An awkward lunch.
March 13, 2019 8:13 AM   Subscribe

The other drama distracting Brits yesterday was in Pamela Stephenson Connolly's relationship column in The Guardian: “Five years ago, I went through a bi phase and used to sleep around with pretty much everyone that came along, including other men. This changed when I fell in love with my new partner, who is everything to me. I recently met her parents and halfway through lunch realised that I had slept with her father. I was going to propose, but when my partner and her mother were away, he told me to end it with his daughter. I’m obviously in love - shall I just ignore him, or tell my partner?”

Pamela's advice - “...However, the father - your former lover - has made it clear that you will not be welcome. Walk away now, and avoid the massive pain that would otherwise be inflicted on your partner, her family and yourself” proved greatly controversial. Advice and observations from the Internet, of variable degrees of seriousness, included:

diibii: “I say tell the girlfriend and let the chips fall where they may. If she breaks up with you, so be it. As for the parents' relationship, it isn't your responsibility to cover for her dad.”

Flatulentus: “You should marry your girlfriend, and reveal everything at the wedding in front of your astonished guests.”

@Hoeyboey: “Right can I wade into this because holy fuck I would find it honestly hilarious if a partner came to me and said 'btw I think I hooked up with your parent 5 years ago'.”

VoiceOverIP: “Tell the father that you will end the relationship but only on the condition that the daughter knows the real reason. Then see if he is still as keen on that idea.”

@david_s_barker: “Umm... wouldn’t a better headline be 'Should I tell my girlfriend her dad is really forgettable in bed?'”

PositiveThinking: “This has to be the oddest agony advice column ever. Only way to deal with it is light heartedly. "BTW. I had an affair with your Dad. Isn't that just weird?" Unless your partner objects to your having previous gay relationships, nothing that follows is your fault.

Hooloovoo: “Yeah, this is a pretty bad one. The gay or bi thing is irrelevant really. Best to avoid sex with one's in-laws of any gender.”

@thisislaurent: “He only realised *halfway* through the lunch??? Was it the way the dad said 'pass the peas, please'?”

Plot twist! Several Guardian readers noticed there was a similar relationship problem letter some four years ago, meaning either there is some recycling of the problem (or possibly the letter if it's not genuine), or this is a more common, every day, situation than many thought in Britain:

“I have been in love for the last year and recently proposed. After 10 years of bisexuality (though I had more female partners than male) I was happy, excited and in love. She introduced me to her parents three months ago and her father and I recognised each other from a local cruising site. We have been intimate on about three or four occasions. He has made contact with me and asked me to tell my fiancée about my sexuality. I asked if his wife knew about his, and we have reached something of an impasse. He has since taken screenshots of old photos of me and I have also found some of him. Shall I just walk away from the woman of my dreams?”
posted by Wordshore (81 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite


 
At first read of the FPP, I took it to mean that Pamela Stephenson Connolly had left Billy Connolly in the later stages of his Parkinson's Disease and was getting up to all sorts of adventures while her husband awaits the grave. I'm glad that's not the case.
posted by Optamystic at 8:20 AM on March 13 [15 favorites]


Wordshore: "Several Guardian readers noticed there was a similar relationship problem letter some four years ago, "

As Mariella put it: Are you for real? If so, life truly is stranger than fiction. The odds on such a coincidence occurring must be staggeringly high.
posted by chavenet at 8:28 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Fuck 'em

Wait...
posted by evilDoug at 8:29 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


If he is to marry her, then she needs to make an informed decision. If he is to leave, then she deserves to know the real reason why. I don't see how he can do anything other than tell her. Anything less and he's a cad.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:31 AM on March 13 [43 favorites]


Ditch the motherfatherf***er already?
posted by Tknophobia at 8:35 AM on March 13 [11 favorites]


Things look grim for Mum if they play Fuck/Marry/Kill.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:39 AM on March 13 [112 favorites]


My least favorite part of a romance novel -- in fact, the part that kept me from reading them for years -- is when the male lead leaves for Reasons, which are noble, but in order to keep the female lead from pining for him, he breaks it off with her without a word so she will be hurt and hate him instead. This is exactly the setup that we have here, which is why I can believe -- can hope -- that it's made up.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:40 AM on March 13 [27 favorites]


If* this is a genuine problem, then it's one where a bunch of British people, some completely innocent (does the mother know about her husband's activities?) have gotten themselves into a situation and all the possible solutions have bad outcomes. It's basically Brexit but with nookie.

* I say if as looking at the timeline makes me more sceptical about how genuine this is. If he's on the point of proposing, then it's reasonable to assume he's probably met the future in-laws on several occasions beforehand. But only now, on the point of proposing and about to e.g. ram a sausage into his mouth halfway lunch does he pause and suddenly think “he ... looks familiar?!” Hmmmm.
posted by Wordshore at 8:42 AM on March 13 [14 favorites]


Meeting in-laws is such FUN!!

