Advice

Miss Information

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Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

Last week I invited readers to share their most embarrassing bedroom experiences. Here’s our winner, lovingly chosen from a multitude of cringe-tastic entries:

"I used to have a rat named Sid. I also had a boss named Alan. Alan was an unattractive dork, but he was old enough to buy vodka and I wasn’t. In my eighteen-year-old, booze-addled mind, this made him significantly more attractive.

One thing that really makes men want to buy you booze is the sixty-nine position. I learned this early in life, and I was putting it into practice the night Sid, who was allowed to roam my apartment freely, decided to investigate. He crawled up in the bed with us, and I didn’t think to mention it to Alan because I was used to the rat being in my bed. I didn’t think it was a big deal. It quickly became a much bigger deal when Sid took a bite out of Alan’s balls while my own mouth was busy in that same general vicinity.

It was a little embarrassing to be screwing Alan, but not embarrassing enough that I didn’t immediately tell everyone at work about the unintended bestiality. For the rest of the time we worked there, my boss was known as "Alan McNuggets." For some reason, both back then and all these years later, that seems more embarrassing than the fact that I’d repeatedly screw someone for Vons store brand vodka, or that I didn’t mind having a rat in bed with me. Strangely, I myself did not acquire any sort of humiliating nickname from the incident."

Gina’s tale of off-brand vodka, testicles in peril and a rodent with boundary issues earned her a twenty-five-dollar Amazon gift card along with a gift subscription to Nerve Premium. Be sure to check my personal blog, Third Armpit, for other notable entries.



Dear Miss Information,

Last year, my girlfriend of seven years and I broke up. I’m finally ready to date again (if you can ever really be ready), but I don’t know how to ask out women. I’ve always been fixed up, or the relationship has grown organically. Now I’m getting signs of interest from two lady cashiers — one at a natural grocery store and one at a bookstore. I’ve decided to ask out the woman at the grocery first, and hold off on the bookseller. The time seems ripe.

When the ladies check me out (in both senses of the phrase), it’s in such a limited time frame. How do I ask someone out during those precious one to three minutes? I need to know exact words, not generalities. Do I chat for a few moments, then suddenly say, "Would you like to get together sometime?" Or should I take a completely different tack and ask her to accompany me to a specific event? Assuming she says yes, what’s the protocol? Tell her I’ll call her, and then get her number? And at some point, I need to work in my name and make sure I know hers. This is sounding like a tall order for such a minuscule time frame. Thanks for your help with this rudimentary question. — Cautious Checker Outer


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Dear Cautious Checker Outer,

Before I get into speeches and scripts, let’s remember the stakes. Best case, one or both of these women say yes and you go on a date. Worst case, both say no, you do the good deed of letting two people know they’re attractive and your delivery gets a little smoother with the next iteration. Even more important, you’ve proven to yourself that, after seven long years of domesticity, you still have the testicular fortitude to tackle one of the most fear-inducing romantic endeavors — asking a total stranger for a date. You are going old-school manly, my friend. The rest of us are hiding behind our computers.

Since I haven’t been there to bear witness all the flirting, I’m going to give you several different scripts representing several different styles. Pick whichever suits the woman and the situation best, then alter it a bit to make it more natural. To help prevent verbal slip-ups, I’ve included examples of riffing-gone-wrong for each.

1) Self-Effacing
GOOD: "So I hope this doesn’t prevent me from ever showing my face here again, but I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me?"
BAD: "I know a beautiful girl like you would never go out with a complete jerkface like myself, but would you let me take you out for frozen yogurt next Tuesday?"

2) Honest Abe
GOOD: "I’ve been trying to come up with a graceful, non-awkward way to say this, but to be honest, I got nothing. Do you want to go out for a drink this weekend?"
BAD: "I like your hair. And your face. I wrote a sex advice columnist about asking you out and I was wondering…"

3) The Smart Aleck
GOOD: "Can I get your email or phone number, just in case something proves faulty with these mangoes? Stop laughing, this is a serious customer inquiry."
BAD: "Can I take you out for a drink? Obviously, I’ll cover you, as I’m sure they don’t pay you a livable wage. You’ll also have to lose the smock. It’s really unflattering."

