Monday, December 07, 2009

Letters That Fail
M. Matisse,

I couldn't help notice you mentioned Jae in your blog the other day. You haven't mentioned her in quite some time. Couldn't help wondering if you two had a falling-out. I know it's none of my business but you, at one time, talked about her often. I imagine your readers are curious too. Might make a interesting post, "When A Domme And Sub Part."

Recently you talked about the passing of your cat but you never mentioned if you'd get another one. Again readers might like to know.

I get a lot of perfectly nice, appropriate letters from people.

This would not be one of them.

I think I know who wrote this letter. There’s a certain man in Seattle who has approached me several times, first electronically and then in-person, to ask me about the exact status of my relationship with Jae. And - even more annoyingly - where she is and how she can be contacted. This is, I believe, the 4th time he’s done this.

His behavior is so astoundingly inappropriate that it leaves me almost speechless. A complete stranger thinks it is okay to walk up to me at a public event and demand information about my intimate relationships? Uh, no. That’s a really big no.

I don’t think he’s dangerous. I just think he’s unbelievably rude. No, if there’s someone likely to be dangerous in this situation, it’s me. Because I do not lose my temper easily, but if I do – oh, it won’t be pretty.

I gave him a civil non-response the first time he emailed me, and ignored him thereafter, and when he caught me in person and asked again, I spoke to him rather sharply. There were other people present, though, and one of them had the wit to draw him away before the conversation devolved too far. And then someone else had a talk with him, so I though we’d dealt with this problem. It seems not.

It is possible that the writer of this letter is not the same man who cornered me in public. But it would be a striking coincidence if they weren’t. I’d prefer not to believe in multiple people being so insensitive. "When A Domme And Sub Part." Good lord, that is really offensive. Obviously you are not even a frequent reader, because if you were, you’d know I loathe the abbreviation “sub”.

But regardless of vocabulary, prying for juicy details about what you think is happening in my private life is tacky. Had it occurred to you that if someone was estranged from an intimate partner, that having strangers demand details of that rift might be, oh, upsetting to them?

And in the same breath, you’re bringing up the death of my cat and asking if I’ve gotten another one? Are you serious?

Let me be clear: It’s fine to ask me advice about something intimate that’s happening in your life, if you wish to. It’s fine to ask me things like what public events I’m attending, where I like to go for dinner, where I got such-and-such a dress. It’s fine to ask me if I’ve ever tried a particular BDSM technique or a particular polyamory structure.

But there are questions one does not ask a stranger. At the very least, one pauses and ponders, “Does this question have the potential to be painful or distressing? And do I have any pressing need for the information - or am I just being nosy?”

At some level, this person knows he’s being inappropriate. Notice the repetition of the phrase “I couldn’t help”, and the attempt to deflect responsibility and distance himself from what he’s asking by saying he thinks my readers would want to know.

No, Mr. Writer-Of-This-Letter, you want to know. And you could indeed have “helped yourself” from writing this email. But you asked, so here’s the answer: you are not entitled to any information about the precise status and nature of my relationship with Jae – or anyone else in the world.

You see, my private life is, by definition, private. If I write about something, then that’s carefully-chosen information I’ve decided I’m willing to share. But the fact that I’ve shared some information does not mean that I am obligated to offer up anything you want to know, just to satisfy your prurient curiosity. That's like saying that if I wear a short skirt in public, you’re entitled to come flip it up and look underneath it. I’d deliver a swift kick to anyone who did that in person. You should not be surprised to find yourself on this end of a written one.

So in the future, don’t just say “Oh, I know this is none of my business, but..." and then proceed to try and make it your business. Stop and tell yourself: "No. This is none of my business."