When I met my first set of in-laws, they came to see me in a play. The play was No Sex Please, We're British. I played a hooker. With a leopard-print outfit, fishnet stockings, and motorized breast tassels that whirled round and round when I flipped a switch.

[Actually I felt sorry for MY parents -- "hello, nice to meet you, yes, we're, er, very proud of Janet, yes . . . .]
posted by JanetLand at 8:47 AM on March 13 [31 favorites]


"He only realised *halfway* through the lunch??? Was it the way the dad said 'pass the peas, please'?"

'...You sexy thang, you.'
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:58 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


(now envisaging/dreading a MeFite commenting here with 'Actually, I am the father. See my AskMe question to get my perspective on the situation' and a new level of awkward being locally added)
posted by Wordshore at 9:02 AM on March 13 [36 favorites]


On one hand, this is probably made up, but on the other hand, a lifetime spent reading mysteries has taught me that this kind of thing happens all the time and frequently leads to bodies in the library, while on the other hand, the Guardian is clearly being super lazy and recycling it's own clickbait.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:09 AM on March 13 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: It's basically Brexit but with nookie.
posted by hanov3r at 9:10 AM on March 13 [16 favorites]


I saw the multiple layers of biphobia embedded in this whole thing and noped the fuck out when this first hit my desk. Not all that willing to engage with that beyond suggesting that everyone involved, including the editor who cleared this piece, is quite likely an asshole.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:23 AM on March 13 [18 favorites]


Well, it's a great movie pitch, that's for sure.

But so much missing context, it's hard to see how to truly advise? Does the potential wife know about the previous "bi phase"? And how does she feel about it? That seems like a super important detail. Because he shouldn't be hiding that to begin with, right?

But then - ok, yeah, the more I think about it, even assuming she knows about the bi stuff, finding out her own father was one of them is never gonna go over well.

But then I'm not sure this guy is under any obligation to keep her father's secrets. Seems like if he really loves her and is being forced to end it - or at least forced to allow her to choose - isn't it better to give the real reason?
posted by dnash at 9:24 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


yeah this doesn't really pass the sniff test, but if it is real he needs to tell his fiancee. if he broke it off without telling her that would be terrible and unfair. lay it on the line and let her decide. as for dad, well he can just deal...
posted by supermedusa at 9:25 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


also kind of weird following this post:

An engrossing memoir of a daughter for her complicated, distant father.

???
posted by supermedusa at 9:26 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


If he really hadn’t met the father until now it doesn’t seem like he’s a big factor in her life. Tell her, let her choose whether to talk to her parents, move on with your life.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:38 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


If this isn't real, perhaps somebody's trying to sell a movie studio on a reboot of The Graduate.
posted by JanetLand at 9:42 AM on March 13 [10 favorites]


Oh, and depending how everyone met this doesn’t seem all that unlikely. In fact given the way social circles intertwine it seems inevitable.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:45 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I think this is more likely to happen in repressed circles where it is considered unacceptable to be what you are. I don’t think the repetition necessarily makes it false.
posted by corb at 9:48 AM on March 13 [11 favorites]


If you want to see what this looks like without biphobia, just think what your advice would be if he were straight and had slept with his girlfriend's mom. Hopefully your advice matches up either way. (But really, bi phase? Unless you mean that one time you kissed someone of the same gender which proved you are straight, then no. You get to stay bi even if you're monogamous, whichever gender your partner is.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:20 AM on March 13 [28 favorites]


Pamela Stephenson Connolly and Billy Connolly are still together, living in Florida.
posted by w0mbat at 10:23 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


I really think the future mother-in-law ought to be consulted.
posted by Nelson at 10:40 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


just think what your advice would be if he were straight and had slept with his girlfriend's mom. Hopefully your advice matches up either way.

It is worth thinking about the fact that with the dad, you’re potentially outing someone. Although I don’t think that would ultimately change my advice.
posted by inire at 10:40 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Sam Malone did the straight version of this on Cheers. I forget how the situation was resolved. Maybe Carla sorted him out. Looks like [checks notes] the 2019 equivalent would be making this an ethics problem on The Good Place. We're lucky this isn't the edgy 00's anymore, because we'd almost certainly be looking at a smash cut to the questioner and his future father-in-law in bed again.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:41 AM on March 13 [10 favorites]


"Introduce her to your own parents, in the hope that sparks fly and put you on even footing."
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:44 AM on March 13 [18 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Sam Malone did the straight version of this on Cheers. I forget how the situation was resolved. Maybe Carla sorted him out.

This is the season 7 episode, "Send In the Crane" (B plot: Frasier becomes a kids' party clown). Sam is interested in both an ex-flame and her daughter, but nothing ever manifests, as the daughter is already engaged.

Thank you for your interest in Cheers plots.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:53 AM on March 13 [61 favorites]


w0mbat: "Pamela Stephenson Connolly and Billy Connolly are still together, living in Florida."

