When Do You Tell Someone That You’re Different?


The wife and I went to the Renaissance Faire yesterday. I’d gone once before, and, typical of a place that reveres 500 year old traditions, nothing had changed in the past few years.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have. Not sure why, but I was in my head all day – not fully present and enjoying my surroundings. Part of the reason was because it was blazing hot, but another reason is because I was observing a unique slice of humanity and I couldn’t wait to write about it.

As I watched the men in their tights and Olde English speaking styles, and the women in their corsets and braids…and I saw how committed they were to this Renaissance stuff… it occurred to me that these folks were really, really enjoying themselves. They’d found a community where they could be like actors – reinvent themselves as whatever they wanted to be – and immerse themselves fully in their roles. I found myself torn between snark and envy as I watched thousands of people travel back in time – with a hint of irony, sure, but mostly, to escape their day-to-day concerns.

And all I could think was, “When do you tell someone that you DO this? When do you let your partner know that you’ve got chain mail and a cape that you bust out for 10 straight weekends each spring when you joust as “Sir James, the Magnificent”?

The Ren Faire just brings up that bigger question: when do you let someone see your odd side? Your weak side? Your questionable side? Your ugly side? I probably let most of my previous girlfriends know about my anxious side within the first two months. That declaration never scared anyone away in the moment – although there have been a few times when women chose not to put up with that part of me afterwards.

So, what is YOUR less desirable trait (sexual fetish, massive debt, Prozac habit) and when do you share it?

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  1. 1

    I have to talk about some of my “things” up front since I still see a therapist & I just think it is fair & how I would want to be treated. I am a huge believer in “just saying it” but there are times when I definitely struggle to let the words spill out. This approach has worked well for me so far although I wonder if it has hurt my finding “the one”? Since we haven’t met yet, I can only wonder.

  2. 2

    I blogged about this exact topic a couple of weeks ago…for me, it is that I stand a 50% chance of becoming quadriplegic by the time I am in my forties.

    There are lots of things I could think of for the BF, but I don’t know what his fear was…

    Honey´s last blog post…When Do You Have The Talk?

  3. 3

    I guess most of those things haven’t really come up as an issue for me–at least not lately–simply because I tend to meet women through activities related to my, uh, “odd side”.

    In terms of “weak” or “ugly” sides, I’m not so sure. I definitely used to have pretty serious ones, but I’ve done enough work on them over the years that the faults I have these days at least aren’t so glaring as to shame the sun.

    I mean, I don’t feel like I really have to ANNOUNCE to anyone that “I procrastinate a bit” or that “I’m not really impressed by very much” or that “sometimes I get kinda drunk and tease other people in a not-overly-mean-really-sort-of-playful way”?

    Though seriously, if my Big Bad were weekending as “Sir James, the Magnificent” I would take that shit with me to the GRAVE.

    casualencounters.com/blog´s last blog post…Weekly Roundup – Top 10 Casual Sex Links from Around the Web

  4. 4

    Oh boy, totally depends on what the “thing” is. If it’s something that meets the DSM criteria, you should probably divulge it sooner rather than later, but maybe not until you have been on a few dates and it looks like they will continue. Sexual fetishes? I’d say before you hit the sheets–it could be a total turn off to your partner (or a turn on, in which case you may want to make sure you have your chains and gags nearby, just in case). I had sex (once, that was enough) with a man who could only maintain a hard on with me in a twister-like position. Had I known about it in advance, I never would have slept with him.

    Massive debt? That’s a tough one. I might allude to being a bit pinched financially, but frankly, I think it’s no one’s business until you start discussing cohabitating. Likewise if you have a trust fund. Health issues? I think if you have a serious illness that impacts how you live your life, such as cancer, Parkinson’s or diabetes, it’s best to let your date know pretty soon. Same with addiction problems. It may just be too much for some dates to handle. General “weirdness,” like Civil War re-enactments, bee keeping, or collecting teaspoons from the national parks, can just be revealed when you feel like bringing it up in conversation.

    I think it also depends on who you are dating. A partner who also has debt isn’t going to be nearly as put off by it as someone who squirrels away every cent. A slob isn’t going to care that your basement’s a mess. Someone who believes in reincarnation isn’t going to bat an eye when you talk about your psychic. (I have reasonable debt, a basement waiting for the Oprah show, and a psychic I consult regularly–she’s never wrong, by the way). All that seems to be OK in my current relationship. He still hasn’t seen me without makeup, though…

  5. 5

    If it was an off-the-wall hobby like Ren Fair, I’d throw that out there pretty quickly with GUSTO just to see how a potential date would react. Don’t think of it as her (or him) thinking badly of your hobby, think of it as you screening your date to see if they’re cool enough to hang with you BECAUSE you have cool hobbies.

    If it was a health issue, kids, something serious, I would also throw it out there soon, maybe around date 3-5, something like that.

    Lance´s last blog post…Best. Party. Ever.

  6. 6
    Curly Girl

    EMK, this is the best question EVER!! It’s so much fun! I’m liking you a whole lot better now that I know you have naturally curly hair and that your new wife brings you to Renaissance Faires. She gets high “cool wife” marks in my book. Makes me want to be less snarky with you.

