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Response to "'Girls' or 'Spouses'"?

Posted by Robin Abrahams  February 2, 2011 01:55 PM

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Okay, here's the short version: I think the lesbian spouse should be included. This is what her partner wants, and the LW gives no compelling reason for why she should be excluded other than "I think along the lines of 'spouses inlcuded' (sic) or 'spouses not included," rather than divide it up by gender." 

The LW's beliefs about how people ought to be categorized -- about whether the spouse is more essentially a "spouse" or more essentially a "woman" -- should not be allowed to hurt another person. Particularly, as several commenters pointed out, a person who is a member of group that continues to face discrimination and second-class citizenship. 

 If the LW could come up with a compelling reason to exclude the spouse -- including simple dislike! -- I might be more sympathetic. And perhaps there are compelling reasons that she didn't share. But on what's given -- nope.

WOW. It took me so long to write a response that short. This question really had my thoughts going in a lot of directions. I'll try to go through comments and respond more in-depth later this week (I don't think I'm going anywhere ...). But for now, there's my conclusion. What do you think? 

  UPDATE: Thanks for your further comments, and apologies about the formatting problems. I think some of our disagreements have to do with whether we are seeing this as a theoretical problem, or a practical one. At this point, I think cb-southern's comment is the one to beat:

Sometimes close friends want to spent time together without spouses, everyone keeps saying. And okay, that works as long as that's what everyone in the group wants. But the lesbian couple doesn't seem to want to be split up for the sake of this gathering and that's the crux of the problem. Whether she's right or wrong, do any of you think there's a way to solve this "problem" without hurting her feelings? I don't see it. There is something kind of creepy in the group dynamic, I think, like the women who want to complain about their husbands so bad feel guilty complaining about men to a pair of lesbians. Ugh. [Emphasis added]
For the sake of argument, I am willing to leave aside questions of gender, sexual orientation, and the like. Let's say that, as some commenters have pointed out, there is simply a terrific dynamic between the original four that is disrupted by the presence of the spouse. Given that:

  • As a practical matter, can you answer the question above?
  • As a practical matter, how would you go about hurting a friend's feelings in such a way that it would recapture or preserve the magic of your relationship? (And if anyone can tell me that isn't fundamentally what the LW is asking to do, I'd like to hear your description.)
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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