Semi-carnally?
posted by chavenet at 11:27 AM on March 13 [11 favorites]


I am on the dad's side because the LW seems to think that his cruising for anonymous gay sex was due to a "bi phase". Of course now that he is in love with a woman he is heterosexual and monogamous and can't understand what the dad's problem is.

Girlfriend, you can lie to yourself if you want, but don't lie to the poor girl, and definitely don't try lying to her dad.
posted by iamnotangry at 11:34 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


Wordshore, you are a giver. As conundrums go, this is a doozy. I'm recovering form something flu-ish and this is just what I need.
posted by theora55 at 11:39 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the use of 'bi phase' in that article (which my text editor keeps trying to oddly change to 'biplane') is getting ripped apart across social media e.g.

@marjovanrijn: Seriously, @guardian ? "I went through a bi phase and used to sleep around with pretty much everyone that came along." Being bisexual is not a phase, neither does it necessarily mean you sleep around with everyone and can't be monogamous.

@FernBrady: ‘Thwack!’ I slam my new treatment triumphantly on the desk of the Netflix executive. They immediately commission a full series of “Bi Phase”.

@lucyinglis: Also, that it took him until HALFWAY through lunch is quality drills. His 'bi phase' must have seen more mediocre traffic than Potters Bar.

@geeoharee: *eyeroll* at 'bi phase, so I slept around' but whatever, you do you.
posted by Wordshore at 11:48 AM on March 13 [11 favorites]


I am on the dad's side because the LW seems to think that his cruising for anonymous gay sex was due to a "bi phase". Of course now that he is in love with a woman he is heterosexual and monogamous and can't understand what the dad's problem is.

I get that there's huge issues with bi-visibility and that a lot of bi people get told that they're "going through a phase" and how infuriating that is. Also not really helpful that he then he linked that to his promiscuity.

On the other hand, doesn't he have the right to describe his own sexual preferences the way he wants?
posted by atrazine at 11:59 AM on March 13 [16 favorites]


This reminds me of when I first met my future father-in-law. I recognized him, but couldn’t place where I knew him from. When my wife-to-be mentioned he was a chemistry prof, I realized he had taught the Intro Chem course I took in first year university.

I guess it’s not at all similar, though you could say we had Chemistry together.
posted by nubs at 12:05 PM on March 13 [89 favorites]


Her advice really is just across the board terrible. The answer to this nsfw question for example completely ignores what to me (and most of the commenters, looks like) was, well, the obvious explanation.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 12:09 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


nubs, you should be ashamed.

(gives favorite anyway)

I honestly can't image what I would do in the fiancee's shoes with this information.

1. Fiance is bi and (possibly?) hasn't told me till now. What? And ok, if it was a "phase" how am I going to know whether it will reoccur?
2. Fiance had lots of anonymous gay encounters before he met me. Ok, well here's hoping they've both been tested recently.
3. Fiance once had such an encounter with my dad, which means Dad is a. secretly gay or bi, b. either in an open marriage or cheating on Mom (probably the latter).

That's a lot to process. But I'd have the right to know. But then I think I would definitely postpone the wedding and go to counseling.

However if I found that all out after getting married? Divorce time. How could you possibly trust someone who kept that from you?
posted by emjaybee at 12:12 PM on March 13 [11 favorites]


He's an asshole.

You individually invite the three involved parties to dinner at a quiet restaurant. Explain to your fiance that your father has something he wants to say to clear the air. Let him take it from there. Depending on his reaction, this will could be a great time to reiterate your promise to your sweetheart and toast them in public.

Smile at father while you do so.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:21 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


When I met my first set of in-laws, they came to see me in a play. The play was No Sex Please, We're British. I played a hooker. With a leopard-print outfit, fishnet stockings, and motorized breast tassels that whirled round and round when I flipped a switch.

:O

Where does one get motorized breast tassels? Asking for a friend.
posted by Quackles at 12:33 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


Hyphenation is so important.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:35 PM on March 13 [11 favorites]


meaning either there is some recycling of the problem (or possibly the letter if it's not genuine), or this is a more common, every day, situation than many thought in Britain:

Frankly, I vote for this not being as uncommon as people might think. The second letter is quite different in tone and a few little details, and most dudes who have cruised for dudesex have an awkward "oh hi right THAT'S why you look familiar" story.
posted by desuetude at 12:47 PM on March 13 [9 favorites]


However if I found that all out after getting married? Divorce time. How could you possibly trust someone who kept that from you?

So, obviously I get that, but I usually take the position that as long as they're safe, a partner's previous sexual history is not my business. Why would it matter if he was bi? If they've agreed to be monogamous then surely that applies whether he's straight, bi, or anything else.

I'm sure most of us would be perturbed if a partner had previously hooked up with a parent, even if the partner did nothing wrong by doing so - and there's no suggestion from the letter that he did.

If this was her openly gay or bi dad, and he was single or in an open relationship then this would be morally much easier: tell her, let her decide if it's too weird for her to deal with.

