DEAR AMY: I'm getting married next year and my fiance has just disclosed to me that he has a tickling fetish. I'm very naive sexually and I have never heard of that so I looked it up online and found lots of sites dedicated to the tickling fetish. I love him a lot, and I want to know if this is normal or common. — Not Laughing
DEAR NOT: I shared your letter with psychologist Jesse Bering, author of "Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us" (2013, Scientific American/Farrar Straus & Giroux), who answers below:
"It's unclear if your fiance is a true "titillagniac" (someone whose primary means of sexual gratification is tickling), but since that's extremely rare, more likely he simply has a light tickle kink. In fact, as you have already discovered online with the many fetish websites devoted explicitly to this practice, consensual tickling is usually quite harmless. The key word is consensual.
"As anyone who was ever brutalized by an older sibling's incessant tickling can tell you, tickling done mercilessly against one's will is unadulterated torture. In 1947, the psychiatrist Emil Gutheil described the case of a sadistic titillagniac, a married 39-year-old lawyer whose recurring fantasies involved tickling a woman to death — or at least until she'd convulse, foam at the mouth and lose consciousness. But that's an extreme example, and there's no reason to assume your fiance would ever force you to indulge in such viciousness.
"In any event, whether his carnal impulses are sadistic or innocuous, one thing to note is that his ticklish desires aren't likely to ever go away. So if you're really 'not laughing' at all about this, you should know going into the marriage that he'll always crave a more understanding partner who trusts him enough not to be cruel, and who'd permit him, with limits, his 'deviant' desires."
My own advice to you is more run-of-the-mill. Whether it is a sexual matter, financial issue or a basic value such as sharing household chores — you two are already doing the right thing, pre-marriage: He is telling you something important about himself and you are carefully considering the impact on you. Communicating honestly and thoughtfully about this — and other matters — will strengthen your relationship, possibly even more than sharing a benign sexual fetish would do.
DEAR AMY: I'm interested in your recent questions regarding contacting biological fathers.
This is my story: When I was a teen in the 1970s I fantasized about finding my biological father. I hoped that he would be wealthy and love me. When I was 18 my mother told me his name and hometown. Miraculously I located him. He turned out to be unmarried and a marijuana farmer. Through him I discovered I had three other siblings, all from different women. All are now deceased.
Ten years after I met my biological father he was convicted of murder and remained in prison until his death in 2012.
Finding him was important because it cured my curiosity and I realized how lucky I was that my mom didn't marry him. It helped me appreciate my adopted father immensely.
My current dilemma is that I have never told my own kids (who are teenagers) that their grandfather (who is now deceased) is my adopted father.
I have done this out of respect for my mother. She has always been reluctant to be open about my biological father. Now I'm not sure it matters. My real father is the dad who adopted and raised me. Does it matter that my biological father was someone else? — Wondering
DEAR WONDERING: You have framed this perfectly. But I believe the reason to tell your children about your bio parentage is so they will know both the cracked humanity and the beautiful fullness of your story. And because it's the truth.
DEAR AMY: "Grateful for the Gift" wanted to return a hand-knit sweater a girlfriend had made for him 40 years ago. This guy's query was all about him and all about his ex-girlfriend. I found myself wondering, "Hmm. I wonder what his wife thinks about this?" — Reliable Reader
DEAR RELIABLE: Hmmm. Somehow, "Grateful's" wife was acknowledged but otherwise never mentioned. Good catch.
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamytribune.com. You can also follow her on Twitter askingamy or "like" her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.)