Miss Information is off this week, honoring our country in the style of her WWII-vet grandfather: drinking beer and nodding off on the Barcalounger while watching M*A*S*H reruns. She’ll be back next week with an all-new column and (if you kids behave yourselves) a couple of cool surprises.
Have a question? Email email@example.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.
Dear Miss Information,
I am sleeping with two guys. Both know it’s casual. I am really enjoying the arrangement, but I’m finding the condom issue tricky. I’m on birth control, and I trust Guy A enough not to use condoms but not Guy B. I want to start using condoms with Guy B to protect Guy A. How do I go about asking Guy B to use a condom when we haven’t always used them in the past? The last time we were together I couldn’t bring myself to push him off me and go get the rubber in the other room. — Safety Dance
Dear Safety Dance,
When you go for a ride in a friend’s car, do you feel awkward about putting on your seat belt? Do you wait for “just the right moment” to do something that’s painless, takes two seconds and could very likely save your life? No, you don’t. You put on your seat belt because you know it’s moronic not to and that’s that. A condom shouldn’t be any different. You have common sense on your side, and there’s no need for an elaborate explanation, much less an out-and-out lie. But I know that’s pretty utopian, and I’m guessing you want something more practical to say the next time you and Guy B are about to bump uglies.
You’re lucky you have a vagina, Safety Dance. They have a reputation for going on the fritz, and therefore they’re a rich source of excuse material. If you can’t muster up the nerve to ask Guy B to use a condom flat out, why not tell him that you suffer from frequent yeast infections, bladder infections and infection infections, and that condoms help prevent them from coming back. Unless you’re dating a gyno, you’re probably not going to get called on it, though it may put a damper on the oral sex.
You could also make up a story about a relative or friend who just had a pregnancy or STD scare. It worried you so much, Safety Dance, that you’ve decided to be Miss Clean and Pristine with all your partners from now on. Surely, Guy B will understand. I don’t like lying, and I consider it pretty crummy. But if it will get you to use condoms, it’s a worthy exception.
As for the “rubber in another room” dilemma: hightail it to the nearest gift shop. Get an adorable/funny/beautiful/wacky container, fill it with condoms and place it by your bed. It’s much more fun and romantic to say, “Honey, there’s a present for you inside Hello Kitty’s head” then getting up and rooting through the medicine cabinet under stark fluorescent light.
Above all, open your mouth. You’re hot and smart enough to be rocking two men. Stop worrying about looking like a dork.
Dear Miss Information,
Last year I dated a girl whom I met through a dating service. I ignored all the warning signs she had given me — emotional volatility and drug use— and continued to see her. After all, she was cute and seemed to adore me. I broke up with her several times because she could not control her self-destructive behavior. Long after we broke up, she showed up at my house and attacked me in my doorway and front yard. My public image was bruised more than anything. My new girlfriend, who was at my house when this happened, forgave the incident and still dates me. She did, however, start to search for my ex-girlfriend online.
Quickly my new girlfriend found a six-month-long blog featuring the most intimate details of my sex life, penned by the crazed ex-girlfriend. I had no idea that this was being written. I was disgusted and angry. The entire blog is a self-rationalization of my ex’s bad behavior. Through attorneys, I was able to have my name removed, but I am still furious over the misrepresentations. Though I have managed to go a whole year without doing anything, I am finding myself compelled to post a scathing comment on my ex’s blog. How bad of an idea is this? I just want my side of the story heard and her lies dispelled. Is there a self-help remedy, or is it best just to avoid her? — Blog Fodder
Dear Blog Fodder,
This is a Spruce-Goose Pluto-Nash of an idea, Blog Fodder. For the following reasons:
1. You’re pissing off an unstable person.
2. You’re lowering yourself to her level.
3. You’re giving potential girlfriends even more negative Google fodder. The only thing crazier than a crazy person online is the other crazy person who engages them.
4. You’re taking all that money you spent on attorneys and throwing it down the cybertoilet. Should she decide to sue you back, any self-respecting legal defense is going to laugh you out of his office.
Your ex’s blog is not the right place to air your side of the story. It’s a biased, captive audience, there for ego-stroking and circle jerks (not that those of us who write blogs don’t appreciate those loving strokes — both ego and otherwise — very, very much). Do not call this woman. Do not email her. Do not send her cookie bouquets. Do not read her blog. Change your phone number and keep any personal information offline.
If there are a few close friends to whom you feel you must defend your reputation, talk to them in-person or send a short, neutrally-worded email saying something to the effect of, “Miss Crazy and I went through some tough times. I value our friendship, and hope you’ll continue to do so as well. If you have any questions about what went down or anything that troubles you, I’d be happy to talk.”
You can basically tell prospective girlfriends the same thing: “I dated this person. We had some issues, she posted about them online. I hope you won’t read them, but if you do, that you’ll consider that there might be another side to the story.”
You know what that is? Class. One-hundred percent. The dirtbag’s in the details, so don’t offer them up.
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 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 — 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.
Fuck-up #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 [UPDATE: Found one!] 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 [still] unemployed and/or [still] dealing with out of work boyfriends, girlfriends, and spouses. What helps? What doesn’t?