Biff America: From feast to famine |

Biff America: From feast to famine

To the best of my knowledge (and disappointment while single), I have never met a real-life nymphomaniac. Donald Doucette married one.

Donald was born in the early 1900s, at a time when and in a place where the Catholic Church held sway. The oldest of six boys, he was both the most serious and the most spiritual. He might have become a priest had it not been for wanderlust. Don joined the Merchant Marine when he was 17 and traveled the world, returning home over a decade later hoping to land a job and find a wife.

I’ve only seen pictures of Donald’s wife, Florence; she didn’t look like a nympho. She had curly hair, a weak chin and was plump. She too was raised Catholic and, according to legend, was chaste until her wedding night.

Either from Don’s mastery of faire l’amour, or Flo’s biology, that night seemed to open the floodgates.

Donald told his brother that being inexperienced himself, he had nothing to which he could compare his new wife’s carnal appetite. He did say he enjoyed the challenge but hoped things would settle down once they both began working or had children. Flo never got pregnant and before long she began looking for love outside of marriage.

After Flo’s second arrest for solicitation, Donald moved back into his parents’ house.

It seems that nymphomania was simply a symptom of a larger mental problem. It wasn’t too long before Florence became a danger to herself, and her family had no choice but to have her committed. Donald would visit her every Sunday after Mass; often she would do little more than curse at him.

Mary Riley and Donald met at a Christmas social where both were volunteering. By that time, Flo had been in the asylum for eight years and, at her doctor’s suggestion, Donald had stopped visiting.

Mary and Don had much in common. Each was from a large family, both had traveled in their 20s — Mary as an Army nurse — and both were devout Roman Catholics.

Mary and Donald “went together” for more than two decades, but in accordance with the laws of the Catholic Church they could not marry while Don’s wife still lived — “A valid marriage has to endure until one spouse dies.” Had the couple been wealthy and connected there was the option of a papal annulment; but that wasn’t a reality for truck drivers.

Though Don and Mary’s love was robust and their commitment complete, they placed the laws of the church above common sense.

Florence out lasted them both.

I vaguely remember Don and Mary at family functions as the only couple who held hands. Through a child’s eyes Donald appeared worldly and serious — Mary seemed antsy.

A child simply accepts what he sees as normal. I don’t think I ever questioned why Mary was always Don’s “girlfriend,” never his wife. As I got older I learned.

Eventually I understood that they were forbidden, by the laws of the church, to marry. But (certainly after my own sexual awakening) I assumed that biology won out over piety and that they behaved romantically as husband and wife. Not so, according to Donald’s brother. He said he was almost positive they did not. He said Donald was willing but Mary was conflicted. Perhaps that’s why Mary seemed so nervous — she was about to explode. They might have had a wonderful union full of love and companionship and perhaps children. As it was they lived separately and in guilt and frustration. After more than 20 years of that Donald died in his sleep from a heart attack. Two months later Mary followed. She took her own life.

Of course, now it seems so ludicrous that any intelligent person could buy into such a ridiculous and outdated edict just because it was declared law by some ancient pope. But then and now, religious dogma often trumps intellect.

At its best, organized religion is a source of comfort, communion and acceptance of a loving and higher power. But when corrupted by man, doctrine can lead to behaving in an incomprehensible manner in the name of God.

Pick a faith, most are based on the premise of love, charity and fellowship. Then man slips in all that goofy stuff. That was the case back in Don’s day and it still is.

Most of life, love and spirituality is common sense. Be kind, generous, honest, don’t drive like jerk and pick up after your pet.

Now granted, I’m no theological authority. I have as much personal experience in the study of religious history as I do of nymphomania; just the thought of either makes me tired.

Jeffrey Bergeron, aka Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at

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