The issue is that now if he is honest with her, which is generally the right thing to do, he would be potentially outing her dad as bi which I'm sure we all agree is bad. He would also be revealing that he was repeatedly unfaithful to his wife which I don't think is morally problematic since it's a situation he created for himself. Unless his wife knows?

I don't think it can be right to break up with someone you're just about to propose to without giving a reason, what is that going to do to her? People get broken up with all the time, but not that often when things are going so well that proposals are about to happen. What if she finds out years later? What would that do to her relationship with her father?

This isn't just someone he's been dating for three weeks, this is someone he wants to spend his life with and presumably she feels the same! What if she's desperate to have children and happy to have found someone to have a family with? The more I think about this advice, the angrier it makes me.

Sod the father, tell her the truth and let her decide.
posted by atrazine at 12:58 PM on March 13 [14 favorites]


Sod the father...

Yes, well, maybe, but that's how this whole terribly awkward mess started in the first place
posted by Wordshore at 1:16 PM on March 13 [27 favorites]


One of my uncles was a bachelor forever till he found a lady who was a divorcee with a lovely little girl. First time my ex (we were married then) met her at a family gathering, he told me he had slept with her after meeting her in a bar years back.
At the time, I thought it was good he told me, good he didn't tell my uncle and good she kept quiet as well. I didn't care much about his past since I had also been a party girl and whatever, but I thought it was fine he was honest about where he knew her from.
Now looking back, I'm not so sure. It's as if he was framing her -- creating a very specific narrative about her almost the first time she met the family. As it was, I didn't tell anyone, but I could have told my siblings, and that could have led to a messy situation. Now I think what he should have done was to give her a nod and a smile and indicate that he recognized her and also that now they were both in a different place heading for other dreams.

I don't know how I would advise the guy in the story. I think I'd say go back to your fiancee's father and talk with him about his worries. Quit the weird "bi-phase" attitude, and acknowledge that the situation is weird, but that you are committed to his daughter and your life together. Over time, other aspects of life will be more important than something you almost forgot. If a confrontation is necessary say you won't quit without saying why.

I've had sex with people I wouldn't be able to recognize or remember after lunch and dinner and a week's holiday. That's the whole point. It wasn't a relationship, it was just casual sex between consenting adults. Nothing to get hung up about.
posted by mumimor at 1:28 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


And ok, if it was a "phase" how am I going to know whether it will reoccur?

So what if it does? Hopefully you would talk it out like adults since being bi doesn't dictate sexual behavior or relationship style. And people can come out at any age, still, even though they're most likely to under the age of 30.

Except maybe for the ugly fact that bi people are at high risk of intimate partner violence, often fueled by irrational jealousy. But that's not really the bi person's issue.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:31 PM on March 13 [13 favorites]


Where does one get motorized breast tassels? Asking for a friend.

This was the 80s, so somebody had to MacGiver them. I ended up looking quite stacked.
posted by JanetLand at 1:36 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Oh, ok. Being queer in a monogamous relationship does matter for some family things. My parents' membership in the UMC (and what that means for some family events) is one of those unfortunate differences of opinion between us. I do community work, and I'm too old and cranky to give a fuck about family optics. You probably will hear my opinion about Pose and I've stopped keeping separate media and book lists to avoid freaking the mundanes.

But, it's been over a decade since my partner and I had to talk about boundaries around a crush, and I'm kind of happy with that state of not-having-affairs.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:56 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


"Bi phase so I slept around" is really obnoxious, but I have no problem with shifting sexualities. You’re not stuck being one gender your whole life either. Things change.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:15 PM on March 13 [11 favorites]


Hi, I'm a long-time mefite who is bi and closeted for personal and complicated reasons and happily married to a woman with whom he is monogamous.

Does the potential wife know about the previous "bi phase"? And how does she feel about it? That seems like a super important detail. Because he shouldn't be hiding that to begin with, right?

She does not have a right to know about his past sexual partners, regardless of whether they are men or women. "Yes, I have been tested, and here's what you should know" is the limit of what he owes her.

Fiance is bi and (possibly?) hasn't told me till now. What? And ok, if it was a "phase" how am I going to know whether it will reoccur?

What does this even mean? How does being bi "reoccur"? Bi is not a synonym for polyamorous or swinger, nor is it an indication that someone is likely to cheat on a partner.

Fiance had lots of anonymous gay encounters before he met me. Ok, well here's hoping they've both been tested recently.

Please reflect on why you think you need to include the word "gay" in this sentence.
posted by a faithful sock at 2:18 PM on March 13 [33 favorites]


This was the 80s, so somebody had to MacGiver them.

Please tell me this involved rubber bands, paper clips, and a great deal of trust
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:24 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


I think the future(?) father-in-law is being a complete jerk. I really get the feeling his motivation is more protecting himself than his daughter, but that could just be me as the short letter doesn't mention if he's told his wife that he's bi.
posted by tommasz at 2:48 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


What does this even mean? How does being bi "reoccur"? Bi is not a synonym for polyamorous or swinger, nor is it an indication that someone is likely to cheat on a partner.

