Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Doing It Rough, Safe

In Sex on January 13, 2010 at 12:28 am

Crawling for her master in the BDSM classic, Secretary.

Dear Yenta,

I have never struck a woman, never even been remotely aggressive. In fact, I might practically be too gentle in bed, and have had complaints from girlfriends who wished I would pump them harder.

On the flip side, I love porn. I not only love porn, I love gruesome porn, like gang-bang porn, close-up on the anal porn, anything that is rough. I am pretty much disgusted sometimes by my own choices, even tend to turn off the videos when I can see that the women in them are numbed out.

Am I a freak? I feel like a bomb waiting to explode.

-Two-Faced Lover

Dear Two-Faced Lover,

On the TV show Six Feet Under there is a whole stretch where all Brenda wants is “normal healthy sex,” which she defines as sex without kinks or tools or whips. She wants a vanilla life in bed so as to somehow prove her sanity.

Brenda, however, was judging herself and her sexual practices by labeling one form of expression “normal.” No one should be judged for what turns them on unless it directly harms the life or health of another, mentally or physically, in an undesirable way. Some women want to be faux-raped, some men want to be tied up and beat up. There is no normal when it comes to sex, it comes in all different kinds of whacked out forms. One thing people make a mistake of doing is judging their sexual choices, attempting to translate “smack my ass” to “wow, I am a real self-inflicted misogynist.”

Sex is its own language, not necessarily an acting out of social order, rather an expression of the subconscious using external props and scenarios as tools. This, in simple terms, means that wanting to bang your girlfriend hard does not mean you hate her and want to kill her (necessarily), rather that that is your source of pleasure. You could exhaust yourself and ruin your sex life by examining your desires, or you could learn to safely integrate them into the bedroom.

In the movie Secretary some crazy things went down between Maggie Gylenhaal and her man including peeing her wedding dress, crawling like a stuffed pig, and more. This seemed messed up to a big chunk of viewers, but it was consenting sex between two partners. Key word, once again, “consenting.”

Do you like the missionary sex you have been having? Is this pornographic roughness something you desire in real life? Or is it just a fantasy? It sounds to me like you are repressed in the bedroom, perhaps terrified of SEEMING like a rapist, an abuser, or some sort of harmful agent. This is the only thing I see as needing examination. Why do you feel that sex must be gentle if you might enjoy it more rough? Are you afraid of emulating some figure that was forceful and abusive to women in your past? Do you see women as fragile puppies? They aren’t.

If you like it in the ass, do it in the ass. If you like it with a rough edge, a pinch, punch or slap, go for it. Just make sure she/he is along for the ride, enjoying it, and not drugged or checked out like some women in the porn you have been watching. (Which, btw, is disturbing to many-a-viewer who likes the idea of roughness, but not the reality. Few trustworthy people want to orgasm while willingly witnessing a teenager being taken actual advantage of.)

As you step off the vanilla sex circuit, perhaps take a few hints from the BDSM community. BDSM stands for Bondage Discipline Sado Mashochism. “For most people who engage in sadomasochism, sensations which normally cause pain, actually evoke sexual pleasure” writes Jessica Burge in According to Sexual Sadomasochism: Abuse or Harmless Play. The difference between rape and desirable roughness is the ability to consent to and control the sexual activity. This community has integrated a whole complex set of rules to keep sex, in any form, safe for the participants.

Safe Words are a big part of naughty role play. These are basically new words for “no” and have to do with upping your bedroom communication skills. For other BDSM terms and concepts, click here, but beware, not for the faint of heart.

Communication is the key ingredient to good, safe sex. TALK to your sexual partner; state your needs, your fears, your secret so-called “sick” desires. Listen back. She also needs to be more honest. If she wants it rough, she should be able to tell you. See if you two can navigate the dirty space you seek on the interweb, bringing all your most intricate fantasies to life. You never know what your partner wants until you begin to ask.

For more on creating a safe space for rough sex, an expert on S&M communities in major cities writes, “I would suggest just finding the BDSM organization based in the person’s city or in the nearest large city. In DC I think the biggest organization (although I’m not certain, I’m not really involved) is Black Rose (, and the website has a lot of great resources for beginners. I’d guess that most organizations like that would be the same.” Black Rose hosts free meetings with a tutorial on how to navigate the space of role-play and sexy violence.

