Oedipus started it, Sigmund Freud called it a complex, now the Internet desperately wants to believe it's true. Mother-son intimacy is so taboo in our culture that we're starting to question even innocent embraces.
I'm talking about this month's Web fury over photos of model Stephanie Seymour and her 18-year-old son hugging and kissing on a St. Barts beach. The gossip website Gawker first posted the pics, which quickly become one of the most-searched topics on Google. A torrent of blogs and snarky comments followed about whether or not Seymour and her son, Peter, are in an inappropriate relationship. In one photo, the son's hand brushes against his mom's breast; in another, the Velcro on his swimsuit sticks out, causing some to speculate he has "a boner."
"What teenage boy kisses his mom's hand, closes his eyes to plant a kiss on her, oh and grabs her boob too?" one poster asked.
To which Seymour's son publicly replied, "I'm gay, you idiots."
It's sad that it takes a kid professing his homosexuality to call off the virtual dogs. Are we that eager to believe a mom and son are getting it on?
Mom bloggers have been strangely quiet on the issue. (I think most of us were stunned that Seymour at 41 can look that smokin' hot in a bikini after giving birth to four kids.) It was pretty clear to me from looking at the photos that these two were merely being affectionate with each other, like any mother and her son, and that the photographs just caught a few awkward moments from a day at the beach spent with the kids. (Peter's siblings are frolicking around in several photos.) I have no doubt the ruckus wouldn't even exist if Seymour was an overweight, unattractive mom of four on a beach on the Jersey Shore, instead of a voluptuous former Victoria's Secret and Sports Illustrated model wearing a nude-colored two piece in the French West Indies. Or if Peter was 4, not 18.
At what point does physical affection between a mother and son become "inappropriate?" Can a mother-child relationship be too close? I know two teenage boys who still sometimes plop down on their mothers' laps. My 11-year-old daughter does the same, even though she's the same size as me and her legs and arms hang over from all angles. Do we really think that kids stop craving their mom's affection once they reach puberty?
"I would just like to say that these pictures have been taken completely out of context," Seymour's son told the press. "My mother and I are very close, as she is with all her children. She often hugs and kisses me and my siblings in a manner that is intimate. Any mother in the world does the same … That day on the beach, we walked around with each other completely aware of the presence of photographers there. We have nothing to hide."
If we can't even handle a mother and her son cheek-kissing and embracing each other, what are we going to do about a full-on-the-lips smooch? We may have to wait for Angelina Jolie's sons to grow up for that one.