Friday, May 21, 2010

In which WWPD becomes an advice column, and intersemester blogging reaches its prolific peak

I normally agree with her suggestions, but Prudie's way off in her advice to the girlfriend who finds it unsettling that her boyfriend's female friend will be sharing a room with him at a conference that, it appears, she's not even attending. Obvious questions: If he's only seeing the friend because she lives nearby, why the slumber party? Isn't his disclosure almost a free pass for messing around? (Wasn't this dealt with on Seinfeld, when George uses pseudo-openness to attempt an affair with Marisa Tomei?)

But more to the point, different people are comfortable with different things - even among its adherents, monogamy has endless meanings and variations. A wide range of activities could be considered iffy by some and 100% OK by others - ambiguous-sounding coffee-dates that aren't work-related, drinks alone with a new friend of the opposite sex, remaining close friends with exes, sharing a hotel room with a just-a-friend, etc., etc. None of these are breaches of capital-M Monogamy, but all have the potential to contradict monogamy as understood by a particular couple. Obviously, there are limits - restrictions ought to go both ways, and there are some rules that could impact both partners while plainly speaking to creepy possessiveness on the part of one (ruling out Facebook friends of the opposite sex, say, or insisting on only having joint email accounts). The professional sphere is coed; any attempt at restricting a partner's interactions with the opposite sex that interferes with (legit) networking probably crosses the line. (Extreme example: forbidding a partner to even attend far-off conferences in the first place.)

But I don't think it would take much effort to track down relatively non-neurotic couples who'd object, in both directions, to the hotel-room scenario, or who'd agree, again, in both directions, that it was quite reasonable. It's not that the boyfriend's callous, or that the girlfriend's a possessive freak. It's that if this isn't something they can work out with an effortless compromise, the sort that doesn't require an advice-columnist's intervention, they might want to both see other people.

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