Diary of a 1L
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Thursday, December 18, 2003
10:37 AM

Okay! Here's my first customer for advice!

Dear 1L,

My boyfriend/roommate and I are spending Christmas at my parents' house in another state. My grandfather will also be present and will be meeting my boyfriend for the first time. I do not believe that my grandfather knows of our living arrangements and if he did know, he'd most certainly disapprove. Do you have any suggestions on how to field potential inquiries?

Sincerely, Cautious in Columbus

Okay, I have a fairly analytical bent, and it's even more so given that I'm taking law school exams. So here's how I'm going to start my answer: Just what are your possible courses of action?
  1. You could not tell your grandfather the whole truth, regardless of whether you're asked: you could lie about who the young gentleman accompanying you to Christmas is or about whether he lives with you or both.
  2. You could tell your grandfather some stuff, but only if asked. In other words, if he asks if he's your boyfriend, you could say yes but not say he's your roommate. If he asks if he's your roommate, you can say yes but not say he's your boyfriend. (All of the sudden, this reminds me of that scene from Chinatown, except in this case it would be: "He's my roommate." (slap!) "I said I want the truth!" "He's my boyfriend." (slap!) "He's my roommate." (slap!) "My boyfriend...my roommate..." (slap slap slappp!) "I said I want the truth!" "He's my boyfriend and my roommate!")
  3. You could get everything out in the open either before or during Christmas dinner.
  4. You could punt in some way: not go to Christmas, or somehow have your grandfather barred from attending. I know this one is a little far-fetched, but I don't know how bad a scene it's going to be if your grandfather finds out and doesn't approve.

Let's dispose of #1 and #4 as too extreme. So the question is whether to tell him outright, or answer just the questions asked. The only reason I can see for not being forthcoming would be if you're certain that there's going to be a ruckus and you want to hold it off for as long as possible. Otherwise, I think you'd want to take a shot at defusing any friction at the earliest opportunity.

So, if you're going to come clean with your grandfather, what's the best way to do that? I think the next questions to ask are why he disapproves and how he might react. Would his disapproval be based on moral or religious convictions against cohabitation before marriage, or based on concern for you and what's best for you from a practical standpoint? Maybe you can make some moral and practical arguments for why you've made the choices you have. This might be in the form of: "Could be worse...I could be [for example] married, but to someone I don't really love"...something like that.

In response, is he likely to more or less just give you a hard time, or might he actually act to try to impose his will on you? If it's the latter, I think it would be pretty effective to pointedly tell him that, though you love him as family and respect his opinion, nothing he says is going to change your choice of living arrangements, and thus it's not worth his while to attempt to interfere. If he's just going to give you a hard time, you'll probably have to grin and bear it, but you'll probably feel better about yourself having been candid with him.

I get the sense, though, that there's another consideration here: I would think you don't want to upset or offend your grandfather. The thing is, you clearly don't have the same values as he does, at least in that one area, or you wouldn't have made the choices you've made. That doesn't mean, however, that all your values are different from his. So I think you should be honest and tell him what you believe, but you should point out the values that you share with him: the good qualities that he exemplifies and that you strive to emulate.

So there's my answer, Cautious. I think the more important thing than my final analysis is hopefully posing some questions for you to think about that you might not have otherwise come up with.

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