Miss Manners on poly invitation protocol
Another mainstream advice columnist fields another poly etiquette inquiry. This is what your relatives may be reading today in the hometown paper.
Addressing invitations when there's more than one partner
Miss Manners by Judith Martin
United Feature Syndicate, Inc.
I have several friends who are in open or polyamorous relationships. Because I'm happy for their happiness together, I would like to make sure that I'm not excluding or slighting any of the partners.
If I am sending them an invitation to a gathering, how on earth do I address it? "Mr. and Mrs. Jane Doe and Ms. Lily Smith"? "The Doe and Smith Family"? "John and Jane Doe and Lily Smith"?
I don't want to draw overmuch attention to the fact that one couple is legally married and the other is "just" secondary. (This is insulting in polyamorous circles.) Also, am I correct in assuming that if the third partner has taken the legally married couple's name as part of a long-term arrangement, the correct address is "John, Jane, and Lily Doe" or "The Doe Family"? It seems silly to use "Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs. Doe," and "Mr. and Mrs. and Ms. Doe" opens all sorts of other concerns.
Also, how do I introduce a polyamorous group socially? Do legally married partners have status over second partners, meriting first introduction, or do I simply say, "Ms. Jones, these are my friends, the Does" and leave Ms. Jones to establish how they interrelate?
I have asked friends in the poly community how they handle this, and they say, "Just call them up and invite them!" which is not, perhaps, the most helpful of answers, though it is well-meaning.
GENTLE READER: Your busy friends have a point: Etiquette does not attempt to pinpoint what goes on in a household when company is not expected.
Miss Manners hopes this does not disappoint you.
It does provide you with a simple solution, however. Adults in the same household, whatever their relationship, are addressed by their names. Thus the envelopes could be addressed (on separate lines) to "Ms. Lily Smith/Mr. and Mrs. John Doe" or Ms. Lily Smith/Ms. Jane Doe/Mr. John Doe."
People do not generally send out invitations with the purpose of insulting their prospective guests, a fact of which those who are touchy about Ms. or Mrs. should take notice.
But judging from your friends' suggestion, they do not seem to be as fragile as you think.
And yes, you can let Ms. Jones discover the relationship for herself. Isn't that what parties are for?
Here's an original.
Labels: advice columns