“Every family has a skeleton in the closet.”
And so begins the book “The Truth: An uncomfortable book about relationships”, the latest by New York Times bestselling author Neil Strauss. You may remember the book that Neil Strauss is most well known for “The Game”, his journey and even enrollment into the fraternity of pick up artists. A contributor for the Rolling Stone at the time, Strauss had typically written about musicians and rock stars. In The Game, Strauss writes about the rock stars of the seduction world – and then becomes one.
If The Game is the handbook for everything having to do with using the power of psychological manipulation to create attraction with women, then The Truth is a handbook on how to deal with the nuclear-like fall out of those powers and the reality of trying to find true intimacy while being surrounded by around-the-clock temptations.
The Truth, like The Game, is a memoir and a brutally honest and revealing one at that. It’s a journey of exploration, inspiration and ultimately redemption – but this is not your typical redemption narrative. Not by a long shot.
What begins as an affair on his girlfriend Ingrid, results in Strauss checking into an addiction clinic after concluding his wondering eye (and penis) are the result of a sex addiction. Within a few pages of the front cover Ingrid is warned not once, but twice to NOT read the book.
He checks into the clinic:
A hairy man in green hospital scrubs takes my luggage, stretches a pair of latex gloves over his hammy fists, and starts searching for contraband.
“We don’t allow books here.”
The only other place I’ve been where books are confiscated is North Korea. Taking away books is a tactic of dictators and others who don’t want people to have an original thought. Even in prison, inmates are allowed to have books.
But this is my punishment, I tell myself. I’m here to be retrained, to learn how to be a decent human being. I’ve hurt people. I deserve to be in this hospital, this prison, this asylum, this convalescent home for weak men and women who can’t say no.
They treat all addictions here: alcohol, drugs, sex, food, even exercise.
Too much of anything can be a bad thing. Even love.
Their specialty is love addiction.
But I am not a love addict. I wish I were. That sounds much more socially acceptable. There’s probably a special place in heaven for love addicts, along with all the other martyrs.
The attendant drops my nail clippers, tweezers, razor, and razor blade into a manila envelope. “I’m going to have to take these too”
“Can I shave first? I didn’t have time to shave this morning.”
“New arrivals can’t use razors for three days while on suicide watch. After that, you need your psychiatrist’s permission”
“But how can you commit suicide with nail clippers?” I’m not very good with rules. That’s another reason I’m here. “Mine don’t even have a file attached.”
He is silent.
You can’t fix most problems with rules, any more than you can with laws. They’re too inflexible. They break. Common sense is flexible. And I’m clearly in a place devoid of it. “If I wanted to kill myself, I’d just use my belt. And you didn’t take that.”
I say it with a smile, to show I’m not angry. I just want to let him know that this system doesn’t work. He looks me up and down, says nothing, then writes something in my folder. I’m never getting that razor back.
It’s at this point the book becomes not only an entertaining story of a man’s search for freedom, acceptance and self understanding, but an enlightening resource for finding the definition of relationships and love. It is as informative as it is shocking as the author’s writing style keeps the reader captivated and entertained even during the most awkward and uncomfortable scenes. There are many.
And then there’s that family skeleton. I won’t spoil it, and you’d never guess it, but it turns out the family dynamic and relationship with our parents is stealthily influencing our romantic decisions and direction – an unfolding revelation to Strauss. In the author’s case, a smothering “enmeshment” relationship with his mother and the mostly absent relationship with his father were at play, interfering with his own authenticity and leading him on a road away from finding true love. And that road is paved with cult-ish polyamory conventions, orgies, swinger clubs, sex clubs, switch clubs, harem relationships and pretty much anything else one could imagine – or have never imagined.
In the end, The Truth is a love story. A love story of self-acceptance leading to authentic and healthy happiness, and my latest choice for the Editor’s Pick.