Also, check out these books:

Consensual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About and How To Do It Safely
by William A. Henkin and Sybil Holiday

SM 101: A Realistic Introduction by Jay Wiseman

Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice, edited by Mark Thompson

The Loving Dominant by John and Libby Warren

For more on the ethics of the whole sexual expression business, check out Women’s Studies course listings. I took an amazing class with the brilliant Professor Rebecca Lester at Washington University in St. Louis called Gender, Culture and Madness.

Have more questions? Send me an anonymous e-mail to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com via

Gift-Giving to Suck Her In

In Dating on January 11, 2010 at 3:06 am

Well Yenta,

I know this sounds douchy but my boyfriend is actually too nice. It makes me feel like a bad person but I can’t keep up with the gifts, the kind gestures. How do I let him know that he needs to back off and let me be nice to him cause I want to and not because it is payback?

-Sweet Tooth Sucks

Diamonds are not always a girl's best friend.

Dear STS,

There is such a thing as killing you with kindness. Some nice people are nice for the sake of nice, and some are nice because it is an easy way to control a situation. By giving, and giving, and then giving some more it is a perfect way to suck someone in to committing and standing by your side.

This is not to say that this man doesn’t love you, I’m sure he does, but it is to say that his sweetness might be fear-based, and a subconscious form of manipulation. Why would a man manipulate his girlfriend into wanting him around? Duh, because he likes her, so so much that it might scare him.

Vulnerability can really blow, and people cope with hating this release of control in a billion ways. Basically, if you love this man and want to keep standing by his side, then view all this excessive kindness as a siren sounding that he is in fact vulnerable, and does in fact like you.

That being said, be gentle and be kind. All the time. If you want him to be able to receive you need to build this giving tree from the roots to the branches. Some people are amazing at taking and suck at giving. Some are great at giving and have a terrible time taking. Some are balanced. (Who?)

So, if it is hard for your man to receive, then you need to show him that it is safe to do so. You need to give in little ways, unexpectedly and consistently, so he sees a few things. For one, he will see that these gifts are unprompted, not a reciprocation but a genuine expression of adoration. And second, so he sees that they are consistent, and that acceptance of your love is not something that will corner or manipulate him.

Some things you can do to show you love him? Send him a sweet mid-day text, make him a dinner for two, leave little notes for him in random places, dress up in his favorite fetish, buy him something you know he wouldn’t buy himself, bring home cookies, give him a foot rub, a back rub, a neck rub, a face rub. Gifts that are small and sincere are best, because they won’t scare him or make him feel like you feel, like you are buying his love and smothering him with kindness. Even just verbal reminders of how much you appreciate him will suffice.

Everyone learns about love in a million ways and part of the crappy growing up process is fixing the wrong ways were were taught to show we care. So be patient, this dude might have a past that conditioned him to give to protect, rather than to open his heart. He may have been hurt every time he opened himself to receive. It can be terrifying, letting someone love you, so show him patiently that you are for real and eventually, my guess is, that the giving and taking will even out between you.

To pose your own anonymous question, click here and send your e-mail to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.

Unobtainable Boy Toys

In Dating, Mental Health on January 10, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Finding holes in hearts shows us better how and where to patch them.

Dear Yenta,

I have constantly fallen into a pattern of choosing guys who are emotionally unavailable, yet continue to stay with/obsess about them. Why is this? How do I break this pattern?

-Vapid Dates

Dear VD,

I would say half the humans in the world do what you do, and the other half somehow found a way not to. You are not the only fool in love, I guarantee. That being said, there is a deeper implication to choosing emotionally unavailable humans to whom you willingly hand over your heart. It is like putting your eggs in an obviously broken basket.

In the words of the great Jenny Lewis, “You are what you love, not what loves you back.” When you choose a lover, you are always subconsciously aware of what they will hold for you. Their heart is a mirror of your own. People are wise, even if they don’t always admit it. You know from a lifetime of living what mannerisms, facial expressions, body language and general demeanor imply in a potential partner. Whether we pay attention to what we know is a whole other story.

The problem is rooted in your own heart. Subconsciously you wittingly choose to love people who are unavailable, choosing the love you think you deserve. What are you trying to tell yourself? As Martin Buber suggests we ask in The Way of Man, “Where art thou?” This is a simple question, one meant not to chart a GPS location, but a more emotional and metaphysical grid. Where are you? What drives your thirst for these partners?