It was the LW who used "bi phase" to explain their past promiscuity:
I went through a bi phase and used to sleep around with pretty much everyone that came along

I think asking whether or not this will reoccur is a perfectly reasonable thing to inquire about your fiance.

"Yes, I have been tested, and here's what you should know" is the limit of what he owes her.

You and I obviously have different opinions about what makes a healthy marriage.
posted by iamnotangry at 2:50 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I think asking whether or not this [sleeping around] will reoccur is a perfectly reasonable thing to inquire about your fiance.

It might be, if there was the remotest suggestion that that’s a possibility. Which there isn’t, given the writer’s comment that “This changed when I fell in love with my new partner, who is everything to me.” Hence why asking about reoccurrence comes off as a bit odd.
posted by inire at 3:17 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


It was the LW who used "bi phase" to explain their past promiscuity

I am avoiding specific comparisons to other marginalized groups, because it's not a contest and that rarely goes well. However: just because an article uses a shitty phrase or framing about a group does not mean we need to repeat it on MeFi.
posted by a faithful sock at 3:51 PM on March 13 [12 favorites]


All things being equal, possibly a fair question, although no one ever seems to question whether my father's wild oats in the 60s will return.

But it's not equal, and the myth of bi nonmonogamy (and HIV) is used to justify multiple forms of violence and discrimination. Research is consistent for the US, UK, Australia, and Canada.

My willingness to entertain straight questions and anxieties about bi/pan/queer monogamy is limited by straight people's entitlement to violence when the answers do not satisfy.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 3:51 PM on March 13 [9 favorites]


1. Fiance is bi and (possibly?) hasn't told me till now. What? And ok, if it was a "phase" how am I going to know whether it will reoccur?

Because if he becomes bisexual, he'll become promiscuous and unfaithful automatically, right? That's how it works?

2. Fiance had lots of anonymous gay encounters before he met me. Ok, well here's hoping they've both been tested recently.

Them gays are particularly filthy, am I right? And tested recently, like the standard sort of discreet checking you do at the beginning of the relationship magically no longer counts, or perhaps you're naive enough to think that heterosexual people don't need to do that at all.

3. Fiance once had such an encounter with my dad, which means Dad is a. secretly gay or bi, b. either in an open marriage or cheating on Mom (probably the latter).

This bit is Dad's problem, not the fiance's.

That's a lot to process. But I'd have the right to know. But then I think I would definitely postpone the wedding and go to counseling.

Yeah, I'd want to be asked this sort of list long before a wedding, because be dropping your arse like a hot potato if you served me up this much biphobia and homophobia and entitlement to my body and my past. Nobody is owed a laundry list of your fiance's sexual adventures, especially if there's no lingering effect - no kids or no remaining STIs. You certainly don't get a pass on that if your partner is queer.

The bisexuality has got nothing to do with this man's ability to be a good husband. If this was "slept with my mum before meeting me" would you still be serving up this whole "oh, he had the sex before meeting me, what if he wants to do the sex after we're married?" business? It makes no difference the gender of who he fucked.
posted by Jilder at 3:52 PM on March 13 [17 favorites]


And I say HIV is a myth because you used bi men as the Boogeyman for criminal transmission laws but never bothered to collect data to test that claim independent of gay men.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 3:56 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


This is fundamentally just another "should I marry them if their family are opposed to it". I think the bisexuality thing is only an issue to the extent that the fiance doesn't plan to tell his future wife, or that the father's fear of exposure may cause him psychological stress and/or inspire bad behaviour. That concern doesn't seem substantial enough to call off the marriage if the fiance otherwise wants to go ahead with it.

I don't have a coherent position on what the fiance should tell the daughter, except that unwillingly outing the father isn't the right thing to do. As for the father, I don't think the fiance should be uncompassionate, but his concern for the father's well-being should probably only extend to recommending therapy.

Finally, this being Britain, if the fiance goes ahead with the marriage he should probably avoid watching BBC sitcoms with the in-laws, as well as any family meals at which suggestively-named dishes are served.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:13 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


...as well as any family meals at which suggestively-named dishes are served.

{Glances at pudding shelf in kitchen while reading MetaFilter, sees something, nods in agreement}
posted by Wordshore at 4:21 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Semi-carnally?

It's Eric, the half-a-bi!
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 4:24 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


Okay, so I'm a non-bi queer person and definitely open to learning more and maybe being wrong about this, but I feel confused about the stance of he has no obligation to share about his sexual orientation/history with his fiancee? Like, I get that there's a lot of biphobia in the concern of like, oh no, what if it happens again? And I can imagine that, partially because of things like that, a lot of bi people feel sensitive about being questioned and feel more invested in their right to privacy and choice around disclosure. In a lot of contexts (like work relationships and blood family relationships, especially) it totally makes sense to me that the call about disclosing or not is totally up to the bi individual in question.