  7. 7

    So…which do you bring up first: your yearly visit to the Renn Faire, or your annual Star Trek convention pilgrimage? 🙂

  8. 8

    That’s tough one. I’m a radio geek as are most of my friends. We have a little club. Most people don’t get it, which makes it kind of hard for a guy to be in the “tribe” as it were. I always think a guy has to be able assimilate into the group to be able to date him.

  9. 9

    I’m with Lance (#5), if you have an offbeat hobby, by all means share! Separates you from the crowd, makes you interesting. I’d be up for a Renn faire.

    I can also relate with Cilla (#4) regarding sexual practices. I dated a couple, shall we say…”special needs” guys when it came to how they had sex. While interesting the first time, it quickly became old and both were a bit selfish in that arena also as it turned out. Like STD’s, certain sexual practices are best discussed before you are already in the bedroom.

    Generally though, I think quirks and less desireable qualities come out at their own pace the more time you spend with each other.

  10. 10

    Great topic! I am a professional bellydancer and if they haven’t met me via that, then they know pretty quick since I teach class twice a week. As for the Renn Faire, I went for the first time with some of my dancers and had a ball. As for the sexual things, best known up front. Some things for me are decidedly deal breakers. Debt, wait to see how they are about money and it also depends on how you are handling it. If you are paying it off and managing it, then I would keep mum unless the relationship gets serious. But most people I meet know my hobbies because I invite people to join me!

  11. 11

    I had the talk about some of my less-conventional ‘things’ pretty early on with my guy. He found some of them to be quirky (in a good way) and some of them pretty awesome (definitely in a good way) and it made him feel really comfortable telling me about his “things.” He’s come with me to a couple of fan conventions, reads my online LJ, and got into a lot of shows that I love to watch. He’s introduced me to all the things he loves, too and we now have so much more to share together. Granted, he’s probably not your typical case but then again I know how lucky I got when I found him. I say share who you are, all of it, when you’re sure you’d like the person you’re dating to stick around for more than a good time, a dinner out or a movie.

  12. 12

    I have to say I enjoyed the mental image of someone like EMK at a Ren Fair. It gave me a good chuckle. Evan, I am where you are with those things. It is out of my bailiwick, but I have to hand it to them as they have a lot of fun, learn a lot in the process and it doesn’t seem to be fattening or illegal. More power to them.

  13. 13

    Good question! I don’t think there can be a general formula. All the answers would vary depending on the people and issues involved.

    For the record, things like teaching a dance class, doing ren fairs, or being in a radio club are not “issues”.

    Serious health and financial issues yes, those other things, no.

  14. 14

    My passion for Victorian Ballroom Dancing is right up on my profile, along with my Dolly Parton character. Although I don’t expect my partner to have to share those activities with me, that is a part of me that I don’t plan on giving up anytime soon, so my opinion is get it out right away before the first contact. If a man is looking for a many faceted woman I might fit, if he is not, no use wasting his time and mine. In fact when some guy asked me in a email about that last night and I answered him, he went away, that works for me. Dressing up in character is really fun for me.

    Health or money issues are a different thing and those I wouldn’t disclose until after several dates and a relationship was started.

  15. 15

    Heh, this reminds me of this one “Dear Prudence” column, in which a young woman didn’t know what to do after her boyfriend (of 4 years!) disclosed his fetish to her: he liked to wear diapers.

    Thankfully, I don’t have any quirks / hangups / idiosyncrasies even remotely as weird / off-putting / deal-breaking.

    As for the whatever negative stuff about my life – I used to be an open book, but the older I get the more I start believing in revealing things on a need-to-know basis.

  16. 17

    Interesting topic.

    Recently, on a second date, a woman revealed that her prior relationship was with another woman. A very serious long-term relationship. But nothing like it before or since. It was a fascinating conversation and one of the things we discussed was “When do you bring this up?”. Surprisingly she said most guys pretty much took it in stride.

    She astutely started the conversation inquiring about my politics. I think it gave her a general feel for which way this would go.

    I’ve also been contacted by two transgender individuals. That is something I would probably want to know about early on.

  17. 18

    Great topic. My guy and I both have some so-called issues, including quirky lifestyle philosophies, opposite eating habits, funky career choices, moderate health concerns, and even a 13-year age difference. Crazy thing is … it actually works for us. Where one is weak, the other is strong. One has more tech skills, the other more people skills. One shines more physically, the other more emotionally. Plus, we just fit together physically.

    This doesn’t mean you lay out all your Quirk Cards on Date One. But it doesn’t mean you hide or deny them, either. It means that you stay true to yourself, and be who you are. And one day, if you keep looking, and the planets align just right, you find yourself looking into the eyes of someone who like you as much as you like them.

