For the past few years, when I go home for the holidays, I wind up messing around with my father's first cousin. Her aunt is my grandmother. We haven't had sex yet, but it seems to be headed that way. She's 56, and I've had a vasectomy, so the chances of us accidentally getting pregnant are slim to nil. Am I insane, or is this OK?
Kissing Cousin (male, 47)
Dear Kissing Cousin,
I won't lie. My knee-jerk reaction was a bit of a shudder and an audible "EWWWW!" That's just how I feel about sexual relations between relatives, no matter how distant.
Albert Einstein's second wife, Elsa, was his first cousin — their mothers were sisters, and their fathers were also first cousins. Albert was a damn genius, so I guess if he thought it was OK, there may be something to it. I'm not here to judge, so let's figure this out.
Incest is defined as sexual relations between two people who are too closely related to legally marry. The marriage law in Vermont states that "no person shall marry his or her parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, sibling's child, or parent's sibling."
Your dad's first cousin is your first cousin once removed. So, legally speaking, it seems your relationship is in the clear, at least in Vermont. Six states outlaw matrimony between first cousins once removed, so you might want to do some research about that.
Legality and morality are two different things, however. I did an online search for the top 10 taboos of the world, and incest falls right after cannibalism. Even though the two of you don't technically fit into the straight-up-incest category, your family and friends might feel differently.
If this is just the occasional holiday roll in the hay, maybe you'll both be fine with keeping it a secret. But if the relationship should get serious, would you really want to deal with that giant can of worms? That's a question you should answer before dipping your drumstick into the gravy this year.
Good luck and God bless,