Friday, September 10, 2010

Two columnists, two bloggers, one bisexual interfamily Craigslist drama

Today is the day, folks: our first instance of the same letter posted to two different columnists. Interestingly, Margo Howard, whose column posted the letter today, is the former writer of Dear Prudence, now written by Emily Yoffe, who got the scoop in her August 2 live chat.

I'll print the letter only once, since it is virtually identical in both columns.
I have a rather unusual problem, and I don't feel I have anywhere to turn but you. [Ed. note: How ironic.]

I'm a 33-year-old man who's been married for seven years. I am bisexual and have known so for quite some time. About a month ago I responded to a posting on Craigslist. It was from an older gentleman who, like myself, is bi and was looking for some discreet fun. In responding to the ad, I sent a faceless/headless picture of myself without a shirt on. He responded back to me with some pictures that were a bit more graphic and a phone number. Upon seeing the number, I became immediately undone. It was the cell phone number of my father-in-law!

Once I realized it was him, I never responded back to him. I received several e-mails subsequently asking me what was going on and if I was still interested. However, not only did he e-mail me from his personal e-mail address, stupidly, he used the joint one with my mother-in-law. Fast-forward a few weeks. My mother-in-law was checking e-mail and somehow found the exchange between my father-in-law and myself. Obviously, and justifiably, she has become hysterical. She found the e-mail that I sent to him (from an anonymous e-mail address) that had my picture.

It gets worse; she told my wife and her sister and brother, and they are trying to figure out who this guy is who "seduced" dad. At this point, I am freaking out as my wife is wanting to see my picture, but her mother has not shown it to her yet. Do I bite the bullet and let the cat out of the bag that I am the two-home home wrecker, or should I let my wife and in-laws continue to play detective? I feel such guilt as my wife cries on my shoulder as she tells me the latest developments every day.
Here's Prudence's answer:
Your posting didn't say, "I like pina coladas, and getting lost in the rain," did it? Because your letters sounds like an updated version of the dreadful Rupert Holmes song. Though I would like to see a movie version of this in which Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller end up as the lovely couple, it's time for someone in this family to be straight about not being straight. If you are committed to sending out headless photos of yourself in order to cheat on your wife with other men, you have to tell her about this right now. It's not just because you want to get ahead of her having that flash of recognition when she sees the photo of the "seducer's" torso and recognizes the pattern of moles. It's because you are lying and cheating and potentially endangering your wife's health.
And Margo's:
What are the chances, as they say? Maybe this is God's way of saying: Pick a gender. First, because your m-i-l has a (headless) picture of the guy who "seduced Dad," it is not likely she will know you by your torso, but your wife might, should your m-i-l share the picture.

The whole thing is such a lie, however, that I would come clean with your wife — perhaps in the office of a counselor — and let her decide what she wants to do. Her father may be collateral damage, but there you are. — Margo, haplessly
Darnell: Let's advise him to keep his shameful secret forever, because it is the advice he clearly wants after submitting his letter a second time when he didn't get that answer the first time around! That way we win advice.

Lulu: The first one was a live chat, and the second was a print column, so my bet is he submitted them both on the same day and Margo took longer to get to it in her queue. I was disappointed there were no new developments in the second column. The advice is virtually identical, except for Margo's little dig at bisexuals.

Darnell: Was that weird? I thought that was weird.

Lulu: It was weird! Also, the bisexual thing is not inherently part of the problem. He could have accidentally cheated on his wife with a woman they both knew, or if he was gay, accidentally cruised his husband's father. You know?

Darnell: Also, is that really what the pina colada song is about?

(Brief pause)

Lulu: Okay, I just read the lyrics...

Darnell: Apparently it is about a married man who answers a personal ad and when he goes to meet the woman it is his own disastified wife.

Lulu: Aurgh, scooped!

Darnell: So, not really? That seems to be more about how people don't know their spouse's secret heart. Not about how their father in law wants to go balls deep in some dudes.

Lulu: The columnists are telling him to come clean for moral reasons, but he seems to be more asking if he should come clean because he will be found out anyway. To which I'd say: probably not? I don't think he should stay in this marriage, but I also don't think he needs to tell her this.

Darnell: No, there is practically no risk of that at all provided he was smart enough to delete his own emails. What he is doing is what every bad liar does. You use your own knowledge of the lie and project it on to other people until you can no longer see how they could possibly not figure it out.

Lulu: Yeah, the wife won't be looking for the torso to be his, even if she sees it; and I don't see why she even would. I think he is overestimating the extent to which they are trying to figure out who it is, because as far as they know, it's nobody they know. If she IS expecting it to be him, she already knows anyway, but he could still deny it; how distinctive is his torso?

Darnell: If he is going to tell her, it should be because he wants to have a divorce and pursue his love of man bits.