When choosing unobtainable love it is often a way of revealing that a piece of your heart may be wounded. As Jenny Lewis sings:

This is no great illusion
When I’m with you I’m looking for a ghost
Or invisible reasons
To fall out of love and run screaming from our home.

Perhaps you aren’t ready to be loved, and by choosing these men, you are physically illustrating the state of your own interior. That, and cutting love’s aorta before it even begins to pump any blood. Ie, you choose the love you think you deserve, which is not love at all.

One way to cure this habit it to watch yourself. Get all Buddhist on your mismo, and begin to observe your thoughts around men, your drive for desire, your reasons for choosing each partner. Watch, breathe, release judgment, notice, observe. Click here for very basic meditation instruction. Your life choices are trying to reveal something to you so you can, in fact, find a partner that loves you as much as you love them. A broken heart is just a bump on the road to learning how to really love yourself and, eventually, another.

For more clues, evaluate your past, bring on the Freud, and begin to look at what patterns raised you. Was one parent always giving and the other taking? Is your model for love one based in neglect and/or abuse? Or is it less complex? Are you simply not ready for love, and therefore attempting to jump in based on social expectation, and sinking dreadfully because of a lack of preparedness?

Only you know your heart, where it has been, and where it wants to go. Intimacy can be really difficult if your trust was broken along the way, and choosing love as torture might just be an old habit that does not want to die. Check in and see what love means to you, if it is about support and growth and a sense of safety, or if you are still living the wild high school edge of pining for the senior boy that was out of reach, but the thirst was thrilling enough.

To pose your own anonymous question, click here and send your e-mail to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.

Yeastie Beastie 101

In Health and Body on January 9, 2010 at 12:42 am

Dear Yenta,

I’ve got a yeast infection and it will not go away. I’ve tried pills. I’ve tried witchhazel wipes. I’ve tried cranberry juice. I’ve eaten yogurt. And I’m afraid it’s spreading to the nether regions in the back. What do I do? Help me Yenta!!!


Cottage cheese-like discharge is one symptom of a yeast infection.

Dear Itchy,

First and foremost a reminder/disclaimer: I am not a doctor. A am a Jewish woman in New Mexico with a penchant for people’s problems. That being said: take the following words, as always, with a fat grain of sea salt and consult your doctor before putting anything new inside your vagina. Your infection can be a sign of pregnancy, allergies, or HIV. A prolonged yeast infection might be a warning sign of diabetes or a thyroid problem. Consult a doctor if these are concerns of yours, or, see the list below of other causes.

What is a yeast infection?
An excess of the yeast Candida swimming and swarming in your body causing any number of symptoms including itching, soreness, cottage cheese-like discharge, and possible painful urination.

Why do YOU have one? Only you can answer that. Things that might provoke a yeastie-beastie and ways to prevent one in the future:

Excessive moisture, ie, don’t wear a wet bathing suit after the pool closes. Do what you can to keep that region dry, despite the oxymoron. Yeast lives and breathes off of dark moist locations making the vag and the mouth, stellar spots for an infection.
Tight non-cotton undies that retain moisture. Wear cotton if possible, at least until the symptoms heal. Cotton lets your parts breathe.
Tight pants causing more heat in your crotch than normal. Wear lose pants this week, we are looking for air down there.
Antibiotics, birth control pills, or bad meds. These things can change the balance of your stomach. Best to keep a lot of probiotics in your body to create the right yeasts. Consult your medication prescriber.
-One source claims to beware of excessive semen. Have you been cultivating this substance? Be careful, it can be too acidic for your bod and might be what brought on the itch.
Are you wiping from front to back or back to front? Fecal bacteria can cause a yeast infection. Always wipe from front to back to avoid mixing milk and meat.
Are you stressed? Stress can cause issues in the stomach whioch, again, can create imbalance and throw you into a cottage cheese producing fit.
Douching is the devil. Who wants a vagina that smells like flowers, not vagina? Fine. Some people like that stuff, but I am warning you it is terrible for the body. Terrible. And causes infections and might be a sign of misogyny. Same goes for feminine deodorants, these cause yeast infections. Ironic, indeed.

