Probation by Tom Mendicino

ProbAndy is on probation after being arrested for soliciting in a ‘tea room’ in North Carolina. His wife throws him out and his boss, who happens also to be his father-in-law, sacks him so he has to go and live with his mother (who never discusses the incident) and gets a job as a travelling salesman. The court ordered him to see a psychiatrist (who is also a Jesuit priest) and this meeting becomes the highlight of his week.

Some in our group identified with him because they had formerly tried to be “normal”.

During a thought-provoking identity crisis, wondering if his infidelity sentences him to a lifetime of never finding true love and happiness he is forced to face his own mortality in dealing with his mother’s lymphoma diagnosis.

His life is mundane: whiskey on his breath, sticky armpits, itchy balls, sales totals, mortality arithmetic – how many more chops will he eat before he dies?

There’s the usual stereotypes: living with mother, remote father, distant wife after a miscarriage, scratching palm when shaking hands = secret signal of closeted homosexuals? The priest/therapist seems to hint at overbearing mother idea

There’s typical closet behaviour: how will he explain his car breaking down in the parking lot of an adult book store?

Then there’s his sister – a stranger that once shared same surname.

What is it about priests and closet gays? A seminar work about married men using toilets is the PhD thesis of a priest, Laud Humphreys, called ‘tearoom trade’.

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