First Person

Howard Stern kept me sane

"How you can you listen to that shit?" she snarled. "That show is for idiots!"

"Well," I said, "I guess I'm an idiot."

The other girls I dated that summer didn't just hate Stern, they couldn't bear my listening to him even when they weren't around. How could I explain that we weren't hearing the same Stern?

*   *   *

Then in late '92, I met Kris, and it was like I'd ordered her out of the Great Girlfriend Catalog. She was artistic and a sci-fi geek, so we already had plenty in common, and soon I'd managed to get her almost as hooked on comic books as I was. She was practically perfect in every way. Except that, like most females, she was incapable of appreciating Stern.

Kris was convinced I listened to Stern for the strippers, no matter how much I insisted those were my least favorite parts of the show. (Seriously, inarticulate, naked girls . . . on the radio?) She tolerated my being a Stern fan so long as I didn't talk about it. This August, we'll celebrate 14 years of not talking about Howard Stern.

A few years ago, Stern started therapy, and while today's Stern is no sweetie-pie, he's not as gratuitously cruel as he used to be. Recently his politics even made a welcome shift left and he came out furiously against Bush. That move provoked the FCC into hounding Stern off terrestrial radio, but through it all he never shut up about Bush's hypocrisy. Finally, Stern realized shoeless bums are less worthy targets of satire than politicians who ignore suffering Americans while pursuing vendettas against the "indecency" (i.e., grown-up discussion) Stern and I live for.

I dithered for a while before deciding to follow Stern to satellite; it seemed like such trouble to set up—and so much money to pay. But then I considered the idea of radio without Stern, listening to . . . Tom Leykis?Adam Corrolla? I'd rather stop up my ears with superglue.

Shortly before Christmas, I told Kris I'd found a deal on satellite radios. I was about to go buy one, but she kept trying to talk me out of it for various weird, vague reasons. Finally, she admitted the truth.

"I got you a goddamn satellite radio," she snapped. "I knew you wanted one, so you could listen to Stern. Now you know. Happy, asshole?"

Yes. Yes, I was. Happy to know I'd hear Stern in 2006, but also to know that even if I never heard his show again, I no longer needed it as a substitute for everything else my life was lacking. I'm still sick, but I'm a long way from those endless nights when it felt like nobody on Earth wanted to talk to me except Howard Stern. Stern will always be a good friend to me. But I've found a better one.

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