What can you do now?
You were on the right track with the juice, the wipes, the yogurt, etc. But here is a list of other steps you can take. If all natural remedies fail and the itching is torture, then go for Monastat at CVS. Remember, though, that chemical medications mess with your system and skip the step where your body learns to heal itself, a huge bonus for preventing future infections.

1 ) Put the yogurt in your vagina. Sounds gross, but it is soothing and gentle and immediately effective. Buy plain yogurt with no additives, especially not sugar, and ACTIVE CULTURES. You can either dip a tampon in the yogurt and insert, or use a plastic bag, cut a litttle hole in the corner, and squirt the cultures inside your body. Just be sure not to leave it in too long. Best to wait until the itching subsides and then wipe all the yogurt off. Moisture, again, is to be avoided. Stay dry, pumpkin pie.

2 ) Check your diet. Curb your sugar intake to zero if possible, and lay off caffeine, yeast-products and alcohol until your infection has diminished. Sugar is yeast’s best friend. Have you ever made bread? Add the sugar to the yeast and it bubbles and expands. You DON’T want that happening in your pants.

3 ) Shaklee Garlic Tabs. Put one in your hole. Done. It should take care of business. Maybe, though, choose garlic or yogurt, I don’t think you want to mix these bad boys. Also, a spoonful of pressed garlic downed with some water should help from the inside out. Just beware: you will reek, but you won’t itch. Pick your poison.

4 ) One dude said, “Take a bath in vinegar.” I think he was kidding, but he was right. Pour a cup of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar in a warm bath to soothe your body. Also, a spoonful in the morning a half hour before breakfast is good for your belly. Belly connects to bowels connect to vagina. Often yeast infections start in the rear and work their way forward.

5 ) Probiotics. Get yourself some Acidophilus. The chewable strawberry ones from Whole Foods are a personal favorito. These make it so you are making healthy cultures in your tum.

6 ) Drink two glasses of buttermilk a day. Not sure I stand by this one, for the sake of your arteries, but I want you to have as many options as possible.

7 ) says to insert Boric Acid tablets into the vagina. Again, never done this. Proceed at own risk.

8 ) Take oil extracts of cinnamon and oregano.

9 ) An acupuncturist told me a yeast infection somehow connects to a need for love. I don’t totally buy it, but why not? Pretty much everyone needs more love, so to cure your yeast infection seek a hug.

10 ) And the best thing you can do for yourself? Drink water, and more water, and more after that. Don’t drown yourself, but do try to flush your body clean of toxins like sugar and alcohol that may be feeding the yeast. Also, the more you replenish your body with H2O the more new fresh happy fluids arrive to wash the yeast away.

If all else fails, this chipper lady might be able to help. Good luck!

Tipping Etiquette

In Career on January 7, 2010 at 11:07 pm

20%, baby, all the way. Photo courtesy of

Dear Yenta,

My friends come to my bar and I give them at least a couple of free drinks. Do they not realize that they’re supposed to tip me? What is an appropriate tip on a free drink? On a drink that’s only 2 dollars? On a drink that’s 10 dollars?

-Sucker Punched

Dear SP,

I was once an extremely generous tipper. I learned this habit from my restaurateur, bartender, barista and service-working co-workers. It was a revelation to me, how people who earned not a huge amount still were able to give so much back to other servers. No rich person of the many I had dined with had ever dished out so much dough. In the service industry there was a code of conduct and I learned to follow.

This meant, if you sat at someone’s bar and they gave you free drinks, you tipped at least 20% of the would-be price, or in our case, sometimes we would leave up to a hundred dollars on the bar. If you hadn’t been drinking for free, those bar stools would have been occupied by paying customers. While a bar seemed like a party to us on one end, our buddy behind the counter was earning a living from our good time.

My friends got free diner meals as managers and still left a twenty on the table every time. It was a way of saying thank you, of saying, “I know even though I am eating free that you are still working damn hard.”

Later, a rich friend of mine from childhood came into my restaurant and I saw that she tipped my co-worker 10%. This was after sitting and using a seat, asking for water, and taking up potential revenue space for hours. I was ashamed of my friend in that moment, and then realized it wasn’t her fault. If you never worked in the service industry, you never learned a number of things.

For one: what is a tip? A tip, in America, is not just a sign of gratitude for service. European customers often tipped a dollar or two for a forty-dollar meal. This wasn’t because they were rude, it was because they came from a whole other world of tipping culture where waiters were paid in full, and tips really were just an extra perk. In America, generally, service workers are paid around $2.75 an hour, expecting that the rest will be made in tips. This means, in theory, by tipping ten percent, after taxes, etc., your server ends up paying to bring you your meal.

