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Dear John: Compromising Positions

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected].

Dear John,
I am a woman in my early twenties. After being in an exclusive relationship for quite a while, my boyfriend and I had sex for the first time a couple of months ago. (First time with each other; not first time ever.)
Neither one of us has a lot of sexual experience, but we’ve had enough to know what we like. And so far, our ideas of what constitutes good sex could not be more different. In a nutshell, and without getting too graphic about it, he wants me to do things I don’t want to do, and I want him to do things he finds boring and unadventurous, I guess. So so far, sex has not been going well for us. I’ve never been in exactly this kind of situation before. What do you do when the two of you are in different places sexually? Should we both do for each other what we’d rather not, or should we both forego something we want? It doesn’t seem fair for one person to accommodate the other without being accommodated in return. Adding to this problem is that we’re both very shy and find it hard to talk extremely frankly about these things, but the good news there is we’re getting better at getting the words out, at least? Any suggestions?
Twin Beds

Dear Twin Beds,
I think in a newly intimate relationship, both partners should approach sex with an open mind. Most of us have a general idea of practices that are off the table (or bed, as it were) – no slapping, no sex in public places, that type of thing – but short of those, you should be willing to try anything once, or even twice. And of course that goes for both partners. I believe any relationship in which all the non-sexual stuff is working well can be fulfilling sexually, too. You may both have to be patient and you may have to force yourselves to speak more bluntly and openly about what you want, but if two people really like (or even love!) each other when they’re fully dressed, they have a huge head start to having a great sexual relationship, too. The best sex isn’t about particular practices or techniques; it’s about being crazy about the person you’re having sex with. And while I do believe it’s virtually always possible, that’s not to say it’s easy. If you find that the two of you are having a hard time getting there, the next step would be to talk to a couples’ therapist who specializes in sexual issues.
Dear John,
I am writing to you out of desperation. I have an older brother (I’m in my 40s and he’s in his 50s) who is causing so much family stress and anguish over his refusal to take care of himself. He’s in terrible physical condition, he eats poorly, he’s overweight, he drinks way too much beer, and I don’t think he’s ever once done something JUST for exercise. (If he walks somewhere, it’s because his car is broken and there’s no bus.) Recently, he was told by his doctor that he will (not might, but will) develop diabetes if he doesn’t make a whole list of changes to how he lives. Of course, his reaction was the same as always: to insist this doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he’ll find one who’ll give him “the real story.” Then these second opinions never happen.
John, my siblings and I are so distraught over this! We can all see years of chronic illness down the road for him, and we are approaching the point of no return where his health is concerned. He still has a chance to turn things around, but he’s so stubborn and in denial that there’s anything wrong with him! We have pleaded with him, argued with him, made appointments for him (that he didn’t show up for)…we feel like we’ve done all we can only to see him get bigger and less healthy looking almost by the day. How can we get him to see how upsetting this is for all of us and how concerned we all are? If he knew how much we worry about him, he’d surely make some changes!
Worried Sick

Dear Worried Sick,
I’m not sure I agree with the premise that concludes your letter. How could he fail to know how much you worry about him? I suspect seeing how upsetting this is for all of you is gratifying for him on some level. The more urgency with which you approach this project, the more likely he is to insist that all your concern is unjustified.
At any rate, at some point with people like your brother, you have to tell yourself you’ve done all you reasonably can and your brother is free to make his own choices about how he wants to live his life. I understand you love him, I understand you’re all worried about him, and I don’t say this lightly, but this is your brother’s problem, not yours. The increasingly dire predicaments he will undoubtedly find himself in in the years ahead will also be his problems, not yours. Of course you can help him in any way you want to, but there’s a difference between helping someone you care about and making their problems yours. That is a distinction you will be well served to keep in mind.
What your brother needs is a complete mental and physical health evaluation to help him understand why he has so little regard for his own well-being and what he can do to take better care of himself. But what he wants is something else altogether. Unfortunately, there’s not much more you can do.
Dear John,
I’ve known my best friend from high school for as long as I can remember. We both started college last fall, but we keep in touch on Facebook, with emails, etc., and we get together when we’re both home for visits. College has changed her so much, though! She has undergone some type of feminist awakening that colors literally every interaction she has with the world. Time spent with her becomes an exhausting running commentary about the submission of women as it pertains to, well…everything. It makes me sad to think of us growing apart, and yet that’s definitely what’s happening. I’m not ready to just give up, though. What should I say to her that won’t hurt her feelings, be critical, or seem like I’m asking her to be different than the person she’s becoming?
Victim Of The Patriarchy

Dear Victim,
Your friend is demonstrating the zeal of the newly converted. It can be tedious, but it also tends to moderate over time. If what I’m about to say is true, then I think you should tell her you find her newfound perspective interesting and worth considering, but she’s your friend and sometimes you just want to have fun with her. (That is a thoroughly unintentional Cyndi Lauper reference.) See what she says. If she understands what you’re talking about, perhaps there’s hope. If she says your reaction reflects how thoroughly society has brainwashed you into unquestioning passivity, then perhaps there isn’t.
I think it’s great that you want to work on this friendship rather than write it off, but you’re clearly aware of the possibility that, after all this time, you’re going your separate ways. And that’s fine. It’s sad, but it happens. It’s better for you both to grow apart, as long as you’re growing.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected].

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