This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.
I’m a gay guy who has been with my partner for almost two decades now. When we met, he knew I wrote smut and erotica in my spare time and even read some. It wasn’t his thing, though, and I think he thought it was all a bit silly.
Since then, I’ve kept writing on and off. A small publisher released a couple of my books for a while, then shut down. Last year, I self-published a few more. I’ve made a little money from it — a few thousand dollars total, perhaps — so it’s not like I’m going to quit my day job anytime soon, but I find the whole process to be a nice distraction.
During COVID, I wrote a romance novel, and the beta readers who’ve read it have suggested it could be worth shopping around to agents or larger publishers. I’m not holding out any particular hope of grand success, but it’s also been a reminder that my partner is still unaware of what is basically my longest-running hobby. I feel dishonest.
Some people I know IRL are aware that I write, but it’s not something I generally advertise (I release stuff under a pseudonym). It would be nice to have my partner’s support, but I also worry he’ll either think I’m being ridiculous for clinging to an old pastime or — worse — see it as a betrayal of some sort, because I’m writing about fictional guys.
Maybe he has secret hobbies too and I’m overthinking how much we have to share. Or am I being unfair by not telling him about my writing?
Hey there, SS!
Wow, two decades? Twenty years? So 7,300 days? I have to wonder what kind of smut you could possibly be writing that runs the risk of toppling such a sturdy foundation. I am imagining weapons-grade erotica. I am imagining you publishing the War and Peace of the genre. “What did it cost you?” a fan will ask at a packed public-reading event. You will toss a cigarette to the ground and stamp it out with your foot onstage. “Everything.” Uproarious applause.
If he was made aware of your hobby before (I suppose this would be circa 2004? I was super-busy watching America’s Next Top Model and being unpopular in middle school), then I’m guessing it’s unlikely to be a problem that you continued that hobby into the present. Sure, it might not have been his thing, but that’s not the worst reaction. We don’t have to enjoy the same things.
To be honest, I don’t mind, for example, when one of my potential partners doesn’t read my Substack or hasn’t read my book. In some instances, it’s a bit refreshing. I don’t need someone to be super into the things I’m into, but I do need them to be interested in me and have a healthy sense of curiosity and respect for me.
That means not dismissing my interests or belittling them. If this hobby is something important to you, and if it’s starting to feel like a dirty little secret, then it’s a good idea to casually mention it to your partner. Don’t make it into a big thing. See how he reacts. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Or, you could continue carrying on in private, sell your erotic novel to a major publisher for a tidy sum, have it become a best seller, and lead a double life with increasingly comedic scenarios wherein you are constantly shifting personae to hide your alter ego from your partner. You can write a memoir about that time later, sell that for even more money, and then buy a mansion on the bluffs of some coast.
It’s entirely up to you, of course, but this is what we in the publishing biz call a long-term strategy. It’s yours if you want to go down that route.
As for the part about “writing about fictional guys,” listen, I get where you’re coming from, but the key word there is fictional. I like to believe we’re all adults here and understand that fiction isn’t the same thing as reality. Outside of being catfished, you cannot cheat on me with a person who does not exist.
All in all, it’s not good that you feel dishonest about one of your passions, so letting your partner know about it is probably the move. We don’t have to share every single one of our interests or activities with the person we’re dating, but if it’s stressing you out because you feel like you’re hiding something, that’s a great indication that a conversation is called for.
Remember, he doesn’t have to love your smut, he doesn’t have to read it or get super into the genre, but he does have to respect it and respect you.
I’m rooting for you! I hope everything goes well, and I’ll see you at the LGBTQ+ author’s panel one day, I’m sure.
Con mucho amor,
Originally published on June 5, 2023.
This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase J.P. Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons here.