Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

May 30, 2011

"It's not's gay/ When it's in a 3-way"

Saturday Night Live

A while back, after PopEater magazine declared that 2009 had been the year of the threesome, I posted about how three-way sex was becoming a fancy trend — at least for allusions in music, edgy ads, and haut-pop culture. Much as I've adored multi-lovemaking with very close intimates (it changed my life when I was young), I wasn't thrilled with the tone of the pop-culture stuff by comparison.

The trend continues. There was the Rolling Stone cover. Then on May 21st for the Saturday Night Live season finale, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and Andy Samberg displayed their new music video "3-Way (Golden Rule)." And it set the pop world buzzing.

As noted at Huffington Post/ Comedy, the Golden Rule is "the one you learned in elementary school about how it's ok for two straight men to go to bed together as long as it's a three-way with a hot chick?"

Watch it above (SFW, more or less). Bits from the lyrics:

It’s not gay, when it’s in a three-way
With a honey in the middle, there’s some lee-way
The area’s grey, in a one two three-way

Normally I don’t get down with dudes,
But tonight is a special exception.
See, you’re my best friend--
Through thick and thin--
Now it’s time to make a triple connection.

Here in the dark
It’s so hard to tell
Where her body ends (La la)
And my homie’s begins (Ew wee)

It's funny and certainly pushes the envelope, but call me a prude, this is so not me and mine.

BTW, Saturday Night Live is on NBC — our parents' plain old broadcast NBC, under the eyes of the FCC.

Lady Gaga has a rep as being smart, principled, and on the lookout to do good stuff regarding freedom and acceptance. Her new album Born This Way (which does not include "3-Way") went on sale a week ago, crashing Amazon. She had 10,549,679 Twitter followers as of last night. The album's audio and video pages had 129 million views, on a planet with only 6.9 billion people.


Threesomes are one of those things lots of people fantasize about but flub up in real life. IME, everyone needs to truly understand what they're doing and why, and everyone need an unstressed, highly communicative connection with one another going in. As in working out the safer-sex protocols for all contingencies long beforehand. As in fearlessly communicating things moment to moment. And inventing good etiquette on the fly, quite the brain exercise. There are so many energy flows amplifying, shifting, and complexifying (think runaway nonlinear feedback) that at least one person may have trouble keeping up — and loses the flow, and then that nonlinear feedback flips the energy mix all crazy.

In most of society, good group-sex practices just aren't taught.

A few suggestions that I sometimes pass on: Keep in physical contact with at least two people, even if it's just a friendly hand on the shoulder; this helps alert everyone quicker if someone needs special attention and comfort. Keep talking, and speak each others' names. Triads who routinely have sex together often settle into a pattern of two focusing attention on one, in turn all around. This avoids the who's-left-out syndrome and helps keep it a group enterprise, if that's what everyone wants at the time. Everyone also needs to feel free to step away and take a break without giving offense.

A friend of mine, an experienced poly since about the beginning of time, comments:

I personally take a dim view of doing a threesome for the sake of doing a threesome. I think threesomes are great if they are with people you know, are at least friends with, and have an ongoing relationship so that the three can experiment, talk and negotiate, and try again.

And one thing I really want to emphasize is that if a couple approaches a single person for sex outside a swing club, they really need to be clear about whether they are just ticking an experience off their bucket list or are open for some sort of relationship. Honesty and good intentions for the third party are a must.

On a discussion list we both frequent, in a thread recently about threesomes and moresomes, he had this advice for people looking to explore (reprinted with permission):

When I have ventured into new territory, and there are not many sexual territories I have not ventured into, it has always been good to have a trusted guide along and do the new activity in a safe space. Here are some ideas, in no particular order of recommendation.

1. If you are friends with a couple who are doing this, even if you don't want to do it with them, perhaps they would talk about what one might expect, and how to negotiate limits and say "no" to things gracefully. (I have often thought that doing a dry run with trusted friends, i.e. simulating sex with clothes on, might help someone figure out what their comfort levels are without actually going past some kind of point of no return.)

2. Take one of the Human Awareness Institute (HAI) workshops (http://hai.org). Ming and I took a number of these in the 1980's and they were well run, ethical, and very useful in helping me learn how comfortable I might be in different situations, including group sex and same sex interactions. I understand they have only improved over the years.

3. Go to a swing club and talk to people. Be honest about being newbies. You can even tell them that you are trying to find your comfort levels, are not going to do anything with anyone that night, whatever makes you feel safe. Baby steps, with plenty of discussion the next day, are a good way to go.

