Help! My Closeted Boyfriend Keeps Me at Home When He Goes Out.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 25 2012 5:45 AM

My Love Won’t Speak My Name

My actor boyfriend keeps me a secret so no one will find out he’s gay.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend and I have been together just under three years. It was a whirlwind romance and we have a strong, honest, and loving relationship. We both have fulfilling careers with hectic schedules—I do a lot of traveling overseas. He is now an actor working in Hollywood and he is paranoid about anyone finding out he is gay, even though most people who meet him suspect he is. He's in his mid-20s and still struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. I'm a few years older, and much more comfortable with who I am. He worries about the amount of hate that can be directed at an openly gay public figure in America, despite all the recent high-profile coming-outs, and I understand his dilemma. He’s concerned that his parts will dry up once directors and producers think of him as a “gay” actor. When we met, he was not working in the entertainment industry and we were not burdened with this. The situation is causing huge friction, as I never meet his friends or anyone he has worked with. I stay home or make my own plans when he socializes. I’m not even allowed to friend him on Facebook or any other social media. We had discussed marriage; but that’s now on hold and I'm doubting whether I should base myself permanently in LA with him as we had planned. I have no desire to play the role of a McCarthy-era secret lover. What should I do?

—Invisible Boyfriend

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Dear Invisible,
When a boxer can say he's gay then get cheered upon entering the ring, you truly know the world has changed. It’s one thing for your boyfriend to voluntarily keep himself in the closet. It’s another for him to insist you be shut up in the attic like the mad wife in Jane Eyre. Sure your boyfriend is not going to take out an ad in Variety declaring his love for you. But he’s just a young actor starting out and it’s unlikely the world is that interested in his personal life. As for his career, I’m not suggesting that being gay in Hollywood has no cost, but we’re long past the Rock Hudson era when studios constructed fake heterosexual lives for their gay stars. (Which is not to say that some rumored gay movie stars don’t construct their own heterosexual cover stories.) You say your boyfriend sets off people’s gaydar, so I’m guessing casting directors he’s worked with have noted that, yet have gone ahead and given him straight parts. I’m suspicious about his insistence that you never socialize with him in any domain. Maybe he’s partying with straight friends and pretending to pick up girls. Maybe he’s on the town cheating on you. Given the enormous numbers of gay people in the entertainment industry, he is surely aware that even the most incontrovertible heterosexuals have openly gay colleagues and friends. Whatever is happening, his treatment of you is demeaning and hurtful. You’re right to shelve your thoughts of marriage and to reconsider moving. You need to tell your boyfriend that while he may pretend to be someone else for a living, that’s not how you plan to go through life.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: Saving Lolita

Dear Prudie,
My brother and his wife had a baby one year ago. Despite living close to them, my husband and our two girls haven't seen them since their son was 3 months old. Due to my sister-in-law Amy's OCD and severe germaphobia, they have basically barred all contact with our children. She is pretty much out of control at this point, despite seeing a therapist. My brother is the sensitive type who will do anything to keep the peace. My parents have been trying to convince them to get together over the holidays. But Amy has issued an ultimatum: They will only see us if my 2-year-old has her meningococcal vaccine by Thanksgiving. Both the CDC and my daughter's physician agree this vaccine should only be administered to toddlers at high risk for the disease, which my daughter is not. The normal schedule is to get this vaccine around age 11. (My older daughter is 12 and has had the shot.) I feel Amy picked something to ensure that we won't see each other during the holidays. I feel insulted and upset, but maybe I should just get my daughter the vaccine so we might have a chance at a relationship.

—We Are Not the Sick Ones

Dear Sick,

How sad it will be for your nephew to become a version of the bubble boy despite his own robust health, because his mother’s mental illness means he can’t have normal interactions with other children. Your sister-in-law is certainly suffering, but despite her having a therapist it sounds as if she and your brother didn’t grapple enough with what it would mean to have children while dealing with her illness. It’s too bad that as a couple they haven’t been able to work out a system so that your brother can make some decisions about their son’s activities and that not everything is dictated by her health obsessions. But her condition rules their lives and I’m afraid that unless your brother starts insisting on being able to see his entire family (I hope at least your parents are allowed to visit their grandson) there’s not much the rest of you can do. You could have a private talk about this with your brother, but I'm not optimistic. You’re right that your younger daughter is not due for a meningitis vaccine for about a decade. Accelerating this schedule should not be done to appease someone else’s irrational fears. Anyway, as soon as you got your daughter the shot, Amy would next demand proof your kids won’t give her baby Ebola. All of you should go ahead and plan your holiday with the expectation that it’s likely Amy will be keeping her son in quarantine.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My husband and I are dog lovers but we didn’t have any when we first had kids. Then our children started asking for a dog. My husband admitted he’s enjoyed not dealing with vet bills, poop-scooping, and fleas. Eventually I wore him down, and we spent months researching the right breed. I was unable to go and choose the puppy, so my husband made the final decision. I hate this dog. He licks and chews on people constantly. He refuses to learn to signal us when he needs to go outside. He will go outside and pee, then race past me so that he can poop in my daughter's bedroom. My children enjoyed him at first but are now ambivalent, as the dog won't play calmly or allow anyone just to pet him. I don't want to find him another home since, ironically, the dog and my husband have formed a close bond. Now if I mention to my husband how little I like this dog, he gets irritated. I thought I'd get to go choose the puppy with which I felt a connection, and I do not feel connected to this one. Do I suffer through? Take a doggie bonding class?

—I Hate This Dog

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