Advice

Miss Information

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


Dear Miss Information,

How do you break the ice after having sex with your boyfriend? I’m eighteen, and met a guy a few weeks ago. Now we’re in a relationship, but I don’t know what to say or do after we have sex. There’s nothing wrong with him: He’s cute and sexy and about to graduate from college. But sometimes I feel like he’s too good for me, and I don’t want to mess up this relationship because I really like him. I feel like there’s more to our relationship than just having sex. Please help! — Stuck
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Dear Stuck,

You’re young. You have years of sex-having and relationship-building ahead of you. And though it’s a bit late to say this now, most of us have to hear these relationship truths nine or ten times before they finally sink in. So we may as well get started:

Preachy truth-ism #1: If you’re going to have sex with someone, the ice should already be broken.

This is not a chastisement against casual sex, or a call for everyone to start behaving like the Jonas Brothers. I’m just saying that, no matter what precautions are taken, sex is a physical act in which pregnancy and life-threatening diseases are two unlikely, but possible, outcomes. You don’t have to have all the awkwardness hammered out, but you need to be able to speak your mind. Some of my best Salt-N-Pepa-style talks have taken place mere seconds before blowjobs.

Preachy truth-ism #2: He’s not your boyfriend.

He may be someday, but for now he’s just a guy you’re having a good time with. Sure, two people can sleep together right away and turn that into a long-term relationship. Marriage, even, if that’s what you want. But you must keep some perspective. Becoming too enmeshed, too early, is a surefire way to get your heart ripped open. Two weeks ago you didn’t know he existed — now he’s causing you to question how cool you are? Fuck that. You were cool before you met this guy and you’ll be cool without him.

No one says you have to behave a certain way after sex. Movies always portray it as this intensely romantic time when the woman wraps a silk sheet over her bare breasts and cuddles confidently with her partner. What a crock. Maybe post-sex isn’t a good time for you. Maybe what you need to do is flip on the TV and start making fun of reality shows. Or venture into the kitchen and whip up some food. Or read together from a stack of magazines or comics.

Maybe, for now, you should save the talking for when you go out. But you need to make sure you go out, if you want more than just great sex from this man. Plan some activities that don’t involve sleeping together. Beware of the video ruse or anything involving the words "chill" or "let’s stay in tonight." You might think the informality is less artificial than planning actual dates, but you won’t make any progress on your shyness because you’ll always end up bumping uglies.

Going forward, there’s an easy way to find out whether a relationship is based on sex: Don’t sleep with the person so early. Unless you’re willing to risk that it’ll be a casual throwaway. Withholding sex is never a way to guarantee a relationship’s going to last, but it gives it a better chance of survival and is less nerve-wracking than all this wondering. Good luck.



Dear Miss Information,

I met this great girl on Nerve Personals. We went out for cocktails and had a surprisingly good time, so she had me over for dinner and we had an ever better time (though we didn’t have sex). It was the kind of date that leaves you smiling and thinking about the way her skin smelled for the rest of the week.
We just had a fantastic second date, when two days later she lost her job. How do I not screw this up? Obviously it’s incredibly stressful being jobless, and we’ve only just met. Would it be weird to take her to nice places and pick up the tab? Should I talk about her predicament? I don’t want to make her feel insecure, but do want to let her know I’m a willing listener. She seems like a competent person who just got caught in this whole global-depression thing. Recession Special

Dear Recession Special,

I was laid off from my ad job at the end of last year (by the way, anyone need a copywriter?) and it was one of the best things that could have happened to my relationship.

I experienced firsthand what my now-gainfully employed — but then looking-for-work boyfriend — was going through, and by doing so, all the ways in which I was acting like a first-class dildo.You heard that right, Recession Special. Like fertility surgeons and past presidents, advice columnists make mistakes, too. Here’s a run-down of my top three. Exposing myself as a fuck-up and a hypocrite will be worth it if it saves you, and any of my readers, from doing the same:

Fuck-up #1: Being helpful.
Want to pass on the occasional super-relevant job lead, or offer to have Skip, your human-resources friend, review her resume? Fine. You go. However, do not forward her multiple job listings or solicit your industry contacts on her behalf, and then act surprised or irritated if she doesn’t follow up. I did this with my guy until he — very nicely — delivered a message to the effect of, "Back the fuck off and let me do this on my own." Of course, you can’t conduct an effective job search in a state of isolation. You need friends, family, old colleagues — even the advice-column readers I so blatantly solicited mere sentences earlier — joining you in the hunt. It’s called networking and it’s how ninety-nine percent of the good jobs are found. But remember: It’s not your hunt. Job searches are personal. They’re not like picking out a grapefruit. Self-esteem, money, and identity are heavy issues.

The Take-Away: It’s her situation. Even if she fucks it up, she needs to fuck it up her way, not yours.

Fuck-up #2: Making assumptions.
When my boyfriend was out of work, I’d get so pissy when he’d have nothing to say to me in the evenings. Surely he must have something to talk about. I can’t believe that, in addition to having just busted my ass for eight hours, I now have to be responsible for holding up the entire conversation. Then I got laid off, and discovered that sometimes going to the dollar store for scouring pads can be the highlight of your entire day. Having to share this with someone who’s fresh from a day full of human contact and brimming with anecdotes — even if they’re anecdotes about how they hate their boss and want all of their clients dead — can be humiliating. Same with statements like, "Well, at least now you have time to see that Gustav Von ArtSnob exhibit at the museum." You know what? I already know it’s good to keep active, take showers and get out of the house. But I’m depressed, you moron. I’d rather sleep in, masturbate, and watch Maury. I don’t need your know-it-all and currently employed-ass driving the guilt wedge even deeper. I already feel plenty useless as I am.

The Take-Away: Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their slipper-socks and torn pajama bottoms.

Fuckup #3: Playing Magic 8-Ball.
When we first met, my boyfriend was unemployed and looking for a job. Five months later, he was still looking for a job. And I was freaking out, wondering whether if I should abandon the relationship: Is being a couch-dweller his natural state? Will he be able to pay the rent if we move in together? If I want to have shorties, will I have to carry the baby and the financial burden? I was so focused on all these questions that I forgot what was most important: his character. Which was, as he slowly revealed it to me throughout our courtship, unequivocally awesome. Now I’m the one who’s looking for a job and, instead of second-guessing like I did, he’s being super-cool about all the uncertainties we’re facing. He’s mellow. He’s giving. He trusts me. I wish I could go back to give him the same.

The Take-Away: Planning for the future is good, but imagining future relationship apocalypses should be reserved for screenwriting classes. Sometimes we need to say "eff the future" and live in the present.

Hope this helps, Recession Special.

Readers, I’m sure lots of you are unemployed and/or dealing with out of work boyfriends, girlfriends, and spouses. What helps? What doesn’t?



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