But in a chosen marriage? In a voluntarily entered into relationship of deep intimacy and trust? It's not even so much that I think a bi person has an obligation to come out, as that choosing not to seems like a bad plan to me. Both for the bi person and for their prospective spouse. If one truly isn't safe sharing that information with a potential spouse because that person is biphobic, that doesn't seem like a great match to me. And finding out that one's spouse didn't share such an important facet of themself with one seems like it has serious potential to negatively impact the trust.

Is there something I'm missing here?
posted by overglow at 4:42 PM on March 13 [8 favorites]


I think honesty is generally the best policy, but the argument brought here was that straight partners are entitled to know in preparation for eventual bi Pon Farr, seven-year itch, or bi-cycle.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 5:05 PM on March 13 [18 favorites]


If I was the poor sod in the post.... I don't even know. On the one hand, even the best relationship is going to be rocked by "I slept with your parent! Lets find out if he's a cheater or you've been in the dark about their sex life this whole time!" The outcomes suck there. On the other hand, I can't imagine marrying someone whilst thinking, deep down "if they knew I'd done this they might not marry me." Having it lurk as a secret, like a fat toad in a well, that you can never tell her.

Of course generally a partners's previous sexual partners are not your business unless they are impacting your business, but if those past partners are RELATED TO YOU then I feel like its... lying by omission not to mention it. I'd certainly feel betrayed if I found that a partner was keeping that a secret several years in.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:19 PM on March 13 [12 favorites]


I figured the truly English way to do this would be to marry your girlfriend and simply never speak of the father-fucking, ever. If Downton Abbey, Howard's End, Brideshead Revisited, etc. are to be believed, this is how all messy social situations are dealt with across the pond. Just stiff upper lip and leave everything unsaid.

Joking aside, yeah, biphobia for days. As a bi person, I don't have a real opinion on whether the letter writer "should" come out to his fiance or not, since presumably that's going to depend on his own concept of his sexual orientation, how open the couple is about digging deep about their sexual histories, whether he feels his bisexuality is relevant to his life going forward, etc. My husband knows I'm bi and knows the broad strokes of what that means in terms of my past, my identity as a monogamous married person, and the nature of our relationship. He does not know intimate details of my past sexual encounters that don't pertain to him, even though I'd talk about it if he asked and I don't keep anything from him at all. If my husband had hooked up with a guy in a one-off situation years before we met, I would sincerely not be upset that he "wasn't honest with me" or whatever. We're adults. We had other sexual partners before we got together. Who cares?

As to the situation in question, jesus, I have no fucking idea. I'd probably get married anyway. Fuck that guy.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 5:36 PM on March 13 [10 favorites]


Fuck that guy

ಠ_ಠ
posted by inire at 5:50 PM on March 13


If one truly isn't safe sharing that information with a potential spouse because that person is biphobic, that doesn't seem like a great match to me.

As I said my reasons for remaining closeted are personal and complicated, but suffice to say that my wife is not biphobic, and yes, you are missing things that I'm not comfortable digging deeper into at this time and place. Regardless, the idea that your spouse is entitled to a detailed accounting of your past sexual partners beyond the truly germane (e.g. disease, or yes, I would agree "I fucked your parent(s)" probably fits in here) is bullshit.
posted by a faithful sock at 5:56 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


Nobody is owed a laundry list of your fiance's sexual adventures, especially if there's no lingering effect

Taking gay/bi/het out of the equation there’s an interesting question about relationships here. Obviously I’m not "owed" anything by my fiancé, but I would consider a spree of lovers to be a significant event ("Yeah, I spent a little bit sleeping with everything that moved") and I would question why it wasn’t brought up. It wouldn’t be a deal killer by any means, but I would be asking myself why my partner didn’t choose to share that with me.

The other side of that is that there a certain things in my past that I will not share with anyone, ever. So I’m hardly in a place to throw stones.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:02 PM on March 13


I want to apologize for using the letter writer's phrasing. What I did not say clearly is that I felt the writer was being dishonest about themselves in a way that did their partner wrong. The writer described a very dramatically different sexual past from the person they currently were, and it came across to me as though they hadn't really reconciled that difference or processed it. And yes I do think you owe a certain amount of honesty about your prior sexual life to a person you marry... especially if it involves a family member. It led me to wonder if they were in denial about themselves and therefore prone to risky behavior in future, in a way that could harm their fiancee. It wasn't because that behavior was with other men.

It came across badly and I apologize for that.
posted by emjaybee at 6:27 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


I'm in the peculiar space of being in an open relationship and we basically know about everyone whose been involved over the years. We live together because we live well together.