4. Find a couples counselor who is swing friendly. IMHO, the best way to use a counselor for couple-or-more issues is to have a session with the counselor, then each have individual sessions, and then have a session together. That way all parties can say the "unspeakable" to the counselor who can then help everyone get their needs met without blowing up the relationship.

5. And there are books and movies for swingers, but it is not always clear where they are coming from, or how well they represent the scenes you might find locally. Still they can be food for thought. There is always the venerable "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice", 1969 www.imdb.com/title/tt0064100. By 1969, Ming's and my marriage had been open for two years. We went to BCTA [to see the movie] with another couple, who were struggling with their marriage. We went to the local dessert place after, and sat down at a table for four, opposite each other. I quipped that all over the country sets of two couples were going to this movie, going out for dessert after, sitting across from each other, and then there would be complete silence. And there was complete silence.

P. S.: I see there are a bunch of guidebooks; put "threesome" and "threeway" into the Amazon books search and look for guidebooks among the pornfic. I don't know which are any good. Tristan Taormino has recommended Vicki Vantoch's The Threesome Handbook, but someone else said they found it superficial.

Comments? Suggestions?

P. P. S.: Time's running short to plan and announce your Poly House Party Weekend get-together June 3, 4, or 5. No event you put on is too big or too small, people just gotta have fun. The fundraiser part is optional.


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May 27, 2011

The next great poly slogan

It ain't a movement if it ain't got good slogans. A while back I posted about poly T-shirts, buttons, and other personal-media displays. Some are cool, some are cool but obscure, some are cool but too long, and some are just off-target or confusing.

Diana Adams, poly-activist lawyer and community organizer, has put out a call for a better T-shirt slogan (requires Facebook login, and scroll down to "I have a challenge..."). Here's your chance to make poly history — by inventing the most brilliant, witty, memorable, and chest-friendly declaration ever of what we're about. It has to have viral potential. People have to want to display it. (And you have to let Diana use it.)

You can enter by posting in the comments below. Some early entries:

POLYAMORY: We're all in this together. [That's mine.]

Open minds. Open hearts. Open love.

The more love you give, the more you have to give.

Polyamory: Love makes the world go 'round, and 'round, and 'round...

There's nothing more beautiful than loving someone... except loving two people.

Polyamory: Free your loves.

Share the love – there's more where that came from!

Hey Diana, is there a prize?

P. S. Time's running short to plan and announce your Poly House Party Weekend get-together June 3, 4, or 5. No event you put on is too big or too small, people just gotta have fun.


May 25, 2011

On mainstream TV: "Polyamory: Redefining love's boundaries"

WZZM TV-13 (Grand Rapids, MI)

People watching the local news in western Michigan a few minutes ago saw this wonderful, five-minute report profiling a committed quad and an outspoken triad. The report dwelt on expanding views of marriage. It couldn't have been more respectful. And the station serves a mostly Republican region.

From the transcript:

The United States legally defines marriage as "one man and one woman." But what if that definition of love is not enough? That's the case for members of one West Michigan group. They want to define love for themselves — instead of the government doing it for them.

...This married "quad" is redefining commitment. Its called polyamory. Claire says, "Polyamory means many loves, the ability to love more than one person."

Claire and Mike met Emily and Victor by chance online — both liked each other's blog responses on relationships and the four agreed to meet.

Victor says, "We were just like they're really great people, let's see more of them, we started to, and it just grew from there."

There was an obvious attraction, when a conversation opened up all agreed to make the friendship — intimate.

...Now 20 months into marriage, the newlyweds try to balance their affections.

Mike says, "What happens as far as sleeping arrangements, is Claire and Emily switch beds every other night, but Claire and Emily also sleep together too one night, because they need that bond as well."

As for the men, they are emotional spouses, but don't share beds. Like any other relationship, sex is just one aspect of daily life. The quad pools everything — finances, chores, and decision making.

...As a group, they also do something society, even family, are deeply critical of: they raise two children. It's the reason this family does not want to be identified.... "They're being raised with open minds, questioning minds, and I think they'll be better for it in the future."

While this quad isn't ready to show their faces, a polyamorous trio is. Michael and Katie live together — but both date Monica. They're coming forward in hopes of making a social change.

Katie says, "As long as you're not infringing on anyone else's rights you should be able to do whatever is right for you."

...Katie says, "I don't think the government has any part of a relationships, who you love, regardless of if you're gay or straight, love one person or 100, the government shouldn't be able to put a name on that."...

Watch the show, or read the whole transcript (May 25, 2011). It's also now on USA Today Videos, here.

Anybody reading this know the backstory? How did you get the TV station to do such a good job?