It is standard to tip 20% everywhere you go. This includes a snack counter, where it seems like they aren’t working: but honey, they are. Tips, often unbeknownst to the untrained tipper, can make or break someone’s day. I had customers who left a twenty after ordering a $2 cup of coffee, and others who dangled dollars and lewd compliments in front of my face after ordering $100 worth of alcohol.

My boss on a farm once taught us that a customer’s bad mood is an opportunity to change someone’s day. He revolutionized how I saw rudeness, less as an affront, and more as an opportunity for change. Moral of the story? Tip, tip always, and tip well. If you are given a discounted meal, tip 20% of the original price. The server should never get stiffed because you were given a freebie.

If you order a $2 coffee, tip at least one dollar. Always round up. I would tip at least $2. $10 drinks: tip at the very least, $2. If the bartender is your friend, tip double. I would probably leave $5 for a $10 drink if I knew the bartender. Remember that bartenders often deal with horrible human behavior. Your tip is not just about money so much as about extra appreciation for not having to mix your own martini in your living room.

These tipping moments won’t bankrupt you; they will pass on the love. You don’t need to be as gung ho as servers are with each other, but you do need to give back appropriately upon receiving.

No matter what, it is still a deal. Money at a bar is less a payment and more like applause for a fabulous show. You want to applaud and give appreciation for the human busting ass to keep you drunk and happy. Also remember that a service worker serves everyone, the good the bad and the ugly, and that they deserve a little cushioning in gratitude for enduring the public and all that comes with it.

For more on tipping in other situations, go to

Have a burning question? Ask me anything by clicking here and sending your e-mail to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.

Painful Pap

In Mental Health, Sex on January 7, 2010 at 7:00 am

Dear Yenta,

At my pap smear last week it was a horrible, failed attempt. Not uncomfortable, not awkward, but excruciatingly painful. The doctor kept telling me to relax, and I was trying (it was hard – this doctor had the worst bedside manner), but I guess I just couldn’t. I was so tense that the doctor gave up, or maybe I kicked the doctor out. But at some point, the doctor indicated that she didn’t know what my problem was and then asked if I had every been sexually assaulted. It’s probably a fair question. But my
response was “not that I’m aware of,” because that’s the truth. I don’t think so, but clearly I have some issues down there, and I don’t know why. But the really weird thing is that I started crying after I answered her (and truth be told, I’ve started crying every time I’ve thought about it since, including now).

I’ve had sex once. Or we tried to. But it was really painful, so we stopped. There was penetration, which I know because it was really bad pain and significant bleeding. My boyfriend at the time was traumatized. We stopped. It hasn’t happened since. I haven’t dated anyone since – and a major reason why I haven’t wanted to date anyone is probably because I’m scared of having this conversation with the next guy. I shouldn’t feel traumatized by sex and I don’t want to traumatize anyone else.

Do I need a therapist? Or just a better ob/gyn? They’re all so impatient with me and the pain. Please help me. This is the first time I’ve expressed this to anyone.



Pain is often a big red siren directing us towards a repressed truth.

Dear Terrified,

If I had giant wings, I would reach down and wrap them around you. I am so sorry that you have been going through this, and completely alone, no less. Unfortunately, what is happening to you is completely normal.

There are a number of things to address here. First, a well-trained doctor would never be angry with a woman for being in pain and afraid. I will say that your doctors sound like they have been poorly educated. An OBGYN should be well trained at the art of entering a woman’s body, and considering the prevalence of sexual abuse, they should almost always approach a body with this in mind.

What I have heard from therapists and midwives along the road is that they are not thoroughly trained in sexual abuse, memory repression, orgasm dysfunction and other troubles in the pelvic region unless working specifically in the field. You absolutely CAN expect to find a sensitive doctor, gyno, or therapist who knows about physical trauma and treats your body with care.

Things you can do as a patient to protect yourself: search for doctors who have experience with feminist philosophy, sexual abuse, and other similar themes. Always take it upon yourself to inform your doctors of your condition. Enter every appointment, despite the awkwardness, and say, “Hi, I have some issues with pain and fear in my vaginal region. I don’t know the root of it, but I often panic in the stirrups, so please handle me with care.” If they are still rough, leave the office and write the medical association.

