Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Bachelor Party

Izzabella writes:

My husband is going to be an usher in one of his old college buddy's wedding in a month and wants to go to the bachelor party, but the bach party is going to be a two-night trip over 4 hours away in a hotel with who knows what going on. If he was single, I can probably see why he'd want to go. But he's married (obviously, if he is my husband) and I don't think it's appropriate for a married man to participate in debauchery. I think that he should be the example and stay home with his family, maybe go to meet the guys for lunch or dinner the second night and then come home. He thinks that this is a tradition and he should participate because he's in the wedding and that is what the men do. But he won't tell me what they have planned because he said it's a bach party and women shouldn't be involved, I should just trust him. It's not that I don't trust him but I just don't think it's right for a married guy to spend a weekend pretending he's not married. How can I explain this to my husband without making it seem like I want him to not have friends??

I think, ultimately, your comfort with your husband's participation in this party comes down to what exactly will be going on during it--and he doesn't seem willing to tell you. That, to me, is a red flag.

So tell me, does "pretending he's not married" mean staying out until 4, getting drunk, and passing out on the bathroom floor? Or does it mean spending his last paycheck on lapdances? Because there's a big gap between the two.

Explain to your husband that his hesitation to tell you what they have planned doesn't warm you to the idea of his participation. Marriage is about openness, honesty and understanding. So try to compromise: if he can be open and honest about the plans, you can be understanding. If all they really want to do is drink beer and eat nachos, maybe you can let him hang out for a few days. If they want to see how many strippers they can get to sleeping with them in 48 hours, I can see why you wouldn't be too excited.

Probably the reality falls somewhere in between these two scenarios. So ask yourself. Is it okay for your husband to be in a strip club if he's not a participant in the festivities? Is the prospect of not being allowed to go emasculating to your husband? Do the two of you have that large of a disparity in values?

The key here is communication. Let him know exactly what you're not okay with, and why. And listen to him when he tells you what he wants to do with the guys and why it doesn't change how much he loves you. Once you're able to be clear with each other, you can come up with a solution that's acceptable for both of you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Let's Try This Again

Unimportant was not too happy with Kate's response. Because I like to smooth feathers, and because our inbox is empty, I'm going to take another stab at this one.

Here's his comment:

OK, I'm sorry I said she isn't fat. Because now it's apparently not only wrong to call someone "fat", but "not fat" as well? How the hell is a guy suppose to get it right when everything is wrong? I only added the fact because any time I ask someone for advice on this the first thing they say is, "Well, IS she fat?" or if they know her, "Well, she COULD afford to lose a few pounds."

And I get the whole society thing, I'm out numbered so I shouldn't even bother. But WTF is this...

"You claim your opinion is unimportant to her, but she's made a note of every body you find unacceptable, every fat joke you've ever made, every time you've denigrated a skinny model for having visible bones. She knows your opinion is that you want a hot, sexy, beautiful woman."

So now it's my fault because I find some people to be attractive and others not? I'm to blame because I find HER to be incredibly sexy just the way she is? Aren't we suppose to be attracted to our partner? I don't get it.

Or maybe I do get it. Don't bother trying because you can never get it right. You'll always be wrong because you're just a stupid pig/dog/man.

Thanks, that helps. 

First, I'm not going to disagree with Kate's assertion that you're unknowingly contributing to the problem. That doesn't make you a bad person; it makes you a victim of society the same way your girlfriend (and everyone except for Kate) is. It also doesn't mean you should stop trying.

To Kate's point, when you say things like "She is not fat as I define it," "She is sexy to me," and "I find HER to be incredibly sexy just the way she is." You're making qualifications that imply that your opinion is different from everyone else's. Your girlfriend is hearing "Yeah, most people think you're fat but I don't care." As much as it sucks to admit it, when you stack your opinion against everyone else's, your feelings are less important, especially to someone who is self-conscious about their body.

So what can you do to change this? Drop the qualifiers. "You are beautiful." "You are sexy." "You look hot in that dress." Make comments about her appearance simple, declarative, universal statements. And don't just make them when she's complaining that these pants make her ass look big or this dress makes her look like a circus tent. Tell her when she least expects it.

