Kissing and telling. Or not.

My code of ethics: discretion, relevance, respect.

At a recent writer’s conference, I met a delightful woman, Mary, who plans to write about dating as a senior. We dished a bit and discovered some common ground. “Maybe we could collaborate on something,” said Mary. I agreed wholeheartedly.

If I’m going to write about dating or relationships, I need some guard rails. Some ground rules. Some boundaries. When I published “To date me, you need hiking boots” earlier this year, I felt I struck a good balance between disclosure and discretion, and I’d like to keep doing it right.

Dating has been one of the most transformative growth experiences of my adult life. My natural inclination is to share what I’ve learned. But I want my dates to wonder if they’re going to end up in my bed, not in my book. They need to earn my trust, and I need to earn theirs, too.

Here’s how I will NOT become like Howard Stern in “Private Parts.”

Discretion

  • Value others’ privacy as I do my own. Very highly.
  • Pseudonyms. This means you, Lawrence.
  • Change identifying details. The mayor of Boyntonville can relax.
  • Keep it clean. Prospective employers may read my stuff.
  • Fair use is playing fair. Quote correspondence or profiles minimally and only to make a point.

Relevance

  • Stay on point. Focus on personal growth and gender / cultural issues.
  • Vent elsewhere. I can blow off steam with my girlfriends over a bottle of wine, not online.
  • No therapy. While writing about relationships is certainly therapeutic, some concerns should be discussed with friends or a therapist, not rolled out online.
  • Strive for capital-T Truths. Avoid getting bogged down in the he-said she-said little-t truths.

Respect

  • Have empathy. People have feelings. I will ask, “How would I feel if I read this knowing it was about me?”
  • Be kind. Don’t be mean. Some snark will be permitted, though.
  • Assume good intent. We’re all just trying to find love, right? Acknowledge clumsy or hurtful words or behaviors, and move past them to the lesson. Assholery, however, will be called out for what it is.
  • Everyone in our lives has value as a teacher. Focus on what I learned.

As my understanding of myself, my relationships, and what I want to accomplish as a writer evolves, I’m sure my Code of Ethics will evolve too. This is a good starting place. If you write about dating or relationships, I’d love to hear your take on what you do and don’t share online.

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