Second, whether you were or weren’t sexually assaulted or abused may, at this moment, be beside the point. The most important thing on your menu is dealing with this sense of trauma, and being sure to find help so that you don’t drown in the pain that revolves around these intense and sensitive issues. Find a therapist, ASAP. You can go the physical route and find a physical therapist who specializes in “pelvic floor therapy.” These PT’s have extensive training in the myriad of vaginal pain dysfunctions and skills to work with them directly. You must, however, be comfortable with the therapist as the majority of their work is manually soothing this part of the body.

To address the emotional, and for guidance on how to handle your particular dilemma call The National Sexual Assault Hotline, which helps with everything from panic to seeking counseling on the phone and online. Call 1-800-656-HOPE or go to This is free, so whether you do or don’t have insurance, were or weren’t abused, you can still start here.

With insurance or other forms of payment there are a number of gentle body-centered therapeutic modalities that don’t involve going inside your body. Specifically search for a practitioner with childhood trauma, sexual health, sexual abuse and or feminist modalities on their profile. You can call a therapist and ask for a phone consultation, see if you feel comfortable talking to them before shelling out the dough. A few other gentle modalities (click on the name for a link to therapists) that might appeal to you: Body Psychotherapy , EMDR , and The Alexander Technique. Another route? See a Sexologist. Also, a regular yoga practice and acupuncture treatments can drastically reduce the effects of trauma on the body and mind.

Steer clear of anyone who thinks you are making things up. The body never lies, and yours is clearly trying to tell you something, what, we can’t be sure. A good therapist will know that the whole truth cannot come out in just a few hours, especially if the patient can’t even access it on her own.

The inability to recall trauma is a normal. The body is a giant store of information, and often our minds can’t stomach the truth. There is a common phenomenon among survivors of abuse that involves forgetting large chunks of personal history. Dissociation to memory can occur for a number of reasons ranging from a failure to encode memory because you emotionally blacked out, all the way to a built-up repression over time that prevents you from being capable of accessing certain painful memories. See books below for more on this phenomenon.

Whether it is trauma or something else, I want you to find love and be happy. By honestly facing the physical pain, and exploring that pain with trained professionals who address the mind and the body, professionals who specialize in these types of issues, you will find love again, once you heal some of these wounds so that trust is again possible. Be patient though, healing is not easy and it takes time.

Books that may help:

For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Reclaiming Your Sex Life
by Doctors Jennifer and Laura Berman and/or check out their clinic’s website in Chicago.

Sexual Healing: Transforming the Sacred Wound
Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body, and Waking the Tiger: The Innate Capacity toTransform Overwhelming Experiences, all by Peter Levine

The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment by Babette Rothschild

For information on men and sexual trauma, click here.

Have a burning question? Ask me anything by clicking here and sending your e-mail to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.

Sayonara, Don Juan

In Breakups/Divorce, Dating, Drama, Sex on January 7, 2010 at 12:54 am

He might be pretty, but next to him, you are invisible.

Dear Yenta,

I started dating/sleeping with a guy I recently met in my social group. After a short time I realized he’s an egomaniac, and the sex isn’t as good as I thought. How do I end it and still make it feel okay to see him socially?

-Doing a Narcissist

Dear DAN,

Gross, sex with an egomaniac can’t be good. I just imagine you two on a bed while he watches himself in the mirror, posing in all sorts of odd positions, you naked in his peripheral vision.

If you want to stop sleeping with him AND preserve the love, you need to step up and be the mature and amicable adult. This means give him a little hug and say you are through, that’s the easy part.

I consulted a sage on the topic of ending casual sexual relationships and his advice is as follows:

“I would say
End it in a nice way
Offer a hug or whatever

Say you still want to be friends

And then it’s up to you to be comfortable around him, even if he doesn’t take it well at first.”

The hard part is two-fold. A) Sticking to your decision to leave a man once you announce an exit can be hard when the relationship is only about sex. You will have to be strong and hold to your word. This not only keeps you honest, but also works towards issue B. B) You need to smile and be a warm friendly presence when you see this dude again if you want friendship. It is basically up to you to keep things as un-awkward as possible. So, vow to be normal and nice in the future, and see if you can handle your decision.