The more you build her confidence, the less reliant she'll be on what other people think, and then you both win.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why Size Acceptance Is For Everyone

Unimportant asks a doozy:

Why is my opinion not important to my girlfriend? She is not fat as I define it, but she is not thin either. She is perfectly in the middle and I love her that way. She's not bony or bulgy, just wonderfully feminine. I get hot just thinking about her. However, she insists that her constant search for a diet that will help her lose those "extra" pounds is for my benefit. Every time she says she's doing this to be sexy for me, I tell her she IS sexy to me. But still the dieting goes on. Why? How do I make it stop? How do I get her to see what I see?

Short answer? You can't.

Long answer? You'd better get a snack and something to drink. This is going to take a while. 

Well. We could start with the $40-100 billion-a-year diet industry, which makes all that obscene amount of money predominantly on the backs of women. Or we could start with fat-phobia and body fascism, most recently in the media due to Michelle Obama's fight to get rid of fat kids. Or we could start with feminism 101, and the fact that in America today, women's bodies are public property, and they are expected to be fuckable, or what good are they?

Even you, who are trying to do something nice for your girlfriend, make all sorts of qualifications in your letter. Your girlfriend isn't fat, and you still find her fuckable, so why is she dieting? She's fulfilled the aims of every woman everywhere, hasn't she? She's got a man! She's attractive! She needs to just shuck off an entire lifetime of programming, backed up by millennia of the same! She needs to just ignore all of society and listen solely to you!

That's right. All of society.  Not merely fashion designers or movie producers or airbrush-happy photographers. Attacking the media for this problem is simplistic, and doesn't get at the real root of it, which is plain old, garden-variety misogyny. Women have gotten uppity lately, and there has to be some way to keep us in our place. 

Making us nothing more than decorative objects is as good a way as any, isn't it? If we spend all our time getting pedicures, curling our hair, doing our makeup - DIETING - we won't spend any time being smart, funny, athletic, competitive, competent, or threatening. We won't spend any time being human, and society as a whole won't have to take us seriously. Foreign governments who routinely kill women for being raped or going to school won't have to take their women seriously, either, and they know we won't be coming to help them. We're too busy counting our Weight Watchers points, aren't we?

But wait! you say. Don't people have a responsibility to take care of their health? Being fat isn't healthy! Fatties should put down the donuts and get on the treadmill! And if they happen to be more attractive afterward, isn't that a good thing? All this fat talk and glorifying impossible bodies is just thinspiration! Just because "normal" people don't need it doesn't mean it shouldn't exist!

And my girlfriend is "normal"! She's not obese! I just want her to shut up about the diets already and enjoy a damn slice of cake!

So I'll give you the short answer again, Unimportant: You can't. When everyone around her - her friends, her doctor, the media, the government, her family, her boyfriend - makes it eminently clear that her goal in life is to be beautiful, and that to be beautiful is to never forget that she must control her body, you won't override that message. You claim your opinion is unimportant to her, but she's made a note of every body you find unacceptable, every fat joke you've ever made, every time you've denigrated a skinny model for having visible bones. She knows your opinion is that you want a hot, sexy, beautiful woman.

She's just doing what you've told her to do, Unimportant. You want her to stop that?

You first. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

When Hard Times Hit Close to Home

A sister asks:

My sister recently received notice that her job was being eliminated.  This is going to put her family in a terrible financial situation as they were already living on the edge.

Do you have any suggestions of what I could do to let her know that I'm thinking about her?  She lives several hours away in another state.  Somehow "unemployment sucks" flowers just doesn't seem right.  And I don't think she would appreciate cash or a grocery gift card if she knew it was coming from me (and she would, because even if I tried to be anonymous I'm the only person she knows that would mail something from this zip code).

This is an unfortunate situation, and one that's very common these days. It's hard to provide financial support to a friend or family member without making them feel like a charity case. If you don't think you sister will accept cash or a grocery card, then it's not the right gift to give in this situation. Flowers, while nice to receive, do little to actually help the situation.

If you want to help your sister, but you don't want her to think you're pitying her, I would send gifts rather than money. For example, the weather is getting colder, and growing children always need new clothes. The less your sister has to spend outfitting her kids, the more she'll have for gas and groceries. How about some cute hats and scarves, with a note that says "Saw this and thought of little Bonnie, love you!"

The upside of this is that it provides your sister and family with things that they want and need. By adding a little fun to their lives, you're helping them more than just financially. Money problems are a huge source of stress, and when you're tight on cash, the fun things are the first to go. Lack of fun leads to more stress, and soon you're in a vicious cycle of misery.