I think the closest to the situation in question I've ever been in was that I had a friend in a different city that I used to visit quite a bit, and then ended up at a sex party in my city and met a guy who turned out to be that friend's co-worker. That felt a bit awkward for a while but it was soon made clear we all knew each other.
posted by hippybear at 7:23 PM on March 13


Key issues to consider:

Does the fiance know that her boyfriend went through a promiscuous phase? If not, that probably needs to be revealed - not because she deserves to know everything about his history, but because "I am the kind of person who occasionally does some pretty wild experimentation" is something she should know. He might claim, "that's all behind me," and it could even be true, but he's still likely to do "oh hey try EVERYTHING" in response to other situations.

And if she can't accept the fact that he had multiple partners in a short time, that doesn't bode well for their marriage. He doesn't sound like he thought that phase of his life was a huge destructive mistake, just something he doesn't want to continue or do again.

Is the father out to his wife? Does she know he's slept with other people while being married to her? (I'm guessing, from the phrasing, that the answer to both is "no.")

Regarding what he should do: If he thinks she could accept his "sordid past," then he should talk to the father and say, "um, no... I may be willing to give you a choice of 'I tell her everything' or 'I tell her nothing,' but you don't get to decide if she and I continue to have a relationship."

If he thinks there's no way she could accept it, and she would be disturbed and possibly traumatized by knowing, then he could ethically just break up with her for reasons unstated. "Sorry; honey; not you it's me; it wouldn't work out; there's a part of my past that I know would ruin our lives together and no, I can't talk about it," or something like that.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:52 PM on March 13


I agree that at heart it's really a "should I marry into a family that is opposed to me joining it" question more than anything, with an added dose of "uh....disclose or not?" thrown in. I'm assuming the dad is not out of any closet/mother doesn't know, which is why he's probably reacting extra poorly.

But...yeah, this is so much fucking exploding drama that actually advising someone to break up and not say why actually does sound somewhat logical. Not great, but logical if nobody wants to fess up to the truth. And lord knows I've seen enough relationships where the in-laws haaaaaaaaaaate the one who marries in...seriously, having in-laws who actively hate you only hurts your relationship.

I would like to note that on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend they kinda did this plot in reverse: Rebecca dates Greg, Greg leaves her, Rebecca gets drunk and sleeps with Greg's dad totally at random, Greg returns and is interested again and she and the dad have to admit what they did. (For those not watching the show, Greg and Rebecca did briefly get back together after this ah, revelation.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:59 PM on March 13


Is there something I'm missing here?

The thing for me is that he describes it as a "phase", and he's welcome to do that. Plenty of people have experimental sexual encounters (even long strings of them!) that don't always mean they identify as bi, or want to seek out encounters with people of the same sex. He's had a play with it, and has decided he's straight. He gets to make that call no matter how much cock he's sucked. The suggestion that he's going to pupate fulling into A Gay or turn into a completely untrustworthy bi cockhound after a certain number of moon phases pass because he had an experimental patch is what's deeply gross here. He's the one who gets to decide if he's straight.
posted by Jilder at 9:20 PM on March 13 [10 favorites]


If I was the guy I'd tell the dad "I'm telling my fiancee in 48 hours, decide what you want to do."
posted by Mitheral at 10:03 PM on March 13


1) If he tells his girlfriend the truth, is she now going to lie to her mother for the rest of her life?

2) If he breaks up with her without telling her the truth, will she smell the lie and internalize it as her fault?

Under no circumstances should he lie to her and then marry her. She deserves respect. She deserves a marriage based on mutual trust. She needs to make her own informed decisions about where to take this relationship.
This is not protecting her. This is taking away her right to choose.
If he doesn't trust her with this, then what is the point?

Lies always have a way of revealing themselves, sometimes in the worst of circumstances.

The relationship between daughter and dad is its own thing. If she is okay with the one-night-stand between her parent and her boyfriend, that's her decision. Nothing has been said about her romantic or sexual history.

The real problem is putting her in the middle if her parents do not have a truth-based marriage. That's rough, because she will then have to pick sides.
And she may wind up hating her boyfriend for revealing the truth.
Who do you trust?
posted by TrishaU at 10:11 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


because she will then have to pick sides

It's entirely possible for her to take on this information and have it end up being something she just absorbes and it doesn't make her have to say either of her parents are right or wrong in this situation.

It's probably more mature than most humans want to be, but it's entirely possible. "This is between them, it's not about me, let them sort it out."
posted by hippybear at 10:26 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I was in a village pub last night where this was *still* being discussed by all and sundry. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as the sexual (mis)adventures of their fellow Englishfolk is an almost obsession-like concern of many.

On the scale of complicated situations, this is around medium. Was reminded of this by the locals reminiscing about the evening several years ago when an unfamiliar lady of mature standing entered the pub, calmly bought a pint of Guinness, and went over to a man who also wasn't local.

"How did you find me?" he apparently asked in surprise, just before she tipped the pint over his head. With a loud "HOW DARE YOU CHEAT ON ME WITH MY GRAND-DAUGHTER", she then departed. No-one knew who they were, neither have returned (unsurprisingly), and speculating on the back story has become a staple of conversation at the bar.

