Advice

Miss Information: My recently divorced high-school sweetheart acts weird when we hook up. Should I run?

Pin it

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

Dear Miss Information,

I'm a thirty-four-year-old male, and I've been married for ten years. I'm slender, good-looking, and somewhat girly. That is to say, I could easily be a Ziggy Stardust impersonator. I've always been into wearing a garter belt and stockings for masturbation purposes, when I'm alone. I have no interest in being a public cross-dresser.  

Once, when my wife and I were playing with a vibrator during sex, she, without prompting from me, penetrated me with it. It was immensely enjoyable for me, and she remarked to me that she loved seeing me passive, receiving pleasure. I thought her actions amounted to a green light, and so I gently and confidently told her about my fantasy of being pegged while wearing a garter belt and stockings. She was surprisingly cold to the idea. Not just that, but I got the "I'm mad at you" month-long sex hiccup.  

I have no interest in relinquishing my dominant male role, but the idea of being submissive and feminine a couple of times a year is very appealing. When I asked her about it further, she said that she "could never look at me the same way again" after an experience like that, which is puzzling, given her previous actions. I have no problem dropping the issue for the time being, but I still think it seems harmless. What should I do? — Borderline Bowie 

Dear Borderline Bowie, 

Funny you should mention Bowie. I left him off my 10 Most Iconic Rock Crotches list and I'm still getting heaps of shit for it a week and a half later. Who knew his crotch had its own fan club and Facebook page?

I digress. I think the first thing we need to get clear, Borderline Bowie, is that her kink and your kink do not necessarily occupy the same branch of the family tree. A girl can want to penetrate her guy for any number of reasons. She gets off on the power. She likes to role-play that's she's a guy (gay or straight). She's an ass girl and wants to tap that sweet booty. Maybe she's just curious to see what it's like to have a penis.

Making it more complicated is that each of those reasons has its own set of sub-reasons. Power, for instance. What does that mean? For some women it comes from knowing that their partner is in a vulnerable physical position. For others it's more psychological. Here I am, performing this taboo act on you. What if I told the neighbors?

Feminization — i.e., dressing a male in female clothes and having him play the feminine role in certain scenarios — can be a part of the pegging turn-on for some. But there are other women who find it distasteful and don't want that chocolate in their peanut butter. This is not to say that each are not awesome on their own. It's just a little reminder that no matter how much our genitals will it, not all fantasies fit together like LEGO pieces. 

This is where open communication comes into it. Your wife isn't very good at that, it seems. She never should have said that bit about not looking at you in the same way. That's very hurtful. It takes balls to ask for you want, even if what you want is to have said balls cloaked in pink satin. She paid you back with a good old-fashioned WASP-style shaming. What if, when she went to penetrate you with that vibrator, you'd thrown her off of you and run out of the bedroom screeching, "Get away from me, you freak!" Visceral reactions happen, but a good partner will offer up an explanation later. 

On that note, you owe her one. Telling her what turns you on about wearing lady drawers should ease some of her panic. Maybe she'll change her mind or agree to indulge you as long as you keep the butt play separate. Remember that these kinds of things can happen incrementally. A silky scarf here. A thigh-high there. Whatever happens, don't put up with sex embargos. No dropping of issues, either. You're too nice a guy for such nonsense. 

Dear Miss Information,

I have been dating my high-school sweetheart, who happens to be going through a messy divorce. Everything was good until the night before Memorial Day, when he said he wanted to slow things down because of two prior disagreements we'd had. He said he didn't want to lose what we had going, and if we continued to argue, we would certainly do so.

Here's the hard part: he continues to come over every day. He also calls every day, sometimes two or three times a day. I tried to give back this ring he gave me in high school, and he refuses to take it back. He also slept with me two nights before he decided to go slow.

Since then, we've fooled around to the point where I gave him oral sex. The following week he told me that it shouldn't have happened. I asked him why and he said that he needed more time and that we should still go slowly. He won't give me his cell number or his email address until his divorce his final.

I am so confused, and nothing has changed between us, except that there are no I love yous and the sex has been totally eliminated. I need help. — Stuck in Mixed Messages

Dear Stuck in Mixed Messages, 

Let's say you bought a house. It's an awesome house. Lots of room, a kickass patio, one of those clawfoot bathtubs. What's even cooler about this house is that it's 100% flameproof. The real-estate agent even said so when you bought it. There are even signs all over the house that say: "Home Sweet Flameless Home." Sweetness. 

One day, as you're watching The Rachel Zoe Project and roasting marshmallows over the makeshift fire pit you've built into the top of your mattress, you notice that the draperies seem to have caught on fire. The carpet looks like it might be next.

Concerned, you dial up the real-estate agent. She assures you that this is impossible. It's definitely not fire that you're seeing. 

Now you have a choice: A) believe her and stay put, even though your bunny slippers are starting to singe, or B) get the fuck out of the house. 

If you go with Option A, you'll get hurt. Why? Because you ignored what you were feeling and let someone else define your reality. If you go with Option B, you'll be safe. Sure, you may be bummed that you lost your house, but you can always go back later, once the smoke has cleared. 

Bringing it back to the real world, I'd say that this is not an especially mixed message. Every signal he's giving is saying something akin to "Do not count on me. Do not rely on me. Do not have any expectations." They're fire alarms. He's going through a divorce, and this is what a lot of people do when they're going through a divorce, particularly a messy one. It's highly uncool, and he shouldn't be acting that way, but you shouldn't be surprised, either.

The question now is, do you want to settle for this? A suitor who makes romantic declarations about "ruining what you have" and the giving and keeping of class rings, yet at the same time refuses to give you his email address and phone number? If you don't have either of those, what do you have, exactly? It doesn't sound like much to me. Readers, what do you think?