Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 2 2002 2:12 PM

How To Hang On to Fringe Benefits

Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click hereto sign up.Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

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Dear Prudence,

I need some advice. A couple of months ago, my boyfriend and I broke up. We had been friends for over a year, and then we dated for six months. We have decided to "just be friends," but every time we go out together, we end up being intimate. I don't regret doing this, but my ex-boyfriend always apologizes and thinks that it's not right for us to be doing these things. I want to tell him that I think we should be "friends with benefits," but I don't know how he will react, and I don't wish to appear "slutty." What do you think I should do? Please help!

—Not Sure

Dear Not,

For the "benefits" arrangement to work, both parties have to be comfortable with it. Because you two obviously have a physical attraction that has outlived the rest of the relationship, you need to lay your cards on the table. The cards would be: You've already been intimate; he's not taking advantage of you; you feel perfectly comfortable with a no-strings romantic friendship. If it's a problem for him, you will just have to find another "special naked friend," as the kids say.

—Prudie, realistically

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Dear Prudence,

The question inevitably comes up, though at different times in the relationship. Sometimes it raises its ugly head when things are fresh and new, sometimes not until the couple is heavily into it and committed. Still, it will come up, and I am finding that there is no simple answer to the question, "How many?" I believe we are all entitled to a zone of privacy. How many lovers we've had and who they are fall into that zone. So, I don't answer the question. I'll usually respond with a question of my own: "What will that tell you about me that you don't already know?" Friends of mine insist that a potential lover has a right to know. In other words, whether the question arises at the start of the relationship or after it's had time to ripen, there is someone who will take the position that full disclosure is a sacred duty. I don't think so. What do you think?

—Numbers Revealed, or Not?

Dear Numb,

Prudie agrees with you. The names and numbers of all the players are not a sign of true love, and details should be withheld. They can make a mess because more information winds up in the "confession" than is necessary—and some of the images from these telling-everything sessions never go away. If a partner presses you, resist. It's enough to say that you've had previous relationships and don't remember a lot about them. Stick to your guns. And your question about what will they learn about you that they don't already know is a good one.

—Prudie, approvingly

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Dear Prudence,

My brother is getting married soon and naturally, I guess, has chosen me to be his best man. While I appreciate the honor and want to share in his happiness, the wedding itself may be a tense affair. Since leaving home after college several years ago, I've almost exclusively dated other men. All in all, I'm relaxed about the whole deal. The problem is, though, that I live many thousands of miles from home, and not everyone in my family/friend circle back there knows what's up. I'm completely comfortable being honest (without being overly inappropriate) if asked about whom I'm dating. My brother and his fiancee, however, are concerned that some people's shock might turn into scandal on Their Big Day. I can understand where they're coming from, but constant evasion and Clinton-esque honesty just ain't my scene. Any advice?

—My Best Brother's Wedding

Dear My,

Prudie cannot imagine, hon, that a gay-best-man-brother could have the makings of a scandal anywhere except maybe in a hamlet of 200 people in the Bible Belt. Reassure your bro and his financee that you have no intention of waylaying all the guests and volunteering that the love of your life is named Henry. Should people ask about your social life, if you wish to be evasive, you can say there's a very special someone named Pat or Dale or Alex. (Prudie owes this idea to the great old Saturday Night Live skit.) If you want to play it straight, pardon the expression, simply say there's no one special right now, or just simply say, "I'm gay."

—Prudie, forthrightly

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Dear Prudie,

If the married man you're dating promises he is not seeing anyone else, can you trust him?

—Untrusting

Dear Un,

Probably not. Unless it's a real love affair and the man's wife is in a coma, a player usually likes to get away with as much as he can. The thrill of the hunt and someone new are what's fun for guys who cheat ... so after a while, the girlfriend essentially becomes the wife, and then he needs another girlfriend. As Prudie has mentioned before, borrowed husbands are nothing but trouble.

—Prudie, directly