This is also the pub where, on a shelf where the cat sleeps, there are two punch bowls (thankfully neither knocked off by said cat). These were from the long-closed village post office, and were used in parties. One was for the punch, the other was to throw your car or house keys in and collect random ones at the end of the evening, which would determine who you were going home with that night. All the more interesting when remembering that many in the village are descended/related from one of seven families.

Nobody discusses the punch bowls. They just sit there, in full view, as a silent reminder.

But last night, regulars and locals were again discussing the situation in the Guardian piece, and how genuine or made-up it was, and similar incidents that had occurred (or alleged to have occurred) in the village over many years, some of questionable ethic/legality. The farm worker who had an auto-erotic obsession with tractors (which is probably why he was a farm worker), who allegedly died in an act of passion with a Massey Ferguson ("They never found the other testicle!"), and the attempts to bribe or coerce the coroner to make it official that it was just a regular farm accident/tragedy - that kind of thing.

At one table, the Morris Dancers in full costume were gulping down pints post-practice (their season approaches). They were loudly discussing the problem, and their comments ranged from the nearly-intellectual:

"This, in a way, is similar to the prisoner's dilemma, but with cock."

...to possibly the worst imaginable solution. Which I had to quickly write down, as it was so bad:

"He should seduce the mother. That will show the father he isn't to be messed with! Problem solved! Everyone knows their place, then."

(The person who said this - who then sat there, arms folded, in triumph - is also the one who reckons Brexit can be both solved and delivered by "Just ignore Europe. Don't answer their emails or phone calls. What they going to do? Nothing!". Perhaps no surprise, here.)

Even in the state of inebriation, his colleagues paused from their drinking and stared at their cognitively-vacant chum. Cue much tinkling of bells as several Morris Dancers simultaneously face-palmed.
posted by Wordshore at 12:07 AM on March 14 [26 favorites]


I was in a village pub last night where this was *still* being discussed by all and sundry. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as the sexual (mis)adventures of their fellow Englishfolk is an almost obsession-like concern of many.

Wordshore, I'm starting to think that you're basically a framing device for tales about rural hijinks, which would (unforgiveably!) imply that I'm a secondary character or - at best - the narrator:
"That reminds me," Wordshore said, "of the vicar who loved horses."
"Is that the time," I cried falsely, "I must run!"
"I first learned of him," they continued inexorably, "when I was in a village, for their fete."

Here Wordshore broke off and looked pointedly at their glass. The other regulars had already managed to adopt oblivious expressions so I bowed to the inevitable and signaled to the bartender for another pint.

"As I said, I was in a village, for their fete, where I'd been to a church harvest festival back in the autumn of 2014."
[...]
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:26 AM on March 14 [15 favorites]


I think that regardless of your sexuality, keeping secrets isn’t good in a relationship, especially if they are secrets you suspect the other person will get really mad/upset/sad about. Like, it doesn’t matter so much whether it’s “what was your sex life like” or “did you campaign for Reagan”, if it’s something you know your partner would want to know about and you are carefully not telling them, it’s a problem.

Accordingly, he needs to tell his almost fiancée.
posted by corb at 12:35 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


Wordshore.

Wordshore.

what is wrong with the English
posted by sciatrix at 7:15 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


what is wrong with the English

Every several hundred years the national psyche has to undergo a hard and dramatic reset. This happened between 1135 and 1153, and also 1649 and 1660. Other periods further back are arguable. Usually, in the lead-up to the reset, there's a heightened interest and use in random drugs, random sex, extreme religion, violent disorder, random battles, alternative politics and all manner of other cognitively-bending and socially-complicating things. You've heard about our politics lately, I assume?

We're currently at the metaphorical point where (ironically in a film very loosely set around the most recent Interregnum) Whitehead goes into the tent, unaware he is about to have the future revealed by The Devil and ... it doesn't go well. That's pretty much England and the English now.

(I would explain this further but am off to a lesbian pagan ritual in nearby woods, as I am lighting candles before, off to the pub during, then returning at conclusion to serve tea and cake. Hoping for better weather this evening.)
posted by Wordshore at 12:22 PM on March 14 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: This, in a way, is similar to the prisoner's dilemma, but with cock.
posted by MikeKD at 3:23 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


I don't feel I have a right to know about my sweetheart's previous sexual partners, with the caveats about STDs and testing. If my sweetheart slept with a family member, the 2 of them can work it out and get the fuck over it. Some of the sex in my life has been in loving, committed relationships, but not all, and I don't expect my sweetheart to have a specific sexual history, although fun, excellent, ambi-dexterous, and other traits figure in my ads dreams.

Having lots of sex is okay, having sex with people the same sex as you is okay, etc. Lying is not okay, so you might have to state that you were pretty active for a while. The guy didn't violate any of the important conventions except for accounting for the fact that if you have sex with lots of people, the odds of complication get interesting.

The big problem is if the sweetheart learns of it. It is not betrayal; it was before her time, but she would probably feel she'd been lied to.
posted by theora55 at 5:24 PM on March 14


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