Awkward is contagious, and so is grace. But beware, some men have a resistance to forgiveness and feel generally castrated by the ending of a sexual relationship. Others take a hot minute to come around after being dissed, so be patient. If in time he can’t handle being as sweet as you choose to be, then cut your losses at that. What’s worse? Dissatisfactory sex with a self-stroking egomaniac, or, life without him as you search for a proper lover?
Have a burning question? Ask me anything by clicking here and sending your e-mail to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.

Dinner Party Faux Pas

In Drama on January 6, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Dear Yenta,

I’ve invited people to dinners several times and they have not invited me over. What gives? Have people lost their manners?

-Dining Solo

Dear Dining Solo,

Everyone goes through dry spells in their social lives. These spells are often a result of a) poor circumstances b) bad choice of company and c) sometimes when people are going through hard times they can be crap company for any number of reasons, ie, neediness, abrasiveness, general hostility, controlling conversations or for being plain old boring.

My first questions would be, who are you inviting over and why? Are these people you really truly like, people who you truly connect with, or are you inviting guests over to fill a void?

When I was little my mom taught me to ALWAYS invite people if they had invited me. I was taught to include absolutely everyone and to make an effort to help people feel comfortable wherever they were. But when I done growed up, I found it tedious to be including people who didn’t enhance my dinner table.

It is important to give just to give, not to receive. Invite people without expectation, have them over and enjoy them for what they are and don’t expect a reciprocal invitation. Giving is not predicated upon receiving.
If the thirst for a return invitation is glaringly obvious it turns off your guests, who don’t want to be cornered into social commitment. This is actually the pits, when you get attached to an outcome with a new friend and practically yank at their shirt to hold on to them and their company. Nobody puts baby in a corner. It will drive them off, far off.

Also, not everyone likes having people over. Often times you invite people to dinner who don’t even host their own dinners, let alone cook. So what you take as an insult is actually a logistical dilemma. Andrea Zuckerman never invited anyone from Beverly High over because she lived in the projects and they all lived in mansions. (That and she was lying about her identity.)

In the end, I think the trick here is to host a dinner for the fun of it and to always be sincere about who you invite. Maybe suggest you do dinners more often, see if that suggestion prompts them to want to have you over in return. Often times the dinner-party-haver seems so confident and so popular that people don’t even bother reaching out. Make your needs and desires clear, “this was fun, let’s do it again soon.” Maybe even say you’ll call them soon, and then CALL THEM.

People may also have, as you said, simply lost their manners. Remember that everyone is raised differently, and that even though you aren’t being invited to dinner, you may be overlooking their expression of gratitude and friendship in a less predictable form. Be open to being cared for in more than one way, not just via dinner invitations. One wise woman once said, “A kiss is not a contract.” I would say the same goes for invites.

Bedside STD Whispers

In Dating, Sex on January 5, 2010 at 6:38 am

If the condom comes expired, opened, or with a hole in it go to 7-11 for more. ASAP.

Dear Yenta,

I enjoyed your recent guidance regarding avoiding STD’s, but I’m
struggling with the practical implementation of some of your advice.
Specifically, how exactly does one politely ask a potential sexual
partner if he or she is presently infected with a venereal disease?

What would the Yenta say in such a situation?

And moreover, if the person is forthcoming enough to reveal an
infection how do you politely tell the person that you are no longer
interested in pursuing a physical relationship?

Safest Sex

Dear Safest Sex,

When I was a sex educator in high school, we were taught all different ways to tell if someone had an STD. What we learned, besides that if you wrap a man’s penis in a towel soaked in vinegar that spots might show if he has sub-surface warts, was that you really can never tell who has an STD.

Some STD’s have no symptoms, others take up to six months to show and go in and out of remission. This is just meant as a reminder of how vital the “talk” is. Part of having a healthy sex life is being able to talk about sex. If you can’t talk to your partner about sex, then chances are you aren’t ready to be having it.

That being said, the question is not so much, “do you have a venereal disease?” as much as a general discussion around exposure. All of us should be getting tested with our partners, and this conversation is one that revolves around the potential for sex. “Hey honey baby, I like you and things have been heating up. I think we should be safe if we decide to go further. Can we talk about this?”

Safe includes, “when was the last time you were tested for STD’s? Have you been sexually active since then?” This is a question about health maintenance, not so much about “are you infected?” For those who love a one night stand, a good litmus test for how things will go in the sack is how your lover can handle this simple question.