Update next day: So some Michiganders did get upset! From the town of Fremont north of Grand Rapids, the American Decency Association ("Marking the difference between the holy and the profane") writes to its members,

Last evening local Grand Rapids TV news affiliate, WZZM-13, featured a lengthy segment during their 6:00 dinner hour news that would turn your stomach. No, it wasn’t about a gruesome accident or a violent crime spree. The nausea-inducing news story was about the topic of “marriage” – entitled, Polyamory: Redefining love’s boundaries....

Read the whole missive. It tells members how to complain to the station.


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May 21, 2011

Poly House Party Weekend!

Off-topic maybe, but it's two weeks till Polyamory House Party Weekend June 3–5. This is a (so far) North-America-wide, do-it-yourself event created by folks at Modern Poly and Loving More to have fun, to "bring together polyamorous people and communities, to celebrate polyamory, and to support the movement for the acceptance of relationship choice."

It is poly-fi triads, kids of four-parent households, primaries and their play partners, the ethically non-monogamous, the incidentally monogamous, the polysaturated, the overly single, the doubly heartbroken, the label-resistant, the too-complex-to-explain, and our wonderful not-wired-that-way supportive allies.

It is barbecues, keggers, potlucks, raves, picnics, blues dances, play parties, tantric retreats, game nights, field days, movement fundraisers, cuddle parties, and fancy dinners.

It is raising awareness about our culture, our relationship preference, and the idea that freedom of relationship choice is important to society at large. It is a community bonding experience, our way — because everyone will do it a little differently.

You can go create a party or event of any description, large or small, and (after a moderator's approval) it will be listed for all to see on the website. Of course you'll also need to do your own local inviting/publicity.

It's suggested that the parties be voluntary fundraisers for Loving More and/or the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, but that's not required.

I'm co-hosting a party in southern New Hampshire, in conjunction with Family Tree, the decades-old poly discussion/support/social group in my area. Go look!

Click and copy high-quality logo for your Facebook pageThe whole idea was born last fall at the Polyamory Leadership Network summit meeting in Seattle. The 31 people at the summit chose to focus the meeting's discussions on ideas around community building, fundraising, dealing with the media, and the Canadian poly-decriminalization effort now in court. In a brainstorm about things we could do, I think it was Mai Li who first yelled out, "House parties!" Thus was born the National Poly House Party Committee, consisting of (according to my minutes) Jessica, Mai Li, Amanda, David and Robyn Trask.

Now the website is done and working, publicity is cranking, the logo above is facebooking, parties are coming in, and all it needs is you!

Why is the committee doing this?

Aside from any other excuse to throw a party?

STRENGTH IN UNITY. Because the world needs to see the polyamory community come together in celebration — because alone, we are vulnerable, but together, we are strong.

ACCEPTANCE. Because building a strong, proud, happy, & ethical public presence makes it easier for more people to be out comfortably.

IDENTITY. Because showing the world our cultures, our diversity, and what makes us unique, shows them we are real and valuable, and not just a 'phase,' but how we live & love.

SUPPORT. Because we are already fighting for our rights, and that fight is just beginning.

What are the goals?

We want to see people hosting all kinds of events that weekend to celebrate polyamory, across the world!

We want to see polys globally to spend the weekend building and nurturing their communities, and raising awareness about our culture and relationship preference.

We would love to see the largest organizations working for our rights have some of the support they need, in dollars, resources and volunteers.

We hope to see polys across the world more connected to each other and the issues we are facing together in our fight for acceptance.

The plan is to make this a regular, growing thing that happens at least once a year. Now that the mechanics are all set up (after a late start) it'll be much easier to repeat and grow, with dates set far in advance. Already people are having ideas for a Skype network to connect simultaneous parties.

You've always wanted to see something like this happen — so come to an event, or create your own!



May 20, 2011

"When Your Partner's Other Partner Isn't So Great"

The Stranger (Seattle)

Mistress Matisse, alt-newspaper columnist on kink and poly relationships, addresses a topic at the heart of the human condition. And the topic of many a poly discussion group.

Coping When Your Partner's Other Partner Isn't So Great

Will Rogers famously remarked that he never met a man he didn't like. However, I'm pretty sure Will Rogers wasn't polyamorous. So what happens when you're happily polyamorous, your partner — with your blessing — starts dating someone new, and you realize that you do not like this person?

It's a tricky situation. People committed to the ideals of open romantic relationships may feel they're betraying their principles by disliking their partner's other partners. (Let's call them POPs for short.) Polyamory certainly goes more smoothly when everyone gets along. But two perfectly nice people, both loved by a third person, can sometimes be just too different (or, just as often, too much alike) to be close friends.