4) The Propmaster
GOOD: [Puts fancy brand of beer/wine/coffee on conveyor belt]. "Is this a good XYZ? I was thinking of trying the little XYZ place down the street, want to join me?"
BAD: "You know what they say about a man who buys organic chocolate sauce and vegan whipped cream…"

5) The Event Planner
GOOD: "I was thinking of checking out that radish festival you guys have posted over there on the Community Bulletin Board. Want to come with?"
BAD: I’ve made reservations at Fancy Von Upscales and purchased tickets to Pricey! The Broadway Show. Now all you have to do is say yes, m’lady."

As far as post-proposition logistics, paying with a credit card is the easiest way to help her learn your name. It also provides a handy spot for scribbling her phone number and email when you ask it. Or, ask for her number and email. Usually an email address will contain some form of the person’s name. If it doesn’t, time to dork out and just say: "Hey, I’m really sorry, I should know this by now. Can you tell me your name?"

One final note that hopefully will relax you: Asking someone out is more about mutual chemistry than the execution of the invitation. Look your best, try to have some measure of fun with it and leave the rest up to pheromones and fate.



Dear Miss Information, 
I’ve been dating this man I met online for three months. Things are going really well: the sex is good, we enjoy spending time together and seem to have a lot in common. But he is still active in the online dating site where we met. I’ve been logging in anonymously and discovered that he signs in once a day! Is this normal? How long should this be going on? When I asked him about it, he says he just logs in to check who’s emailing him. Isn’t three months enough time for a man in his thirties to know if he wants to get more serious? Reactive About an Active State

Dear Reactive,

I’ve been dating online for years. While I usually take down my vagina shingle shortly after I start seeing someone, sometimes I’ve shown more hesitation. This can be for a variety of reasons: The other person hasn’t taken down theirs yet and we’re involved in an online-standoff. Could be I’m unsure about whether we’re exclusive. Or I’m feeling restless and anxious about the boundaries (or lack thereof). Having an inbox full of messages from people expressing interest in you is incredibly ego-boosting. I don’t care if ninety percent of them paint Civil War figurines and look like Gary Busey. It’s nice to know someone wants you, even if your odds of reciprocating are a big, fat zero. Many of us, myself included, have a hard time eliminating it from our daily routine.

This is, of course, assuming he’s not communicating with his cyber-constituents and actively contacting people. If he is, then a talk is in order. I won’t weigh in on whether three months is a sufficient amount of time to extract a commitment from a guy in his thirties. Not because I’m stubborn, but because that stuff is so subjective. What seems like forever to some is a tiny blip to other people. Here’s what matters most: your feelings. If all this vagueness is making you so uncomfortable that you’re skulking around with anonymous log-ins, I don’t think you should wait any longer. You’re liable to have a breakdown in which you spew all sorts of accusations and ultimatums, all of them based on incomplete knowledge. You’re basically just guessing at his feelings.

Find a time when you’re both feeling chill — in the car on the way home from a show, or polishing off some take-out in front of the TV — and start asking questions. "How are you feeling about this relationship and the way it’s been going? Do you still see other people?" If yes, then, "How much longer do you see that continuing? What would it take to be exclusive, or is that not something that fits in with your plans right now?"

Keep it open-ended to start. If that goes well and he doesn’t get super-defensive, then go into specifics: "I see you’re on the dating site quite a bit. What’s that about? Do the people you talk to know that you’re seeing somebody?" Hopefully his answers will give you a better indication of his current thinking. Watch out for sweeping declarations that go against his current behavior. You’re better off with an honest guy who expresses his reservations than someone who tells you what he thinks you want to hear. The latter is likely to cheat down the line.


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©2008 Erin Bradley and Nerve.com