Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Kiss

This week, Danny M. Lavery and special guest Grace Lavery discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the kiss.

Daniel Lavery: This reminded me a bit of our dear friend S who had a pretty significant revelation in the first year after her wedding to her longtime boyfriend!

Grace Lavery: That description actually fits two of our friends…

but let’s assume a sample bias there

this is not an unrecognizable phenomenon

Daniel Lavery: we might even go so far as to say it’s not uncommon for a big revelation or new understanding of one’s identity or sexuality to follow shortly on the heels of a big-time commitment to heterosexuality!

which is not to dismiss such commitments as wholly instrumentalizing or insincere

Grace Lavery: nor such revelations

but yes, I suspect this is a common experience. especially for those of us that pursue heterosexual marriage with some sense of it as a natural terminus or sign of maturity. i’m not sure whether the letter-writer fits into that category

Daniel Lavery: nor me. The first question I have in this scenario is “what do you mean when you say you want to respect your marriage?”

Grace Lavery: ah! not my first question. but explain

Daniel Lavery: It could mean either “how do I treat my husband as an equal partner in our marriage when that may mean sharing information that will hurt him and possibly even ending the marriage?” or “how do I make sure I ‘end up’ with a sexuality that includes him, since I married him before I started thinking I was gay, and it’s therefore disrespectful to change after we exchanged rings?”

and if you start an investigatory process with a predetermined conclusion

you’re not really investigating

Grace Lavery: that makes sense to me and, though I think I’d approach the question a different way, because it definitely seems clear to me this person (who seems great) is putting the identity cart before the feelings horse. so my goal would be to desublimate the two questions implied by this letter (“am i gay or bisexual?” and “what should I do with my marriage?”) into two much more basic questions. to be asked in order.

Daniel Lavery: let’s have them!

Grace Lavery: (1) what is your body telling you it wants? what are the truths your body is revealing to you about desire—for bodies and body parts, community and culture—and how can you live in the light of that knowledge? what would it mean to learn from your body, rather than to begin with disciplining and naming?

(2) what is your heart telling you it wants? what feelings of attachment feel primary to you, which secondary, and which are no longer part of your journey? again, how do you learn from your heart rather than supplying it with language and then second guessing yourself for doing so?

neither of these questions means you’ll get answers that other people have to like, or that anyone will necessarily sign up for them. but you’ll know who you are, and I’m willing to bet that it is bigger and more complex and more delightful than terms like “bisexual” and “lesbian,” which, important as they both are (truly: I love both these words) are only a part of the radical reorientation of your consciousness that is happening at present.

i’m aware I sound quite hippie, and I’m okay with that

Daniel Lavery: It’s helpful! Anything that can reorient the LW away from the line of thinking that goes something like: “My sexuality is a logic puzzle I have ten more months to solve. The answer is either ‘bisexual’ and start to have sex with my husband again, or ‘lesbian’ and leave him the next day.”

and particularly in avoiding any sort of restrictive mindset like “what is the least amount of queer I can be, how can I keep as much to myself as possible, how can I tightly parcel out when and how I’m ‘allowed’ to seek out ‘gay stuff,’ and how can I make sure my life changes the least?”

none of which is to say you have to ignore the parts of this that feel scary or alienating, or that your fear of hurting your husband is imaginary and he’ll just immediately be happy for you, like Patrick Dempsey in a romantic comedy

but he already knows you two aren’t really having sex anymore

in some ways the cat is already at least a third out of the bag

Grace Lavery: congrats on avoiding the obvious joke there

agreed, though. we tend to be less good at hiding than we think are

Daniel Lavery: I was distracted by thinking about how charmingly Patrick Dempsey would support his girlfriend in a romantic comedy if she came out

he has eyes that radiate support for lesbians

Grace Lavery: “let’s give them a big hand, folks”

Daniel Lavery: I hope that doesn’t seem indifferent to the LW, by the way - I don’t mean to say “he already knows everything, you’ve hurt him in a way he’ll never recover from, might as well go for broke and say you want to watch ‘Imagine Me & You’ and then tell him he reminds you of Matthew Goode”

And I want to be clear I think there can be real value in figuring out whether a word like “lesbian” or “bisexual” means something to you – I don’t want to dismiss them as “mere labels,” but if you find yourself getting stuck it can help to put terms to the side for a moment and investigate something else

Grace Lavery: okay well now you’re transparently trying to distract me into getting all moon-faced about Matthew Goode

Daniel Lavery:  he’s so dreamy!!!

Grace Lavery: he’s the dreamiest, and he is SO supportive in /Imagine Me and You/

and ALSO he should have ended up with Alicia Florida

FLORRICK

Daniel Lavery: he really is shockingly great

yes he should have!

Grace Lavery: less of a Boston bean than Josh Charles, less of an Albany hack than Chris Noth. and infinitely preferable to the low-rent Robert Downey Jr look alike

Daniel Lavery: I think that’s mostly it for me - all I’d like to add is that you don’t have to mathematically “prove” you’re gay in order to start talking about this or making decisions

you’ll drive yourself up the wall if you insist on an impossible burden of proof for lesbianism and default / no proof for continued heterosexuality

Grace Lavery: yes I agree. start from the perspective that words like “gay” and “lesbian” and “bisexual” describe life as it is lived. I love that slogan “how we spend our days is how we spend our life.” When we know how we spend our days, we know what our lives are like—but it can be hard to find out

Daniel Lavery: Good advice for everyone, I think. Thank you!!