Monday, November 11, 2013

The Bare Essentials:
Honesty & Respect

Several years ago -pre-baby but mid-nonmonogamy- I found myself pursued by a twentysomething with great abs. Normally, I wouldn't have bothered with someone so undercooked, but he sent me this vast, glutinous slab of text as his opener; a missive so ridiculous and overwrought, I couldn't help but respond with: "You sound like you swallowed a thesaurus."

The rest of his messages were normal, even witty, but he was still a good fifteen years my junior. He kept asking for a date, and I kept saying no. I put him off successfully until he sent me a shirtless photo.

Don't judge.

We scheduled a Saturday date at a pretty horrible local restaurant. I thought his choice of venue was weird, but who am I to judge/kids these days/etc.?

Several days later, a friend sent out a group email. Some undercooked twentysomething had messaged her with a glutinous slab of text, and wasn't it hilarious and…


AbBoy, once confronted, admitted his misstep. He'd lived in a much larger town before, you see, and had several polished (ohmygod, he thought that was POLISHED??) openers saved in a Word doc. When he came across someone interesting on a dating site, he'd copy and paste from the doc, and wait for the panties to collect at his feet.

I explained, gently and condescendingly, that his new hometown and its nonmonogamous community are far too small to suffer stunts like that. In the future, he'd do better treating each person as a snowflake (no, I didn't ACTually say snowflake), and writing a new opener every time. He apologized, and we let the issue go.

The week progressed, and by Thursday, he was asking to also meet that night. I told him I was having dinner with a friend, but agreed to contact him when I was free.

Post-dinner, I set myself up in a coffeehouse/wine bar with a drink and a book. I sent AbBoy a text to let him know where I was, and that I'd be happy for his company.

His response was less than enthused. He made noises about expecting that we'd meet at the Horrible Restaurant. Confused, I explained that I'd found the nearest reasonable date spot to the place where I'd had dinner, and since I already had a drink, couldn't he meet me there?

After much hemming and hawing, AbBoy said he would admit to something he was hoping never to tell me, something he hadn't even told his parents: he had a DUI. Thinking the issue was abstaining, I assured him I'd gotten a smoothie, so he wouldn't have to watch me drink-drink.

No, alcohol wasn't the issue - his rescinded drivers license was.

AbBoy picked the Horrible Restaurant, not because he liked it, but because it was within walking distance of his apartment. He admitted that, if we'd kept seeing each other, he'd planned to coax me into only meeting near or at his place.

I told AbBoy I didn't want to see him that night. I finished my drink, and went home.

I woke the next morning with an email nearly fully formed in my mind. I hit send the moment it was transcribed:
"I've decided not to meet you this Saturday, and I'd like to explain why.
Building nonmonogamous sexual relationships is incredibly tricky. Even in cases where it's basically just fucking, there still has to be a minimal foundation of respect and honesty. In my experience, it's the only way to juggle partners and still keep everyone involved happy and safe.
You violated those principles in two ways yesterday. First, as we discussed, you treated me and my friend as if we were interchangeable. Obviously, that's no sin, but it was a indication that getting involved with you would mean you wouldn't think of me as an individual. Not a dealbreaker, but certainly disconcerting and not part of cultivating the respect I require.
Then, you misled me about your DUI. Again, I know you feel appropriately terrible about the violation, but at the moment, I'm bothered much more by the knots you tied yourself in trying not to tell me than by the charge itself. If you're going to be half-truthful about not being able to drive -a very small thing in the grand scheme- what might you not tell me about much bigger, more important stuff? I'm not willing to build even the most superficial connection based on what you showed me yesterday.
There was a reason I resisted when you when you first approached me: I assumed, based on past experience with men your age, that there would be a 'maturity gap' between us. We talked a bit, you created the impression that you were more evolved, and I gave you the benefit of the doubt. I don't regret doing so, but I'm also glad I learned more about you before we became intimate.
I imagine this message makes you feel terrible; I know something like it would haunt me. But it felt important to reflect to you what I experienced, in hopes that women you meet in the future would be treated better. Please consider what I've said here the next time you approach anyone for any potential relationship, sexual or otherwise. Do unto others..."
Dan Savage, bless him, talks often about his campsite rule: in relationships with a large age disparity, at the end of the relationship, the elder partner should leave the younger in "better shape than they found them." Though I wince at the tone of my email from three-plus years ago, I think the underlying message was sound.

Honesty and respect. Though they should be the foundation of any relationship, they are especially crucial in the Land of Many Partners.

(PS. AbBoy messaged me month after month for literally years following my email. Thankfully, the campsite rule is as much about intention as actual success.)

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