  18. 19

    I dated and fell in love with a guy when he revealed after 3 months that he has an outstanding warrant for his arrest (he bounced a check) and is illegally in the US. I was crazy about him, moved in with him after knowing him for 4 months and thought I loved him enough to make the commitment. He was crazy about me too but the next 5 months were rocky because I did not know whether I could trust him or why he really was with me and so it came to an end after 10 months, If I knew within the first 2 – 4 weeks about his issues, I would never have allowed it to progress for so long. So from my personal experience, you owe it to someone to be up front soon about major issues (money, health, legal issues) because if you wait for the relationship to develop and get that person to be emotionally connected to you, it can also backfire because the other person will think you are manipulating her/him. I must add that I come from a culture where criminal issues, even smaller ones, will definitely be frowned upon – so I was really put off by him breaking the law.

  19. 20

    Dezine, some women are attracted to mysterious fellows, I heard the Menendez brothers got married in jail.

  20. 21

    EMK, on the lighter side, supposedly, the last day of the “Ren Faire,” in the evening, is when the costumes come off, and fleshy activities commence.

  21. 22

    The right thing to do, ideally, would be reveal funky things that are your own making/fault (the renaissance persona would fall into this category) as soon as the moment is appropriate, and withhold those that are not your making (for instance, growing up with a single parent after they divorced when you were a child) for as long as it is possible.

    It is, however, extremely difficult to escape talking about ‘who your parents are’, at least here in northern Europe, and I could certainly appreciate Evan’s take on how a fatherless girl should position herself correctly during the first 4 dates.

  22. 23
    Karl R

    Jura said: (#22)
    “It is, however, extremely difficult to escape talking about who your parents are”
    “I could certainly appreciate Evan’s take on how a fatherless girl should position herself correctly during the first 4 dates.”

    Growing up in a single-parent home isn’t a stigma in the U.S. However, I also avoid discussing certain family issues early on, since I’m not on speaking terms with my parents.

    I just use a few tricks to subtly steer the conversation:
    1) I don’t bring up the topic.
    2) When the other person brings up the topic of family, I tend to steer the conversation towards “safer” ground … like my recent visits to see my sister and my niece.
    3) I don’t lie about the situation, but I don’t volunteer extra information. For example, if someone asks me what my father does, I can tell them with a fair amount of detail … without ever mentioning that we haven’t seen each other in 5 or 6 years.
    4) When you do bring up the topic, don’t act embarrassed. Explain the situation in a matter-of-fact tone. Keep it short and simple with minimal drama.
    5) You get to spin the story any way you want. Include the details you want to include and leave out the details you want to leave out. And you can always fill in more details later.

    When I’m revealing to a person any of these details (weird, ugly, etc.) I wait just long enough to ensure that I won’t be defined by that trait. I’ll let someone discover that I’m intelligent and well-educated … then I’ll mention that I never completed college.

  23. 24

    Selena May 18th 2009 at 06:34 pm 9
    I can also relate with Cilla (#4) regarding sexual practices. I dated a couple, shall we say special needs guys when it came to how they had sex. While interesting the first time, it quickly became old and both were a bit selfish in that arena also as it turned out.

    “special needs”…..LOL

  24. 25
    Mikko Kemppe

    You should tell about your odd, negative, or bad side after your date or partner has seen and become attracted to your positive side first.

    You would not want to go to a job interview and explain all of the negative things about you as a worker. By putting your best foot forward first allows you then to reveal your less “normal” or more negative side. Of course, there is exceptions to this as you would not want to mislead anyone or tell lies about something important that your partner or date should know.

    -Mikko Kemppe

    Mikko Kemppe´s last blog post…Why go salsa dancing if you are single? Here are FIVE great reasons!

  25. 26
    Cameron Sharpe

    Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.

  26. 27

    It depends on the what and the who. Some of it needs to come out naturally. Also, you want to see if the relationship is going anywhere. Special interests can be revealed immediately, health issues should come out early on as the relationship progresses. Any fake parts neede to be revealed before sex. General personality traits will show as you interact. Also, whats’ weird to one person can be normal to another. For example some men are facinated and turned on that I have dildos. Others are turned off.
    I think the twisted sex postion would turn me off but hell so does jack rabbit sex. But I only find that out until it is too late. 🙁

  27. 28

    @ Angela

    I try to determine, to the degree possible, as much about a partner’s sexual proclivities as I can before we hit the sheets. If he’s uncomfortable discussing it, I know right there we are not compatible. (I certainly want to discuss history, STDs, birth control, etc., ahead of time anyway.) It doesn’t have to be completely clinical (although I had one date ask me to fill out a sexual compatibility survey, which while it sounds a little creepy, was actually kind of practical AND interesting, and was created by a well known professor at a major university–I researched). A flirty “so are you a marathon or a sprint guy?” usually helps reveal the jack rabbits. If that goes well, you can get into more detail. Ever since the twister guy snuck up on me though, I’ve been tempted to add a question like, “Do you need any particular or unusual positions to complete the act?” LOL

  28. 29

    At times I wish I had all these wonderful stories to tell also…

  29. 30


    Or “accessories”? Abuse? And how long does it take you?

    The jackrabbit is one end of the spectrum – on the other is the guy who can’t climax very easily and keeps you at it for longer than is comfortable. Or continues to pester you “for more” because their inability to complete leaves them in a perpetual state of arousal despite considerable time and effort spent solely on them. Gets annoying.

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