In Dry, gifted memoirist Augusten Burroughs discussed his serious battle with alcoholism. Now, in his newest gift to fans, he goes after past romantic relationships — the good, the bad and the very ugly. In his usual brash, brave style, he doesn't pull any punches.
When we spoke recently, I asked Burroughs about the possible backlash over Lust and Wonder. Although he admittedly did not talk to any of his exes before writing the new memoir, he said, "I hope not. You can't ever predict how people are going to react, but I have to tell my story."
I've been following Burroughs' career for ages now, so I'm used to being horrified and amused in equal measure. Yet, Lust and Wonder even had me wincing, possibly because, for the first time, I could see myself in the scenarios set forth. I saw myself in the crazy.
Free from his alcohol addiction, Burroughs expected everything to be peachy keen, expected his life to just fall into place like a movie rom-com. Instead ... "I'd gotten through all those years sober," he said, "which I thought should have been a cake walk. I thought everything was supposed to fall together, and I would be in this happy, normal relationship, doing things correctly, right? And I was just really unhappy, all the while telling myself how happy I was."
I learned some things, too. For instance, I never considered there could be an expiration date for first-time sex in a new relationship. However, as Burroughs learned, there is such a thing as waiting too long for sex, unfortunately, discovered the hard way (no irony intended), with his boyfriend, Dennis.
He said, "As soon as I started writing about my experiences, the book just sort of exploded. I couldn't stop. It's interesting because it's stuff I don't want to write about. I don't want to be back in that awful relationship when I was lying to myself. I don't want to examine that, but that's what I had to do. Writing about my life is how I understand it, how I figure it out."
Burroughs said, "In that particular case, I think, we were so sexually incompatible. It was like, 'Uh-oh, this is who I've decided is going to be The One. I'm going to make it work. I'm going to be normal. I'm going to be sane. I'm not going to be crazy anymore. He's obviously good for me, so we're going to make it work. The sex will get better. It'll be fine.' And it just didn't work out that way at all."
Spoiler! Spoiler! Burroughs is now happily, gleefully married, which is why he can now openly admit that sex is a necessity in all romantic relationships. In regards to his experience with Dennis, he said, "The sex was indicative of the end — of the completely broken nature of that relationship. It never got better. I was trying to lie to myself, but our sexual relationship was asking, 'Really? Are you sure? Then, why are you not doing anything in the bedroom?' Sex is important in a relationship.
"I was trying to tell myself it was not important, grabbing on to any article I could find that told me relationships were more than just sex — thrilled at statistics about how little sex people had in relationships. It’s normal! It’s good! Now, I understand it's not. Marriage needs to be intimate, with that deep level of trust, that deep connection. We are sexual beings; it needs to be woven into the fabric of the relationship."
So, OK, yes, Lust and Wonder has a happy ending, but it's not my fault you're hearing this! You can Google Burroughs and find out as much, OK? It's the journey that matters, and well, it's a heck of a journey.
The man went through hell and high water to find his dream guy, but in the end, it was all worth it, so much so that Burroughs told me, "It was worth every single awful thing that ever happened to me. Being with my husband has been the most amazing relationship of my life — the most unexpected and yet the most inevitable.
"He's the person who's read every thought that I've put down on paper. To have someone react so well, to accept all the different parts of my personality... the dents and tears and rips, the parts that are messy that I want to get rid of… Someone who responds so well has been a real revelation to me. It's really helped me to accept myself."
Which is, really, what he believes happiness is all about.
Ever since he was a little kid, Burroughs wanted to be famous. Then, he got famous and realized he wasn't happy at all. He said, "A lot of the things I thought I wanted, I didn't give a s*** about. A lot of the things that come along with fame, I don't want. It could not matter less."
What does matter, Mr. Burroughs?
"Being with someone who I just worship, respect, admire and love — and to feel that's reciprocated. To be completely understood by someone while being completely natural, completely myself. Letting myself be who I actually am and not who I think I should be or want to be."
And that, people, is a thing of wonder.
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