"I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”
My 4th grade girlfriend recently moved to Los Angeles. We’re more akin to siblings now than anything and I’m thrilled she’s living only 2 minutes away, 4 with traffic. She moved in with the love of her life, her new amazing girlfriend.
Last week 4th grade girlfriend and I had drinks. After an hour of repeatedly interrupting each other to ask the other more questions about their life, out she burst “there’s something serious we need to discuss.”
My crime - I made a rape joke during a recent Passover seder and offended her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s younger sister visiting from the Midwest. Bright red and sweating, I threw up my hands in the air. What can I do to make this better? Send an email, write a letter, make a phone call, stop by the house, send a truckload of flowers, buy a pony?
4th grade girlfriend said “I know you’re a hopeless romantic and you worship women and would never intend to say anything mean but you made a rape joke that didn’t land well.”
What percentage of rape jokes land well? Since July 2012 when Daniel Tosh bungled a gang-rape joke to a heckler, hundreds of diagnostic articles arose about what’s permissible rape humor. This isn’t one of those pieces. Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Sarah Silverman, Louis CK, Amy Schumer and Chelsea Peretti, some of the greatest comics have made rape jokes that land perfectly. Naturally, I’m not them.
I asked what the joke was but she said neither of them could remember but of course recalled its offensiveness. I scoured my brain, nothing. Was it a joke about raping a woman or using rape as a verb in the context of something else? 4th grade girlfriend questioned why I was asking. Because I’m in the longest drought of my life and occasionally masturbation feels like rape, like the authorities have been notified, like my dick already filed a temporary restraining order against my hands and it’s all downhill from here. To self-pacify, I tell myself chances are it was a self-rape joke. Fortunately 4th grade girlfriend laughed, sympathized about the drought, but nonetheless and allthemoreso reprimanded me about why the concept of rape is sufficiently offensive in any context.
She said it’s fixable with an apology email and by telling her girlfriend that she tore me a new asshole about my behavior. Being torn a new asshole was the last phrase I’d use in a missive apologizing for a failed rape-joke.
Then I learned that 4th grade girlfriend’s girlfriend is super protective of her younger sister and younger sister is a 30 year-old virgin hypersensitive about anything sexual.
I sent an apology email later that night and hardly slept because the guilt was overwhelming. I confessed to myself that my humor sprints from the sacred to the profane in nanoseconds, but my intention is never ever to make someone feel shitty about their life or offend anyone. I tossed and turned and felt so guilty I couldn’t even masturbate. Ok, I tried, unsuccessfully - but it felt like every woman there knew about the rape joke. They all talk.
I slipped into a deep abyss of contemplating what sex meant to me. I re-made my list of every woman I’ve ever been with. Did I treat them well? Was I as obsessively generous a lover as I think I am? Did I ever make a rape joke to any of them? Have I ever had a rape fantasy? How do I treat animals? When was the last time I cried during a romantic comedy? How’s my relationship with my mother? It went deep, and pathetic, and I ate pretty much everything in my house to stave off slipping even deeper into a shame spiral. A chocolate bar, leftover pizza, half a piece of salmon, popcorn, spoonfuls of peanut butter and a tall glass of vodka DO NOT REDUCE SHAME SPIRALS.
4th grade girlfriend’s girlfriend accepted my apology but still doesn’t know what the joke was. It’s not like I can ask her. What if it’s some of my best material?