot insight" that "sending poems screams 'DO NOT CONSIDER DATING ME, AS I AM A GEEK.' I realize that these days any whiff of romance or, God help us, emotional intimacy is considered uncool. But why should poetry scream "geek" any louder than leather screams "thug" or sex toys scream "pervert"? You're right: poetry is difficult to pull off. Most greeting cards are an example of just how mawkish and clumsy poems can be. Should we abandon verse entirely just because it's problematic? Your insistence that "if you absolutely must send a poem, DO NOT send one you wrote yourself" is a bit like telling the would-be lover not to attempt baking cakes or cookies, since only a confectioner can make them properly. It's true, a soppy poem can send pretty heavy signals. But sometimes I should think the simple lowering of barriers is enough: your poem may be appreciated for its intent rather than its rhyme, scansion, and tastefulness. Besides, Nineties Man, you're going to have to drop those barriers sooner or later. If the love object takes fright when you pull out a poem, what's he or she going to do when you pull out a dildo or--let's be old-fashioned for a moment--a dozen red roses? --Unabashed Romantic
Pulling out a dildo is infinitely more romantic than pulling out a poem--unless, of course, the dildo is already in your ass (or twat), in which case leaving it be would be more romantic.
But I admit to being kind of philistine when it comes to poetry, to say nothing of having a rather pronounced prodildo bias. So I asked Lynn Emanuel, a poet who lives in poetic Pittsburgh, PA, if she thinks love poems are a good idea. "It's hard to write love poems these days / Because there's such incredible weight / Centuries of love poems / That you come up against." Does Lynn write love poems? "No, never / I've been married / Twenty-five years / To the same person," who's apparently more husband than muse. If Lynn were single, would poetry be a weapon in her love arsenal? "No it wouldn't / Because then it's in service / Of some practical end." Do Lynn and the husband exchange poems on Valentine's Day? Does her husband send her a card with some horrible "Roses are red / Violets are blue" crap in it? "No he doesn't / On Valentine's Day / We go out to dinner / Instead." Lynn's brilliant collections of sensual, nonlove poems--The Dig and Hotel Fiesta--are available from University of Illinois Press.
Your friend at "Say Cheese" has no idea what he's talking about in terms of the taste of breast milk. Breast milk is lighter and sweeter than the milk you buy at the store, much like the milk left over after finishing your Cap'n Crunch, but thinner. I don't think it varies that much due to diet. I know I'm no health nut, and mine tasted just fine, and certainly not "awful." Next time you get a question like that, you'd be better off calling the La Leche League. --CW
PS: The closest I can think of to the cheese breast milk would make is probably feta.
Thanks for writing, and right you are about the taste of human breast milk: I asked a friend who's breast-feeding if I could have a sip. She's a meat-eating heavy drinker who smokes cigs and used to do a lot of drugs--if anybody's breast milk should taste like used motor oil, it's hers. Well, lo and behold, her milk tasted...pretty sweet. I wouldn't compare it to post-Cap'n Crunch milk, which is usually pretty hard to taste as the roof of my mouth is usually bleeding too profusely after a bowl to taste anything but blood. No, I thought it was more like the milky leftovers after a bowl of Golden Grahams or Honey Nut Cheerios. And by the way, no, I did not imbibe from the source--my accommodating friend squirted a few drops onto a tablespoon. There are some things even I won't do.
Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.