The truth is, though, with sex-hungry strangers: they might lie. The only way to truly prevent STD’s is to not have sex until tested WITH your partner. (Or become a devoted masturbater.)

That being said, let’s say your lover is infected. Before deciding it is grounds for dismissal, I think it is really important to research how to enjoy sexual activity with STD’s. Basically, avoid connecting open wounds, etc with blood, semen, and general body fluids, use a condom/dental dam, etc., and be creative. In 40 Days and 40 Nights the sexual chemistry was so intense, Josh Hartnett used an orchid to provoke an orgasm without even laying a finger on his lady-friend.

For those of you with STD’s wanting to talk to your partner about having one, click here for more help. One thing I loved on this site was this woman’s advice about how saying you have an STD is not a confession, rather, it is a discussion. There shouldn’t be filth or shame attached to divulging the truth. Anyone could have one. There is no moral code to venereal disease.

For those of you with STD’s who feel doomed to sexual solitude, try Way easier to start with the truth and go from there.

And finally, if you feel that an STD is grounds for dumping your partner, then chances are you didn’t love them too much to begin with. Be honest, “I can’t have sex with you if you are infected, but it was fun while it lasted.” There is no polite way to dismiss someone for their disease. Follow the same code you would use if you were ending a strictly sexual relationship. Usually it starts with the door.

Best thing to do is to ask yourself what you would do with your lover if you knew they had an STD before having the conversation. If the answer is, “walk,” then walk first, before hurting someone. Getting physical isn’t worth causing people emotional pain. Sex is fun, but if you really care about someone, you will find a way to make love to them, regardless.

What Will I Be When I Grow Up?

In Career on January 4, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Dear Yenta,

Will I be happy with the career I choose, and for that matter, which
will I choose?


Photo courtesy of Joy Wood.

Dear Couched,

While I am not a psychic, I do love Martin Buber, a famous Jewish philosopher who wrote a number of books addressing, on a basic level, how to live and breathe in the world.

In his book, The Way of Man: According to the Teaching of Hasidism, Buber writes of how Rabbi Baer of Radoshitz once said to his teacher, the “Seer” of Lublin: “‘Show me one general way to the service of [the best that you can be].’ The zaddik replied: ‘It is impossible to tell [people] what way they should take. For one way to serve [the best that you can be] is through learning, another through prayer, another through fasting, and still another through eating. Everyone should carefully observe what way his [or her] heart draws [them] to, and then choose this way with all [their] strength.”

Jewish Philosopher, Martin Buber

Buber’s method is based on the presumption that a divine spark lives in every thing and being. He sees life as an opportunity to realize this spark, and to use it to better the world. Tikkun Olam is a fundamental Jewish value that literally means, “To repair the world.” Anyone, Jewish or non, can use these guidelines in search of a career. As Buber says, “[The best that you can be] dwells wherever [an individual] lets [this] in.” He suggests you, “Seek peace in your own place,” find a way to live with yourself, and use this as a model as to how to live in the world.

I had a boyfriend once who believed that a job was where you made money, and that after work you were meant to do the things you love. I always disagreed, a strong believer in using the hours from 9-5 to BOTH earn a living AND do what you love. It sounds like a privilege, but I also believe that with a strong vision you get what you wish for. Wishing for things, though, is the hard part.

According to my friend, Mendy, an Orthodox Jew in Yeshiva (intensive religious study), “it is known that life is 20% of what happens and 80% of what you make of it.” He suggests that a person evaluate themselves with a true friend or wise mentor, and see in what field their skills are best suited to, as well as in which field they have the best chances of succeeding and then go for it all the way. He also said that the texts state that whatever is hardest for you is what you are meant to do with your life.

This sounds obvious, but rarely do we stop and assess ourselves. Make a list of the things you have enjoyed in your life. Make a list of the things you have done to better someone else, or the world. As Buber writes, “How about forgetting yourself and thinking of the world?” List your skills, list moments where you felt fulfilled. Find what those moments were, what fed them, what you did to make them happen. You will know when you find the right path because your life will feel right, your body will relax, and people around you will smile more often than you thought possible.

To read The Way of Man online, click here.
For books by Buber, click here.
For a career counselor, click here.
For life coach resources, click here.