Our new Miss Information fields your questions about open-relationship etiquette and seeing someone naked for the first time.
Have a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.
Dear Miss Information,
At the ripe old age of twenty-four, I finally have my first boyfriend. Woo-hoo! We are completely in love with each other for being sexy hot esoteric nerds. He's been dropping hints that it would be really fun to shower together, or take a bath together, which I think would be great. The only thing is, this would be my first up-close, in-person experience with male anatomy (not counting Random Commando Dude who dropped his pants outside my bus one day). I am so scared and embarrassed at the thought of seeing him naked. Please help! — See Dick, Run?
Dear See Dick, Run?,
Congratulations on your foray into co-nudity. I am always thrilled to support hot nerd-on-nerd action, esoteric or otherwise.
Judging from your email, See Dick, you have all the right ingredients for a positive first sexual experience. "Completely in love?" Check. (Not technically a requirement, but certainly far better than "truck-stop-bathroom hookup.") Enthusiasm? Check. Clear sense of humor? A resounding check.
That last one is especially important, See Dick, because things are about to get weird. In a good way. This is a great, and too rarely discussed, thing about sex: it's filled with fumblings, mishaps, poorly placed elbows and knees, unexpected physical changes, and other sorts of "what just happened?" bloopers. Much of the time, it's not a dignified or graceful thing, and the sooner you embrace that, the happier you will be. If you and your partner can look each other in the eye and laugh when things go wrong, you're golden.
So, though you don't explicitly say it, I imagine the "scared" and "embarrassed" feelings are manifesting themselves as a question: what if I do something wrong? Despite Maxim's best efforts to convince us otherwise, sex goddesses are made, not born. You have to start somewhere, and you're at a tremendous advantage by having a positive, mutually fond relationship with your boyfriend. Ask questions. Experiment. Go nuts. (Pun accidental.)
One more thing: like a bear you encounter in the woods or a raccoon rooting through your garbage, it's entirely possible that he's more afraid of you than you are of him. He's probably nervous about pleasing you, too. Open up the lines of communication and keep the spirit light. Move gently and respectfully, and avoid sudden movements. And bang sticks together. (Okay, that part is bear-specific.) Remember that it's a time of exploration for both of you, and allow yourself the luxury of an open and inquisitive mind. And if you get soap in your eye, nearly choke on the shower water, or slip and have to catch yourself on the sink, that's not failure — as long as you're having fun, you're doing it absolutely right.
Dear Miss Information,
I am in an open relationship with a guy who is currently dating another girl, too. As far as he and I are concerned, everything is going really well. But his other lady doesn't play as well with others. She's apparently jealous that he is seeing another woman (or so he tells me), and she's constantly trying to sabotage our relationship. Whenever the three of us are hanging out together or whenever I run into her in social settings, she is superficially polite but looks for every chance to be passive-aggressive or derisive. Frankly, it's getting on my nerves. Part of me wants to just confront her and tell her to chill the fuck out, but I don't want to create more drama. Besides, catfights are so high-school. Should I just ignore her? Should I try to have a heart-to-heart with her? What do you think? — Why Can't We All Just Get Along?
Dear All Just Get Along,
It's simple: the shared partner (i.e. your boyfriend), has the responsibility to keep the peace between the people he cares about (i.e. you and Ms. Doesn't Play Well). He is the common link here, and thus, if he wants to keep you both happy, sane, and into him, he needs to take responsibility for smoothing over any possible discord. Also: modest necklines. (Yeah, I watched about two episodes of Big Love maybe three years ago. I'm pretty sure that qualifies me to speak with authority on the intricacies of partner-sharing.)
It sounds to me like your boyfriend is not only failing at his duties, but actively fanning the flames of your fighting. He's telling you that Ms. DPW is jealous? Then he's gossiping behind her back. If she's jealous, he and only he can assuage her insecurities — but rather than address that, he's taking a stance of "ladies be crazy!" and grabbing a beer to watch the fight. If I had to wager, I'd bet that he secretly loves the idea of the two of you vying for his affection. He's probably plotting to pour a bucket of water over both of you next time you're together, or figuring out how to provoke you both in a kiddie-pool full of red Jell-O, or contemplating a way to capture it on tape, so he can replay it on slow-motion and watch your hair fly as you claw each other's eyes…
Anyway, All Get Along, I call foul on your boyfriend's behavior. It sounds like he's not man enough for two women. Talk to him about it. Maturely and without mud-slinging (ohhh, he'd love mud-slinging), tell him that Ms. DPW's insecurities are affecting your relationship with him, and suggest that he talk to her. He owes it to her to listen, treat her with compassion and respect, and work with her to alleviate her fears. This is really in his hands.
As for what you can do, take a hard look at your behavior. I take you at your word that you're choosing the high road, but your language also suggests a lot of resentment. Make absolutely sure that you're not doing anything to make it worse: you're not baiting her, not sneering, not rolling your eyes. If you really are behaving yourself, then perhaps go one step farther and ask her out for coffee, boyfriend-free. Maybe you won't be best friends, but if she sees that you're making an effort, she may lighten up.
And in the meantime: both of you should probably avoid white t-shirts when your boyfriend is around. (Our girl Chloë Sevigny may have been onto something.)