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Feb. 12th, 2007

Sentimental Education

Though a lot can be said about the differences in the sexes, nothing perhaps captures it better than the age-old adage: A man falls in love with the woman he's attracted to and a woman is attracted to the man she falls in love with. Simplistic, yes, but oftentimes it is these most obvious and overlooked truths that evade us, especially when sex and the heart tangle. And eventually, if you're like most people, they will tangle, whether it's on the first date or the sixtieth.

Dating is a risky venture and often presupposes mutuality, that two strangers want the same thing at the same time. Good, solid first dates often lead to seconds and thirds and if you're lucky, weeks will go by before either one of you notices that you're on your twentieth. Time will fly in the face of romance, because romance often eclipses the more mundane aspects of our lives. We crave it like the air we breathe, and rarely do we ever get enough. That is, if you're the sentimental type. But what if you're not?

Like the act of craving, sentimentality is often ascribed to women and with good reason. How often do you hear about a man craving romance, a man with an overabundant need for sentiment? It is the rare man who understands romantic nuances, who can turn a banal dinner into an extravagant event, with candles, flowers and the right bottle of wine. I'm not saying there aren't men in the world with that kind of finesse, who can conjure up an evening of romance, not to please themselves, but their partners. And herein lies the rub: sentimentality, in whatever form it takes, must be offered up selflessly and with the best intentions. And if sentimentality is just one part of a healthy romance, then affection is the other.

It's hard to imagine sentiment without affection, just as it's hard to bridge the gulf between lust and love. Affection, real and honest, can help with this, however, and turn an awkward parting of strangers into a beautiful moment between potential lovers. A finger on the ear, a touch on the back, a small kiss on the cheek-all of these things signify a willingness to connect, a reaching-out for the future.

If you find it difficult to rouse the necessary energy for sentimentality and affection, then perhaps you're still too attached to your independence, to being single. Coupling takes work and patience, an eagerness to leave a part of your old life behind and head into unsound territory. It's scary. It often produces far more anxiety than we know what to do with. Woody Allen once said that if love creates tension, sex alleviates it. It seems to me that the reverse could be said as well. Any time we get intimate with someone else, any time we literally open ourselves up, more than likely we'll end up getting hurt. But if you truly crave a relationship, vulnerability is unavoidable and more often than not is what keeps someone around, when s/he might just as soon walk away. Sometimes, showing a partner who you really are can lead to further intimacy, to further sharing and growing together, while at other times, this same tack might scare him or her away. It all depends on the approach, when and where and how you choose to let this other person in.

Being attentive and kind to another's needs, reliability, steadfastness, all of these things say a lot about the kind of person you are or the kind of person you'd like to become. But what's most important to remember is that you're dealing with another human heart and that human heart is fragile. Treat it gently and it will go on beating beside you for decades. Treat it thoughtlessly and you will miss the sounds it made.

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Feb. 5th, 2007

Female orgasm

Having finished her burger and fries, a girlfriend of mine turned to me quite suddenly, incredibly animated about foreplay, a topic she'd been contemplating recently. "There are two types of women, as far as I can tell," she said. "Those who can orgasm from getting eaten out and those who can't." She went on to describe how she fell into the latter category, preferring NO foreplay at all to the simple, robust machinations of a good hard fuck. "Sometimes, I wish men weren't as sensitive as they pretend to be these days," she said, glumly. "Sometimes, I wish they just fucked like the cavemen they were."

Indeed. I've heard this same lament oh-so-many times in the last couple of years, from good friends to bad acquaintances alike, from older women to younger, from every ethnic background and religion. Though they all recognize and appreciate the tremendous strides men have made, in the bedroom especially, many-not all, mind you-wish for the good old days, when men couldn't even utter the C word, much less put a tongue to it, without embarrassment.

Let's face it. The female sex organ-the vagina-is far more complicated than a man's penis, which means in general getting a woman off might be more complicated. Even the most sensitive of men cannot compete with the moody clitoris, which swells during excitement and changes position. According to Coolnurse, the blood vessels through the whole pelvic area also swell, causing engorgement and creating a feeling a fullness and sexual sensitivity. The inner vaginal lips swell and change shape. The vagina balloons upward, and the uterus shifts position in the pelvis. If aroused, a healthy male experiences a similar effect: his penis hardens, his scrotum contracts, pre-cum is produced in the hopes of intercourse-although nothing changes position or balloons outright, except for the self-contained penis itself. (Is it any wonder then that men leave all priapic concerns to general practitioners, while a woman must seek out a gynecologist, an expert in female sex and sexuality?)

"It's not that I don't enjoy cunnilingus," my friend said. "But if I can't achieve an orgasm like this, then what's the point? I need a guy who just wants to stick it in."

It's a strange dilemma, I think, not only because men are more sensitive these days to their partner's wants and needs-more wiling to talk about feelings-but also because this same openness seems to work against some of them. It's hard to say if this is more a product of her age (she's in her mid-twenties), which causes its own set of hang-ups and disillusionment, than with the men she's slept with or that one day she might not awaken to the joys of a pre-fuck orgasm. Still, what she says does bear out a peculiar movement in the spirit of male-female sexual relations. In the end, asking a man to forego foreplay for the sake of her own pleasure might be her only shot at orgasm. Then again it might be just another way for her to place restraints on what could potentially be an amazing insight into her own repressed sexuality.

