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Not Taking Know For An Answer
Just posted another Advice Goddess column. This one's about a woman who doesn't want her husband to know she had a fling with a guy they know -- 10 years prior, when she and the guy were in college together. And rightly so. Here's my reply:

Your husband knows you were a hussy. That’s why he made it clear he never wanted to be told what you did, and with whom. And a good thing that is, since it sounds like the details of “with whom” may sometimes be limited to “#59. Ian’s friend from SF,” “#61. Jeff McSomething-Or-Other,” and “#63. Guy from plane.”

If your husband’s going to maintain his preferred picture of you as his little Snow White, you’re going to have to help him stay in the dark about Bobby and the rest of the 107 dwarves. The problem is, curiosity can make even the most sensible people stupid. If your husband catches wind of the Bobby story again, even though he knows he’s better off not knowing, he’ll probably squeeze you for answers. Even if you tell him “It was nothing,” and “It happened once, more than 10 years ago,“ and he understands that intellectually, his male brain is likely to turn it into a sexual horror film on an extremely unlimited run: “Bobby! Bigger! Better!” Of course, in your husband’s mind movie, Bobby is not just “well-endowed,” he had to be lowered onto your bed with a special crane. And reminders of Bobby will be everywhere. Your husband will be watching the news when they show some enormous missile being launched. He’ll squint his eyes a little, and suddenly, it’s anatomically correct, and what’s that printed on the side? “Bobby, Class of ‘96”?

Disclosures about one’s sexual history should be made according to a modified version of the old “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” -- with the caveat, “unless what happened in Vegas can cause big purple boils to form on your partner’s upper lip.” This does run counter to the “tell-all” model of marriage -- the mistaken notion that your spouse has the right to know everything about you, and the equally mistaken notion that it’s a good idea. Am I telling you to lie? Like a big shaggy rug. If your husband asks you about Bobby: “It never happened.” If he presses you: “It’s a rumor, and it’s wrong.” Be prepared to be just as firm in refusing to let him deconstruct the rest of your sexual past. Should you feel guilty about lying, remember, in the short run, coming clean is easier, feels better, and requires much less upkeep. In the long run, “happily ever after” works best when it isn’t hyper-focused on naked, drunk, and grope-ily ever before.

The entire question and answer is here.

Posted by aalkon at May 23, 2007 8:28 AM

Comments

Generally, that's brilliant advice Amy.

(I treat my own sexual past as a palimpsest to my marriage - and that's worked fine as well.)

But I can never get enough of the divine Eugene Levy in Best in Show - he's the forgiving schlub endlessly 'cuckolded' by his wife's youthful promiscuity - I think it's still Christopher Guest's finest movie.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 23, 2007 7:10 AM

Never tell. Never tell, never tell, never tell.

It's mildly creepy that she's planning to stay socially close with the guy for the rest of their lives, but only mildly.

Meanwhile, never tell.

Posted by: Crid at May 23, 2007 10:47 AM

My sentiments exactly. Espeically on the best Guest movie too, Jody.

Posted by: Joe at May 23, 2007 11:00 AM

Excellent, Joe!

A long, long time ago I stole from Donne the right response to the ticklish question of how much to reveal (being naturally terrible at the "don't ask, don't tell" approach Crid appears to favor.)

All you have to say (but you ought to mean it) is:

"If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got,
'twas but a dream of thee."

(The Good Morrow)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 23, 2007 11:12 AM

Well, you can never go wrong in quoting Donne. Also using the word palimpsest too.

Personally, I use an old Hindi riddle when describing my past relations:

Pawan chalat weh dehe badhavay
Jal peevat weh jeev ganvavay
Hai weh piyari sundar naar,
Naar nahin par hai weh naar.

With the blow of wind she flares up,
And dies as soon as she drinks water
Even though she is a pretty woman,
She’s not a woman, though she’s feminine

Posted by: Joe at May 23, 2007 12:29 PM

I am Shemale, hear me roar?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 23, 2007 12:43 PM

Jody, don't discount the adult sensibility of your partner. To be people inclined to worry about such things, "a dream of thee" translates as "Goddamit! She blew 'im!"

Posted by: Crid at May 23, 2007 12:43 PM

No Amy. Aag (Fire) It has to do with the Hindu metaphysical qualities of feminine energy. My personal translation is that my past girlfriends were important in the past. A flame (i.e. relationship) going out eventually.

Posted by: Joe at May 23, 2007 12:53 PM

I figured as much, I just couldn't resist!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 23, 2007 1:07 PM

Well, you can never go wrong in quoting Donne

Problem was, Joe, all the guys knew Donne as well (there was probably a set of quotes on beer mats or something...)

License my roving hands and let them go..my America, my Newfoundland etc, etc...(swoon, oh, yes, yes, yes!!!! etc etc)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 23, 2007 1:51 PM

It is the reason why I prefer foreign texts. How many non Indian girlfriends will know the source? Heck, I could be quoting on how I want my Sambhar and Vada served on a banana leaf for breakfast.

Posted by: Joe at May 23, 2007 3:00 PM

Joe,
I just don't get the last two lines (bit wobbly about the first two too) even with the flame thing explained...?

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 23, 2007 3:25 PM

No problem Jody,

The riddle originates from the 12th Century. Also, its my personal view of the riddle. Also, the riddle is seen through the eyes of a man:

With the blow of wind (male) she flares up, (energy, passion, creativity in the beginning of a relationship)
And dies as soon as she drinks water (society, family or any external reasons)

Even though she is a pretty woman, (height of a healthy relationship)
She’s not a woman, though she’s feminine (a woman who has lost her physical and emotional appeal through the pressures)

Relationships like a flame, will eventually be extinguished by whatever reasons. What’s remaining is the burnt incense that surrounds or resides within me. (memories of the relationship)

These particular riddles are quite different than what we are used to in the West. Even with the answer, you are suppose to ponder the various meanings of the riddle itself through a form of meditation.

Its my little way of avoiding specific details when a girlfriend begins to inquire about my past relationships. My other ulterior motive is to stand apart from the other guys by being deep or profound in an Eastern sort of way. The tactic is quite useful with the yoga and 'namaste' types.

Posted by: Joe at May 23, 2007 5:49 PM

These particular riddles are quite different than what we are used to in the West

Truer words were never etc....Joe!

Honestly, that's fascinating. And I'm ashamed to say I find the idiom all but unpenetrable - even with your gloss!

It's quite humbling - since I can 'get' at least the gist of old oriental stuff from around the same period (all those famous Arthur Waley translations) but your "riddles" seem to hang in a dense cultural fog if one doesn't have the appropriate clues.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 24, 2007 5:44 AM

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