Update from the Shire

I chatted with my pal Frodo about his interesting situation. Rosie, Pippin and Frodo’s daughter, is apparently struggling a bit with the revelation of their relationship model. Frodo says she’s “heavily invested” in the concept of monogamy and, of course, why wouldn’t she be? It’s literally the only thing she’s ever known and is the only relationship archetype our culture ever shows us (even though many — most? — cultures do not practice monogamy). We’ve made tremendous strides with regard to same-sex couples and the validity of their relationships in media and culture, but there’s been no Will and Grace moment for polyamory or even simple openness (not counting creepy reality programming). As a young woman, she doesn’t have any applicable life experience of her own with which to help her grok what her parents are doing. It’d be shocking to hear she took it in stride, I suppose. In any event, they’re amazing parents who have proven themselves as fantastic communicators so I have no doubt she’ll eventually find herself in a good place.

Frodo said, “I think my view on monogamy is more nuanced that what you described, but honestly haven’t given it much thought,” and I thought that was pretty funny since they’ve more or less ditched the model for themselves.

He also wanted to know why I used Pippin for his husband’s name and not the obvious Samwise. While I think he was totally ripped off by the Acadamy, I find Sean Astin to be kind of annoying. Plus, I think Pippin’s cuter and Sam is too much a traditionalist stick in the mud to allow for any of this newfangled open relationship stuff. Pippin, on the other hand, is much more a free spirit. Also, while Rosie is not the most obvious female name to use, Tolkien had kind of an issue with female characters and the only other female hobbits I could think of off the top of my head were Farmer Maggot’s wife (that’s literally her name) or Belladonna Took. Neither seemed appropriate.

An interesting situation

The other day, I got a text message from an old friend.

So, I have a situation you may find interesting. One you may want to ask your buddy Dan about.

And I’m like, Dan? I don’t know any Dans.

Dan Savage.

Oh! Yeah, my buddy Dan. We’re like this.

The old friend is the boy (now a man, obvs) I was with during high school and a little right after (the one with the wonderful cock I’ve mentioned…mmm, yes). One of my oldest friends in the world. Best man at our wedding, even. We’re going to have to call him something, so I’ll go with Frodo.

The interesting situation can be summarized thusly. Frodo and his husband Pippin (just to stick with the LOTR theme) have an open relationship because just like all the gays. Pippin is seeing a guy we’ll call Farmer Maggot…no, just kidding. We’ll call the guy on the side Merry, I guess. Anyway, they’re having a nice time together and Frodo is happy for Pippin and all is well. In fact, Pippin and Merry are going on a little vacation together. That’s how cool the whole situation is.

The interesting part involves their teenage daughter. Apparently, Pippin carries on a prolific texting exchange with Merry and the daughter (who we don’t really need to name, but if we did, I’d go with Rosie) is aware of it. In fact, so aware that she asked Pippin if he was in some kind of relationship with Merry.

I suppose as parents we sometimes fool ourselves into thinking our kids are oblivious to the things we think we do unobtrusively on our devices. The other day, I was listening to a podcast and the guy talking mentioned the name of his blog. My daughter said, “Oh, he does that?” and I was like, What? How in the world is she aware of that (totally innocent tech and design) blog? Turns out she sees me reading it on my computer and instead of just ignoring whatever boring gray website her dad is looking at, she actually absorbed enough to remember its name and the fact I’m on it frequently. So sure, they’re paying attention.

Note, I’m getting this whole story second and third hand. And I don’t always remember things well.

Anyway, Pippin was a bit flustered by this bold inquiry (for which, in and of itself, I give her credit — not sure I ever would have confronted one my parents like that). Not having any Longbottom weed to take the edge off with, my understanding is he punted on the question until he could consult with Frodo. I have no idea how you punt, “Dad, are you sleeping with Merry?” but that’s what I’m told he did.

So that’s where Frodo reached out to me. We are in similar situations with children of similar ages and relationships in similar states of openness. He wondered how I’d approach that question from one of mine. Of course, for me, the question would have the additional layer of previously unexpressed bisexual tendencies, but it’s a potential thing Belle and I may need to address at some point.

I told him I would say something to the effect that there are all kinds of relationships in the world and that some people love and trust one another to seek additional companionship outside their marriage and, rather than indicating a problem, allowing it to happen is a sign of significant strength. As unexpected as it may be, when done correctly, openness in a relationship leads to a greater degree of connectedness and affection for the primary partners. Since Rosie is old enough to hang tough in a deeper conversation, I’d take the opportunity to express my opinion that humans aren’t meant to be monogamous. We can be, by choice, but we’re designed to be promiscuous (a loaded word, to be sure). Every bit of physiological evidence points towards promiscuity rather than monogamy. I think we are driven to pair-bond, but that’s not the same thing.

Turns out, even though Frodo and I are both in open relationships, our thinking about them is different in a significant way. His take on what I just wrote is that monogamy is the ideal and that sometimes, it’s an ideal that can’t be lived up to for whatever reason. I totally disagree. There’s an underlying and implied moral judgment in that position I can’t square with. There are too many ancient human cultures in the world in which monogamy would be seen as wrong and unnatural for those of us under the influence of Western culture to award our approach as the ideal. There’s simply no reason to think eternal and exclusive commitments to one other person is superior or even the most logical approach. It also goes against my sense of sexual libertarianism and desire to be non-judgemental in all consensual permutations of human affection.

But ultimately, that’s a not a significant point of disagreement. Fact is, they’re open and they’re going to share that information with their daughter who is mature enough to hear the truth. And I think that’s great.

Funny little coda to all this. I don’t know how the conversation with Rosie went, but I did ask Frodo if he’d be OK with me writing this post. He said yes as long as I was careful with their identities (hence, Hobbit names). Then, while the older child and I were at the movies last night, he sent me this text.

I should have asked Pippin before saying yes. He’s willing to let you blog about our situation, but there is a price.

Oh? And that is…?

Apparently, he wants a photo of you he saw once on your blog. Wearing jeans and with an erection.

Why, I may blush. Wait a minute, Pippin reads my blog? Oh, my.

The picture Pippin wanted in exchange for letting me write my post is this one. I sent it to Frodo who said it was pretty fucking hot and that made me all squirmy. Then I thought about how the entire transaction left me feeling cheaply objectified and, yeah, well, that works for me, too.