Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Irrelevant Closet: I am a happily married, 27-year-old mother of two. I have recently revealed to my husband that I am bisexual, something I have only recently admitted to myself. He is completely supportive and we agreed that this does not change anything in terms of our monogamy. The only issue is that he thinks it would be irrelevant to come out to friends and family since I am in a heterosexual marriage. I know that my family will be accepting, however, now I’m worried that he is right and it would seem out of place to make such a revelation.
A: Let’s say you discovered a late breaking interest in plushophilia, or you now realized you were turned on by being a dominatrix. This would not be news you’d be required to announce at the next Thanksgiving gathering. The rapidity with which society has accepted, even embraced, gay sexual orientation is a glorious phenomenon. But you are confusing your personal sexual exploration with a social imperative. It would be one thing if you left your marriage because you were pursuing relationships with women. That would be worth talking about—if you wanted to—as a way of explaining the dissolution of your marriage. But you say you are planning to not only stay with your husband but remain monogamous. I agree with your husband that making a public announcement about something so private will not be illuminating but discomfiting.
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Q. Dildo Dilemma: While cleaning out my late grandfather’s house, my aunt discovered a dildo. She asked me what I thought it was and I could not bring myself to tell her. I vaguely replied maybe it was some kind of a cheap ornament, and quietly put it into the junk pile. Imagine my consternation when I saw it displayed in her house along with some other knick knacks she retrieved from pop’s home. I tried to tell her it doesn’t go well with her decor, pop probably didn’t want us to take all of his junk, etc. But my aunt dismissed my protests and says she wants to keep it. Please give me some excuse I can use to persuade her to throw it away, other than having to explain to my elderly prudish aunt what it really is.
A: I’ve dealt with a remarkable number of errant dildos in this column. These particular objects sure do have a propensity to roam. I’m assuming the one in your grandparents’ collection was not of the anatomically precise kind or else your aunt’s bafflement really does mean she’s Aunt Prudie. Even so, I’m wondering why she would find any dildo worth displaying, unless it reminds her of that Brancusi sculpture of a bird. I bet your elderly aunt only entertains occasionally. Either her guests will know what she’s displaying and will be highly entertained, or they won’t even notice this new addition to her knick knack shelf. I think you should say nothing—although you might be sorely tempted to bring some batteries and say, “Aunt P, let me show you what happens when you press ‘power.’ ”
Q. Do I Just Suck It Up?: My husband confessed to an affair and is leaving the marriage to pursue that relationship. We have two children. He refuses to tell his parents about the infidelity and has asked me not to tell them. On the one hand, I don’t care, but they are angry at ME for not doing more to make this marriage work and they have no idea of the truth. Part of me just wants to suck it up because it does not benefit my children to tell them, but I also feel unjustly accused when their son is the adulterer.
A: It’s one thing not to go around telling people you’ve discovered something about your sexuality you’re not going to act on, as in the letter above. It’s another to have a spouse go out and act upon his sexual desires, thus causing the end of the marriage, then being expected to keep utterly silent about what happened. I do think it’s important that parents handle the subject of infidelity with great delicacy regarding their children and not use the straying as a weapon to alienate the kids. But your husband left you to pursue another relationship! Presumably this new woman becomes part of everyone’s life. But if not, I don’t think he gets to keep it all a secret in order to keep his reputation unsullied. It says something quite malicious about him that he would know your soon-to-be former in-laws are blaming you, while pressuring you to keep quiet. I assume you are having some kind of interactions with the in-laws revolving around the children. If they continue to berate you, you have to tell them that you simply will not listen to such insults. And you should feel free to add that they need to take up with their son his decision to end the marriage, because he was his decision and he had a very specific reason.
Q. Re: Irrelevant Closet: I have to disagree with you on keeping bisexuality to oneself if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, Prudie. A 2013 Pew Study found that around 70 percent of bisexual people are not out to their family and friends. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who think bisexual people just don’t exist until you read that statistic. Gay and lesbian acceptance has dramatically improved in the past decade especially, and it’s because gay and lesbian people, and their allies, are vocal about it. I’m not saying during the family reunion this woman should say “Can you pass the butter, grandpa? Oh, and by the way, I’m sexually attracted to women, but am still monogamously committed to Jared.” But, there will be many opportunities to let the people in her life know in the context of the fight for marriage equality and sexual orientation as a federally protected class. If a homophobic, or even ambivalent person, knows more LGBT people, the less likely they are to hold prejudice.
A: Good points, but such things have to be taken in context. It’s one thing to have dated men all your life then realize you want to start seeing women, do it, and then tell those closest to you. It’s another to be in a monogamous marriage, have children, and then start telling people about the sexual desires you have that you are not going to act on. If a married person realizes he or she is not by nature monogamous, but is not going to act on urges to have sex with other people (whatever their gender), I don’t think they have to tell their nearest and dearest this.
Q. Piercing Husband: My husband asked me if he could get his lip pierced last weekend. I told him that I didn’t think he should have that done and that I didn’t want it done. He works as an IT guy and has a very professional job. Well, he had it done behind my back and I am too embarrassed to even go anywhere with him. He looks ridiculous. He’s 40 years old and that is something for the younger generation. What is your advice? Is he going through a midlife crisis?
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