Miss Information

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The guy I'm dating won't commit. Is he a free spirit, or a douchebag?

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Dear Miss Information,

I'm prone to getting vaginal infections and often have to apply one or more creams to my labia. This makes me paranoid about how I taste. I'm not in any kind of serious relationship right now, so when I'm getting head, it's not usually with someone I feel close enough with to say, "Hey, I just had an infection — everything taste okay down there?" Do you have any tips, on either how to gauge what I taste like or how to taste a little better? (No douches or flavored lubes, of course!) Or do you have any ideas on how to communicate about this in a way that doesn't kill the mood? Please help!

— Gagging For It

Dear Gagging For It,

I am home visiting my parents, and am typing this from my childhood bedroom. Tacked to the wall behind my head are my corsage from prom (my date had good taste), three certificates for belt levels completed in kung fu ("Aim for the knees"), Spanish candy wrappers, and other flotsam from a time I am so fucking glad to have left behind.

I mention this because proto-Caitlin has got opinions, and she wants to share them.

So, first, I get it. And the Caitlin with terrible taste in music has this to say: "Make a point to take a shower. Have him chew gum or suck on a mint before, just in case — but make sure the mint isn't so strong as to irritate your nether delicates. Light incense, light candles, throw down a smoke bomb for some alluring mystery. (Plus, the smoke will block his nasal passages, making it harder for him to smell and taste!) Spend as much time and money as possible buying creams, scents, and salves to stave off the indignity of your filthy, filthy girl-body, because what are you, an animal?"

Did I mention I am so glad to have left that time behind?

Here's the deal. You can cover and mask and airbrush all you want, but ultimately, sex is going to be messy for both of you. You don't need to be locked into an LTR, but getting naked is better with someone you trust. What's the point of sleeping with someone with whom you don't feel comfortable enough to say, "Hey, if it tastes like pharmaceuticals, stop?" Many of us think we need to spring from Zeus's forehead as fully-formed sex goddesses, but that misses the vital "learning curve" and "communication" growing period that each of us has to go through. Let go of the pursuit of casual-sex flawlessness, and put your energies elsewhere: vet your partners enough that, by the time the skirt gets hiked up, you can talk or laugh about anything that might happen.

From there it's just details. Really do shower before, even only for your peace of mind: the less you worry about your taste, the more present you'll be. (Invite him in with you, if it keeps the action going.) Do acknowledge the issue while glossing details — "Hey, I'm a little concerned about this lotion I'm using. Switch things up if you're not into it!" And avoid sex when you're in the middle of treatment, since guys can get yeast infections too. Ultimately, though, this is less of an issue of aesthetics than it is an issue of communication and trust; investing in those will lessen the worry on everything else. If I'd thought that way in high school, I would have been a lot more fun.

Dear Miss Information,

About two months ago, I met a guy on an online-dating site. We agreed to meet and go out for a few drinks. I didn't have high expectations because I hadn't been very successful in the romance department over the past year — lots of first dates and little more. But this man and I seemed to really hit it off. On the first date, we spent the entire night together and even engaged in rather nice makeout session. Fortunately, we didn't go all the way on the first date.

We have a lot in common, and we learn so much from each other. We've spent, on average, about three or four days a week together over the past couple of months. It seemed like everything was going great, but recently, he's gotten distant. He doesn't call or text me as much and doesn't seem to want to hang out. He says he's busy at work and that he hasn't been going out at all. I don't know if I should believe him or if I should take the hints that he's lost interest.

I should mention that he's one of these free-spirited types who doesn't like to be "put into a box" when it comes to relationships. He says things should grow naturally and not be forced. I agree with that sentiment, but I already know that I have genuine feelings for him. There've been several moments where he's said or done things that indicate he has feelings for me as well, but then other times he seems completely ambivalent.  

How do I convey my feelings without making him feel like I'm trying to force something that might not be there? More importantly, is it feasible to have a platonic relationship with him if he does indeed reject me romantically? I could handle losing him as a lover, but I would hate to lose him as a friend too.

 Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

Dear Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,

"Free-spirited type," doesn't like to be "put in a box." I take it these are his words, not yours? Just a guess: does he work part-time at a coffee shop and mention his DJ career ad nauseum? Or does he paint? Ten bucks says he owns a guitar.

Sorry. I must be missing Brooklyn. Bludgeon-answer: his excuses about his natural inclination toward "going with the flow, man" mean he's just not that into it. People work for things they want. His self-definition as a box-free individualist might not be quite so resolute if he were chasing the relationship.

Keep in mind, though, that his ambivalence does not equal you not being good enough. It's not that you somehow failed to hold his interest; it's that he's failing to meet you where you want to be. Maybe he's not into you, maybe he's callous about relationships, maybe he just really needs to finish his novel. Whatever. If his head isn't in the game, it isn't in the game — so sidestep heartbreak for you both by acknowledging that without fighting it.

You should still talk to him, because his word is more important than mine. Make it something like this: "I miss our marathon conversations. You know I'm into you, but I can't keep trailing behind. I want to know your point-of-view on this." Now listen, but keep your excuse-o-meter dialed in. If his reply includes a monologue about a girl who broke his heart five years ago, thus forging him into the dark-souled poet he is today, get out. If he self-defines using vague buzzwords ("just like, a visionary… going through some stuff…"), call it a night. You're looking for a real engagement, a frank discussion of what each of you want and what might possibly be hindering that. Anything short of emotional honesty is not worth your time.

The good news is that, if a relationship doesn't work but you do decide to stay friends, you as the dumpee get to set the pace. (…Yay?) You can become friends, but only if you're clear on your motivations. If you invite him to drinks thinking, "Maybe after my third Blue Moon, I'll accidentally fall on his face with my face," cancel the plan. But once you get to a point where you can appreciate his company with no ulterior motives or unfulfilled wishes, you're golden. It may take awhile, but it can be done.

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