Howard Stern's Long Struggle and Neurotic Triumph

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Do you remember the first person you were with and if that was a letdown?
No, it wasn't a letdown at all. It was amazing. Don't forget, I'd been a faithful husband for 25 years, and I wasn't the cheating type. And my marriage ending blew my mind. I was upset that I failed and let down my family, my kids, my ex-wife. It all was very painful. But as far as being with somebody new, it certainly wasn't unpleasant. It was kind of exciting, but at some point, it became like I was on autopilot. I don't know what I was doing: I wasn't thinking of myself as a human being who valued myself. This sounds crazy to a 17-year-old boy sitting in his room saying, "Hey, man, fuck everyone." But it wasn't what it was all cracked up to be.

In what other ways?
It seemed really bad when you were with somebody and you're not that into them. And you're saying, "OK, I'm done with you," and throwing someone out with the garbage. I mean, I don't know how guys do it. It's not fair. And sure, for any guy, of course, if no one's feelings got hurt and you could just fuck everyone, that's great, but it just doesn't work that way.

That's why the Charlie Sheens get prostitutes.
I'm too germ-phobic.

Also, for you, I think it's not about just getting your rocks off, it's about being desired. That's the truth. Not feeling inside that you can value the radio show or the Letter-man appearance you've just done, but you need that woman to value you in order for you to feel valuable. That's the saddest life. It's the worst kind of life.

It's interesting, you choose not to have this life, yet you sell it on the radio show.
It's funny that people's perception of me is that I'm some sort of wild animal when, in fact, I'm interested in interviewing the wild animal because I am so controlled. I'm fascinated by the out-of-control guy or exploring the porn star who has completely defied her family, her morality and values. And I'm like, "Wow, tell me about that. How do you get to that point? Part of what you're saying I kind of admire, but then again, you're destroying yourself too."

I sort of admire Charlie Sheen's ability to say fuck you to the world. It's a fascinating car wreck because, you know, how many people are in Hollywood dying for a hit television show? I don't know whether to give him a medal or to throw him in a loony bin. He doesn't care, and that's not me. Oh, I care! I care what my parents think, I care what you think, I care too much. In a way, I'm in as weird a place as Charlie Sheen. He doesn't care at all and I care too much. Where's the middle ground?

I'm curious to do an exercise with you. Do you have any paper?
Where do I have a piece of paper? [Searches his office] You'd think a guy who walks around writing dick jokes all day would have a piece of paper [grabs a Post-it pad]. Can I do it on one of these little fuckers?

That works. Now go back to when you were between the ages of three and 12, and draw a graph of your immediate family: your mom, your dad, your sister and you. Make the men triangles and the women circles, and position them on the paper in terms of how emotionally close you felt each person was to each other.
So here's me on the graph, and here's my father. Here's my sister and my mother, and here's my emotional closeness. [He draws a triangle and a circle next to each other at the top of the paper, representing his parents. He then draws a circle representing his sister just below them. Then he draws himself as a tiny dot, all alone, in the bottom corner of the paper. As an afterthought, he draws a line connecting each shape – except his dot.]

That explains everything right there. That's your disconnection from people and your view of yourself as an outsider. That's your emotional DNA.
You see, my father was very emotionally cut off from me. He worked long hours, got home at about 7:00 and left early in the morning. I don't ever remember my father in my entire childhood saying, "How are you feeling?" or "How are you doing?" My father had no interest. I had some really interesting experiences as a kid growing up in an all-black neighborhood, and no one thought to ask me how I was handling it. It didn't matter what I thought, even emotionally. My mother and I had many conversations, but most of them were about her, her upbringing, her development and how I could please her. And my sister is great, but we were never emotionally close. So I think that a lot of my inability to get close with people is based on all of that. I was always an outsider.

Usually people draw themselves the same size as everyone else, but you made yourself a dot.
Oh, I was. I did that intentionally. It's almost humiliating to me because that's what I felt like. Like there's these two big circles and a triangle, and I'm down here. Notice they're all joined together by a line and I'm outside of it.

It's sad to me, because I adore my parents. My parents are still alive and I see them quite a bit, and they're terrific people and my biggest cheerleaders. But when I was young, I was very misunderstood and I was put into a lot of dangerous situations that they didn't really look into.

In terms of?
If you look up the neighborhood I grew up in, it's horrendous. It's such a bad neighborhood, and it was so disturbing to be one of the few white families left in the community. And my parents never came to me and discussed it. You would think all of your friends moving away within a period of a year – every friend you ever had – would be something that might be open for discussion. And yet I never complained about it to my parents. I never allowed myself to feel anything about it. I still don't know what I feel about it. Why didn't I feel comfortable enough to say, "I can't handle this"? Why did I want to be a hero and a martyr to my mother and father?

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