Thursday, December 4, 2014

Casual Honesty: Can I Chat with My Hair Stylist about Polyamory?

Dear Viny,

I'm balls deep in poly and have been in a stable situation for over eight years now. There's always the question of whether or not to disclose this to new friends, dentists or hair stylists. Do I feel compelled to out myself? No.

But, I have made some significant life changes in the last year that make my personal life a non-issue in my professional life (working entirely online). It has been very freeing and frankly, a relief.

That being said, I get tired of dancing around the issue or being intentionally vague. When I climb onto the massage table and my therapist says "How was your weekend?", I want to be honest.

Can I? Should I? Do I shut the fuck up and say as little as possible? What say you on the topic of being casually honest?

Red State Romeo


Dear Romeo,

Casual Honesty sounds like a winning pony to me! Saddle her up and take her for a run! After all, what have you got to lose?

I can just picture you, reclining in a powder-blue chair with a goofy bib clipped under your chin, while the dentist squints at your chart, distractedly snapping her latex gloves. She asks you about your weekend, not because she gives a crap, but because customer satisfaction surveys have indicated that people really want to be asked asinine questions about themselves, even when their mouths are stuffed so full of cotton gauze they can't utter a single intelligible syllable in reply. Luckily, there's nothing in your mouth yet. “Oh, wow, I had the most fantastic weekend,” you enthuse, “Me 'n' Snuggles 'n' Sara, along with some of the other sweeties in our little love-tribe, won the Lube Lick-off at Polypalooza!” The dentist looks at you with furrowed brows. “Did you know that lubricants can be very damaging to your enamel?” Then she pulls out the biggest syringe she can find, and commands, “Open wide!”

Yeah, as long as you can deal with a wee bit of discomfort, I see no reason why you shouldn't answer a casual question with casual honesty. If it's socially acceptable for a monogamous person to say, “I had a great weekend! I introduced my boyfriend to the whole fam damily, and my parents just loved him!”, then it should be acceptable for a polyamorous person to say the same thing: “I introduced my new boyfriend...and my [wife/husband/wife and husband/other partners/tribe/whatever labels work for your situation] just loved him!” Of course, it isn't acceptable yet, but it should be, and you can do your part to make it more acceptable by behaving as though it is. When you respond to a polite question with a polite-but-scandalous reply, you effectively shift the parameters of what you are allowed to mention in polite conversation.

This kind of honesty has a light touch, and most likely won't be perceived as a threat. Your matter-of-fact, “this is what my life is like” disclosures may get met with some looks of blank incomprehension, or perhaps raised eyebrows and requests for clarification, which would then result in either A) communication shut-down, or B) lots and lots of questions, but my guess is that, particularly when dealing with people in the service or caring professions, you won't see a lot of overt hostility. Think about it this way: whether or not your hair stylist or massage therapist approves of your lifestyle, you have just given him or her a really great story to tell the next client or the folks back home. If bad comes to worse, and things get super awkward, or they refuse to let you book another appointment, so what? There are plenty of savvier businesspeople out there who will gladly accept your money. With any luck, they'll have personal views more in line with your own.

So yes, Romeo, I think you can be casually honest. Moreover, I think you should be. Why? Because you have so little to lose by saying what you want to say, when you want to say it. There are still so many people out there who can't be honest about who they are and how they've chosen to live their lives. They have a lot more to lose – their kids, their job, their social standing, their legal rights – and they have decided they can't risk it. People like you can make the world a safer place for people like them.

Casual honesty is a luxury. If you can afford it, I say enjoy the hell out of it. You'll be doing us all a big favor.

Teparies and peccaries,

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