...My only advice is the obvious: Tell your partner how you feel, but recognize these are your feelings and your responsibility. Be polite to your POP in social situations, but minimize time spent in close company. (Your partner should give full cooperation in this.)...

I do have a strategy around preventing negative feelings from happening in the first place: not too much, not too soon. Yes, it's nice to meet the people your partner is dating. But some polyamory literature strongly suggests spending lots of quality time with you.... One gets the impression that poly people are damn-near obligated to welcome new POPs by love-bombing them like [they're] a Moonies recruit. I disagree.

...Once I'm used to the fact of the new POP, then I get to know him/her just as I would anyone else: slowly, organically, without any assumptions of intimacy. I think feeling that one must immediately like the new person as much as one's partner does is what breeds resentment and then dislike....

Read her whole article (May 17, 2011).

Me, I've always yearned for my metamours to be available for true closeness. But if you fail to grasp that this is not always realistic or desirable, you are carrying a dangerous load of Geek Social Fallacy #4 and need to learn your way out of it for the good of everyone around you.

Even when I encountered Stranger in a Strange Land as a kid, I realized that its ideal of "catenative assemblage" (a legal term that Mike found in Jubal's law library: a partner of yours becomes a partner of mine) might work for Martians and angels but not for humans. One of my beefs with Heinlein....

It took me a while longer to decide that this was not only reality, it was also okay.



May 15, 2011

Recent Poly Books, 3:
Love Unlimited

Six new books on polyamory have come out in the last year and a half (as far as I know). I've reviewed two of them so far:

Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners by Deborah Anapol, and

What Does Polyamory Look Like? Polydiverse Patterns of Loving and Living in Modern Polyamorous Relationships by Mim Chapman.

The others are:

Love Unlimited: The Joys and Challenges of Open Relationships, by Leonie Linssen and Stephan Wik,

Swinging in America: Love, Sex and Marriage in the 21st Century, by Curtis R. Bergstrand and Jennifer Blevins Sinski,

Love in Abundance: A Counselor's Guide to Open Relationships, by Kathy Labriola, and

The Art and Etiquette of Polyamory: A Hands-on Guide to Open Sexual Relationships, by Françoise Simpère.

Let's take a look at the next on this list:


Love Unlimited: The Joys and Challenges of Open Relationships, by Leonie Linssen and Stephan Wik. Findhorn Press, 2010.

Leonie Linssen is a relationship coach in the Netherlands, bi and poly herself, who specializes in clients with multi-relationship situations. She has counseled hundreds of people, and certain repeating themes stand out. Love Unlimited, coauthored with Stephan Wik (translated from their Dutch edition) presents the detailed stories of 12 representative individuals, couples, and groups who came to her with multi-love problems. Each gets a chapter, following how Linssen and her clients examined situations and worked toward resolutions.

Each chapter ends with a list of questions you might ask yourself in similar situations, and tips for progressing on a particular problem highlighted. Wik adds sections looking at larger philosophical, historical, or spiritual aspects of the topics that have been raised.

A Special Calling

Linssen found her way to her counseling role late. "I grew up in a small Dutch village with an upbringing based on monogamy, strict rules, and the Catholic faith," she writes. As a result, "My childhood concepts of love and relationships were rather romantic and bore no relationship to who I actually was." Not until age 40 did she face up to her bisexual and poly nature and start consciously constructing her life.

"Someone who wants to live a life based on true personal authenticity first has to have the courage to be who he or she really is," she continues. "For many of us, this is an in-depth process that first involves discovering how to come in contact with our own inner source of truth, our own being." Her own transformation was so powerful and difficult "that I decided I would like to share my experiences and, if possible, be of service to others grappling with the same issues."

So she went back to school, earned a degree in counseling, and in 2005 opened her own coaching practice, Verander je Wereld ("Change your World"). She is now a pioneer in poly coaching in the Netherlands and has made many media appearances.

The case studies come from both avant-garde and mainstream society. They include a women seeking to make a successful poly-and-single life for herself with her several very different lovers; a conventional woman in a conventional marriage confused and devastated by falling in love with someone else; couples recovering from cheating; a married woman attracted to other women whose husband disapproves; a couple opening their marriage together; two couples investigating swinging together and perhaps more; a mono-poly couple breaking up; an otherwise fine marriage that has gone sexless, with a possible agreement for one spouse to go outside for sex; and a full, three-way poly triad seeking to construct their pioneering way of life.

In each case Linssen is careful to put her clients' interests ahead of her assumptions or agendas. For instance, a woman with a conservative Christian husband ultimately decides to put aside her unexpected love for another and to cleave to her husband and the way of life she has sworn herself to. Linssen helps guide her to resolution in making this choice.