I wish your sister a quick job search.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Let Me Guess, You Can Quit at Any Time?

Shalon asks:

i keep a bottle of water in my drawer at work, but instead of water it's filled with vodka. I like to have a nip or two throughout the day, and often will add it to my lunchtime Hi-C fruit punch for a little bonus kick. I think one coworker smelled it on my breath recently because she asked me if I had anything to add to her drink because she had a snapple peach tea, but i told her NO. I think she sees me taking random sips from my desk water bottle and grew curious and now thinks I am the office bartender or something. Is there a more discrete way to keep my "water" bottle to myself?

You're an alcoholic. Either that or you're in high school. Really, you keep your booze in a water bottle and mix it with Hi-C?

I don't generally have a problem with drinking at the office. Occasionally grabbing a beer at lunch with friends or celebrating a new contract with champagne is perfectly acceptable. The difference between these examples and your situation is that you're drinking alone, and you're ashamed enough to make pathetic attempts at hiding it.

It's quite possible that your co-worker asked you to share not because she wanted a drink, but because she wanted to discreetly let you know that you're not fooling anyone. If you want to keep your "water" bottle to yourself, leave it at home. If you can't do that, seek the help of a professional.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Where The Towels Are His And His And Hers....

Jessie writes:

My husband wants to have a threesome, something I was open with when I was a college gal, but not anymore that I have two children to take care of. I'm afraid this might be a dealbreaker for him, and I am just not emotionally prepared to give up my marriage because I cannot accommodate this need of his to have a sexual experience with me and this man that he is interested in inviting into the bedroom. I know the man is attractive, but this I thought that when men fantasize over threesomes, they involve two women. Should I consider being more open to experimentation if it means keeping my husband happy?

Here's my rule about experimentation: Everyone involved has to be 100% on board. That's it. Everything else follows after enthusiastic agreement by all parties that this is a good idea.

Based on my rule? There's no way you should be having a threesome. It has nothing to do with age or kids, and everything to do with the fact that you're just not comfortable bringing someone else into the bedroom. 

You say this is a "dealbreaker" for your husband. If he's threatening to divorce you over not getting a threesome? You're better off without him. Any man who makes threats when confronted by his partner's sexual limits is an asshole. He's not a good partner, he's probably not a good father, and I can't imagine he's a good lover. He's a selfish brat, and I would let the door hit him on the ass if I were you.

But if there are no threats, just a lot of talk, it may just be a favorite fantasy of his. If he only brings it up in the bedroom, it's probably just something he thinks about to get off, and he's not really expecting you to arrange it. Even the specificity of having a man in mind doesn't discount that: it may be someone he's attracted to, or someone he admires, and the thought of sharing his wife with someone he wants to be closer to for whatever reason is especially potent. Not all men envision threesomes with two women; many men like the thought of playing the "owner" of their women, and being able to pass her around to show their dominance and strength. Some men also like the thought of having a sexually voracious partner - so voracious that one man cannot hope to ever satisfy her, and so he has to allow her other lovers, and gets to watch her pleasure instead of participating in it.

I do have to wonder if you're asking me to give you permission to go ahead, though. You mention all the hot-button objections to sexual experimentation: You're not young anymore, you have kids, this will destroy your marriage. None of these are actual barriers, and the last one is patently false. Does this kind of adventure take a lot of security, planning, and talking through feelings? Hell, yes! But there's no age limit on sex, kids can go to the babysitter's, and there are plenty of happily married people who have lovers join them. There are couples whose marriages have gotten better after they confessed their kink to a loving, supportive, and communicative partner.

If you want to do this - and if you do, don't apologize for it! - go ahead. But. You and your husband should definitely seek the advice of those who have gone before you in order to effectively negotiate how the encounter will work. Will it be a one-time thing? Will it be recurring? Will you get to pick other men to bring home? Are there certain acts that will be off-limits? Does he want to watch or participate when you're with the other man? 

And so on, and so on. Having never negotiated a threesome myself, I don't know exactly what conversations you need to have, but these are some of the issues that come to mind. A quick Google search turns up a lot of resources for arranging a threesome, or you could peruse the archives of a good sex columnist. A couple of sessions with a sex therapist might not be a bad idea, either, as long as the therapist is sex-positive and won't dissuade you from the threesome based on personal bias. 

Whatever you decide, please send us an update. We love to hear how our contributors have used - or not used - our advice in real life.