Sex when you're a houseguest
Q: My boyfriend "Alexander" and I are going to be visiting some close friends at their summer house next weekend. He really likes the idea of getting hot and heavy while we're there; I think it's rude to have sex at someone's house when you're a guest. What do you think?
A: Although some think it's disrespectful to one's hosts to have a private pleasurefest in your room, I think it's fine as long as you're able to keep it completely secret. No moaning, no screaming, no running through the house naked. Lock the door and use a towel to avoid stains or other telltale signs. If you bring toys, make sure you pack them up on departure. And definitely don't mention it at breakfast, even in the most general or cute way—although your hosts may pick something up from the looks on your faces.
I do suggest, however, that you save your more complicated rites and rituals for the privacy of your own home or for a hotel.
My girlfriend is a snoop
Q: My partner and I have been living together for a couple of months now, and I suddenly realized that she's going through my personal papers and reading my e-mail. I actually don't have anything to hide, but I feel like she's invading my privacy and don't like that one bit. When I called her on this behavior, she said, "That's what lesbian couples do." Is it?
A: No, lesbian couples don't do that. Nor do couples of other kinds—if they want their relationship to last. And you're quite right that it's irrelevant whether or not you have anything to hide. There is a fine, but important distinction between "looking" and "snooping." It's just looking when there's a bank statement or personal letter on the table or a racy photo on the wall, but it becomes snooping when you take some action, like opening the letter, looking through papers, opening a photo album or visiting an online account.
To start, I suggest changing your password, getting a file cabinet that locks and telling your partner that her prying is not acceptable to you. The larger issue here may be one of trust, however; she doesn't seem to trust you but is also apparently not trustworthy herself. But I'm only a manners expert, not a therapist, so I'll stop here.
Using e-mail to announce your separation
Q: Jane and I were together for more than 10 years, and after lots of couples counseling and a trial separation, we've decided to call it quits. How do we tell our friends, some of whom know of our difficulties and some who, blissfully, don't? Is a mass e-mail OK for this?
A: No, e-mail is not a good medium for this. While spamming your friends is useful when you're hosting a yard sale or declaring your support for a political candidate, news about your breakup is a bad use of the technology because the communication is too impersonal and too likely to be reforwarded. Also, as much as you may think you're sending an entirely unemotional announcement, sometimes hurt feelings or resentments creep into these things. I've known a friend or two who have taken this route and come to regret what they wrote.
Sure, e-mail is efficient and egalitarian and would save you the heartbreak of having to tell and retell your story of woe, but you're better off speaking directly to close friends and family about what has happened. Of course, word will get around soon enough on its own.
Later on in this process, when you've both really begun to move on, go ahead and send a mass e-mail letting friends know of a new address, e-mail or phone number—along with anything personal, such as perhaps that things are now going well for you. That note just shouldn't be the first they're hearing of your separation.
Omitted from husband's obit
Q: I was in such a state of shock after my husband died that I had no idea his brother and sister were preparing an obit. It was bad enough that they didn't show it to me, but to make matters worse, they didn't even include me as a survivor. What should I do now?
A: Until you lose someone close to you, it's hard to see the importance of obituaries; the truth is that they carry a great deal of symbolism, so I can understand why you're upset. Take aside the former in-law you are closest to and explain your feelings with as little rancor as you can. You could say, for instance: "After spending 10 years as your brother's husband and best friend, I can't tell you how hurt I was not to be mentioned as his survivor." In the meantime, prepare your own notice and pay for its placement. Or, if too much time has gone by, consider placing an "in memoriam" notice on the anniversary of your partner's death, on his birthday or on the date of your wedding anniversary.
Steven Petrow is a regular contributor to the Indy and the author of The Essential Book of Gay Manners & Etiquette. Send your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.