Each case study is presented at length, possibly more length than you'd like unless you're really interested in people. But that's who the book is for — especially those who face similar problems in their own lives, and especially other therapists who want to see how a variety of poly and extramarital situations can be handled in a non-judgmental way based on the clients' own wishes, needs, and values.

Anyone can benefit by considering the self-examinations and exercises suggested at the end of each chapter. Examples are the "see it through my eyes" exercise, tips for developing autonomy, tips for setting boundaries, making clear agreements, active listening, recognizing codependence, and developing an effective complementary sexual relationship even with different desires and needs. And some of the characters portrayed along the way may stick with you forever.

You can read the (very detailed) table of contents and more of the book online.

Here are some audio interviews about the book that Linssen did in the U.S. (with Monika Thomas and Susan Block) and in the U.K. (with Mike Vitalis and Julia Armstrong).

She and the book have appeared in many more articles, radio, and TV reports in the Netherlands; for links see the entire right-hand sidebar here.


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May 7, 2011

"Polyamory for Monogamists"

SexIs ("what you want it to be")

The new online and print magazine SexIs ("taking sex positivity to a whole new level") is getting a lot of notice, judging from my Google Alerts. It's published by EdenFantasys, "the sex shop you can trust," a woman-oriented distributor of adult toys that also provides "education about topics of healthy sexual activity. We believe that the safe, consensual expression of sexuality is a wonderful and crucial part of human life."

The magazine looks serious; it has a lot of professional content and has brought in some of the sex-positive world's name writers. It just published this:

Polyamory for Monogamists

By Kal Cobalt

Whether you're the one excited about trying poly or the partner who's been approached to open up the relationship, you don't have to just guess and hope about the outcome of this venture....

There are all kinds of types who get interested in exploring polyamory, but the same few hurdles keep catching folks who give it a try. Armed with a few specifics, you have a better chance of successfully navigating your way past them into polyamory — or figuring out early on that it's not for you and your partner....

Ask Yourself: Why Do I Want This?

If your reason for wanting to try poly runs along the lines of "I can understand how I could love more than one person at a time" or "It would be interesting to watch my partner fuck someone else or hear about it afterward," you have a reasonable likelihood of moving toward poly.

If, however, your reason is something like "My partner wants to give it a try and I don't see why not," "Sex without strings attached could be cool," or "I love the idea of fucking whoever I want," you may not be as likely to succeed as you think. Polyamory, unlike open relationships or swinging, is not about freewheeling sex. Your relationships will often depend on how your other relationships feel about them.

Going poly because it doesn't seem like a big deal is a recipe for disaster — it is a big deal. Think of your mono or poly orientation as similar to your sexual orientation: you can experiment with it, but going against your historical orientation just because your partner wants it is unlikely to turn out well....

Ask Your Partner: Why Do You Want This?

Here's a common scenario: You read something about poly and you realize you're interested. You read more, think about it for a few days, and decide you want to try it.... You approach your partner with the great idea... and when your partner doesn't immediately respond favorably, you feel trapped by your jealous, controlling partner.

Meanwhile, from the other side, it feels like this: You feel that your relationship is going pretty well. Suddenly, your partner blurts out that they want to date other people — while still being with you, of course. You sit quietly for a moment, trying to figure out whether this means your relationship is falling apart....

...Polyamory to placate one partner doesn't work, which should come as no surprise; doing anything solely to placate one partner usually results in peace for a limited time followed by a great big blowout...

...Here are a few things you'll want to think about in advance and watch out for.

Jealousy. If this is not a problem for you, you aren't out of the woods. Polyamory means you have at least two other people's potential jealousies to take into account....

Mixing polyamory and monogamy. Sometimes, when one partner is interested in polyamory and the other is not, this solution comes to mind: Partner A will be polyamorous, and Partner B will be monogamous to Partner A, and everyone will be happy. I am here to tell you that this works only once in a blue moon....

Mixing priority levels. Most often, polyamory ends up existing in a hierarchy.... While this isn't how all poly is structured, it's the most common way. Mixing happens when, for example, Partner A is your primary...but you're Partner A's secondary....

Don't Give Up...Until It's Time

I'm not trying to scare you off polyamory. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me, and I couldn't imagine my life any other way....

Read the whole article (May 2, 2011).

P.S.: Two relevant Yahoo discussion groups:

Livingpolymono, which "exists primarily to provide support to polyamorous people with monogamous partners," and

PolyMono,"a support group for monogamous people in a committed relationship with someone who is polyamorous."

Both have been active since 2002.


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May 2, 2011

Miss Manners on poly invitation protocol

Distributed to more than 200 newspapers

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.