Lulu: I agree. And I still don't think he should tell her about this incident.

Darnell: Part of me kind of thinks he should tell everyone ever about this incident because it is kind of hilarious. Then again, she probably wouldn't appreciate the humor. Yet.

Lulu: He could just use it as a conversation starter. "Oh, your father is looking for a bisexual affair? That reminds me."

Darnell: I don't think he should tell her either, also separate from the gayness of his cruising. You shouldn't cheat. If you are going to cheat, you shouldn't tell your wife about it. Coming clean is often better for the terrible person than the one who was wronged.

Lulu: I don't think sexual exclusivity is for everyone, but you should not be in a relationship with someone who expects fidelity if you yourself have no intention of following through on that.

Darnell: I am surprisingly anti-cheating, it is my moral and I cling to it like a drowning man to a bloated floaty corpse.

Lulu: Whether or not you approve of monogamy in the abstract, you need to assess (1) whether you know you will not stop, and (2) whether your spouse would not like it if she knew, and if the answer to both of those questions is "yes", you should just break up. Be free! Nobody cares if you cruise CL if you are single, or in a nonexclusive relationship.

Darnell: All right, I can provide this guy with reasonable sounding advice that will actually resolve the situation in a way that is terrible for him and will provide his poor wife with some closure. I think he should point out that there isn't a seducer in this case, and explain in clear detail how CL postings work - that they are not directed, but that her father responded to an anonymous ad. Specifically detail how cruising for men works via this method. And that if her father had been smart, he would have set up an anonymous email address. But that either way they should absolutely stop looking for this other guy. Be as clear on this as possible, repeating it in stammering tones and sweating if possible. Stammering and sweating are clear signs of honesty. Also adamantly refuse to take your shirt off in front of your wife or in-laws under any circumstances. Start wearing a t-shirt to bed and the beach.

Lulu: Forever?

Darnell: However long it takes. If pressured tell them you took some pictures of your naked torso for no reason and felt self-conscious about how they looked. I feel like people feel better when they discover lies for themselves than they do when the liar confesses. TV has trained us that people who come forward of their own accord are brave and should be rewarded, but if you figure it out on your own, you can be as mad as you want. It is cathartic!

Lulu: You can still be as mad as you want if they tell you, I think... but I suppose by making it obvious, but not telling them, you are giving them the option of pretending it isn't true, if that's what they want.

Darnell: You know, I am far from an advice column expert, but are the letters often from people who are so in the wrong? The ones I've seen would typically come from the wife in this situation. Dear My Important Drama, I think my husband is trying to put the dirty man spurs to my father!

Lulu: Yeah. He chose two advice columns where he knows the columnists hate cheating and will tell him to tell the wife. So I guess he got the advice he wanted.

Darnell: I have trouble offering helpful advice to people I disapprove of. I think he should have unprotected sex with lots of sailors.

Lulu: I think the gayness factors into my disapproval of him, not because I disapprove of gay sex--I encourage it for everyone--but because I suspect his marriage may have more to do with protecting his straight-guy image than with making them both happy.

Darnell: She is his beard! My beard is my beard.

Lulu: Your beard fools people into thinking you are straight?

Darnell: It sure does! Otherwise they can all see that I have blowjob lips. I guess that actually means my moustache is my beard.

Lulu: We may have our first MID T-shirt slogan.


  1. I tend to agree, intellectually at least, that telling is simply something that will alleviate the guilt of the cheater without doing anything positive for anybody else. But if I were cheated on, I would want to know, simply because I always want to know everything always forever. The idea of ever saying "Don't tell me, I don't want to know" is strange and foreign to me. But of course such news WOULD upset me!

    I guess what I would like the most, at the end of the day, is to be told like ten years later when my SO could confidently say it was a one-time thing and would never ever happen again. I would still be upset, but it's forgivable and it would be a lot easier to trust that it was true.

    Meanwhile, I would like to be told IMMEDIATELY if there is some kind of problem of emotional distance or sexual dissatisfaction.

    I guess I am also very confused about the wife and mother-in-law trying SO HARD to figure out the identity of the so-called 'seducer'. It seems like an unhealthy way of avoiding the real problem.

  2. Yeah, that could be. The wife and MIL's behavior seemed to us to be misunderstood/misrepresented by the LW (even an offhand comment, "I wonder who it could be!", could loom large in a guilty mind), and as Darnell said it seems like they don't understand how online cruising works.

    The cheating-telling thing is a personal preference, I guess, and the cheater needs to use his knowledge of his wife to judge if she would want to know. Even if he decides not to tell her, though, he's still responsible for either leaving the relationship or cutting it out, I feel. One or the other. It does not count if he continually (more than say twice per decade) decides not to cheat, cheats anyway, and hates himself for it. You don't get points for hating yourself!

    And I think those are all my opinions on the subject.