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Jan. 26th, 2007

I've Slept With Girls Far Hotter Than You

It was late and they were standing on Simone's small balcony again, staring out at Chinatown and the Seasons Greeting sign in Little Italy, strung up far too early in the year. The end of November, the air was unusually cold, but that didn't stop Daniel from enjoying a scotch and Simone from smoking a cigarette. They'd been seeing each other for nearly two months, not much time but time enough to develop certain habits and comforts. They were good together, they told each other this, and Daniel, who respected Simone and believed in her, moved in closer to his lover, who was shivering, and wrapped his arms around her. If you'd seen them that night, or any night, you might've said the same thing: they are good together. But you weren't there that night, no one was, save these two thirty-year-olds who were struggling to make sense of who they were and what they wanted from each other.

That night had begun with dinner and ended in Simone's bedroom, where the two got reacquainted with each other's smells and voices, the sanctity of voices lovers maintain in those more intimate moments, when the world drops away and it's only the two of them, alone. They kissed and Daniel detected something in Simone's face, a slight distance that hadn't been there before. It concerned him and for the first time since they'd been seeing each other, he said something: "Does this end the kissing portion of the evening?"

Simone laughed and then sighed a little, at which point, Daniel climbed off her and went into the darkened kitchen. Simone followed and started talking, but Daniel interrupted her, said he needed a scotch and a cigarette and then went out onto the balcony.

So there they were, on a fall night in Manhattan, at Simone's downtown apartment, the sky barren of clouds. "I guess this is our first fight," she said.

"We aren't fighting," he said. "We're just talking."

And so they did. Daniel let Simone do most of the speaking, which she did, opening up to him in ways he never thought possible. Simone told him about her ex-boyfriend (five years on and off), how she thought she was still in love with him, how he was probably still in love with her as well. The conversation turned to kissing, why it happened sometimes between them and not others. Simone said that Daniel reminded him of her ex, that there were too many ghosts, that kissing him brought up memories of the sex they'd shared. "Don't you find me attractive?" Daniel said, eventually. He was slow and methodical, a new tack for him. He stood there, taking Simone in, trying to gauge what he could and couldn't say. He had no desire whatsoever to hurt her; it was the furthest thing from his mind.

"Of course, I find you attractive," she said, but for some reason, this answer wasn't satisfactory and Daniel, feeling defensive and disappointed and saddened by the night's sudden turn, said, "I've slept with girls far hotter than you."

Once the words slipped out, he wished he could call them back, but he couldn't. They floated on the cold fall air and lingered there, between them. It was a terrible moment, freighted with his feelings for Simone, which had grown over the course of the last few weeks. They spoke for a few more minutes and then went back inside, to the safe and warm confines of her bedroom. There, they laid down again, wrapped up in each other. It happened quickly and effortlessly that night and began with Simone kissing him, first gently, then passionately, until they were sweating under the sheets. But the sting of Daniel's words were still there, still in his ears, as his lover whispered, "I want to know you for a long, long time," still there, when they awoke in the morning to more sex.

It is not every day that two people find each other, that two people out of an entire planet of people come together, however briefly, however intensely. It's a shame Daniel said what he said, but might it not be even more of a shame to have let other, more tender words go by? At the writing of this, Simone announced that she needed some space and Daniel, respecting that, gave it to her, unconditionally. Because isn't that what being with someone else is all about? Aren't we all looking for someone who will grant us our biggest and smallest wishes, whatever they are? Aren't we all, like Daniel and Simone, fighting to make the right wish, which will be granted no matter the cost to love?

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Jan. 5th, 2007

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Sex and The Blind Date

As Sarah Jessica Parker, who made the role of sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw famous on "Sex in The City," so aptly said, "People go to casinos for the same reason they go on blind dates-hoping to hit the jackpot. But mostly, you just wind up broke or alone in a bar." But what if you don't? What if you get through the panic of the initial phone call asking you out, the heart-thumping knock on the door, the butterflies, the queasiness as he pulls out your chair, the sweaty palms as she stares at you over a candlelit table for two? If you make it past the litany of possible things that could go wrong-lack of chemistry, things to talk about, his burping and your incessant need to answer your cell phone-then there's hope for a future with your blind date, however long or short. Because, let's face it, in life there aren't any guarantees, especially where sex is concerned.

Sex, like romance, like anything worthwhile, takes practice, concentration and selflessness-the three key ingredients that most people either forget about, skimp on or leave out of the recipe altogether. At times and in the right circumstances, the potential of love encourages our very best behavior, but the promise of sex with the hot blind date across from us elicits something far more primal and possibly far more reckless. Our brains fill with the rush of endorphins, which course through our bodies at an alarming rate, often muffling our superego's constant warning that sex with a stranger is dangerous and not at all what we really want.

If you've been on a blind date, then you know from experience that they are often fraught with expectation, both from the heart, which so very much wants to fall in love again (if it hasn't been in love recently), and also from the head, which sits back, coolly judging the way the blind date eats, speaks and uses his hands. So much of a date's success rests in being able to correctly navigate and predetermine the socioeconomic dynamic of the evening: Will he pay for dinner? Will she offer to pay half? Are we going Dutch? And if the confusion of the bill isn't enough to throw the evening off-kilter-and luckily most times it isn't-then there's the more awkward moment, when he asks the inevitable and usually leading question, "What should we do now?"

If you've made it thus far in the date, chances are you want to go further, caught up as you are in the evening's magic promise: a smooch at the door, a feel under her skirt, a hurried move to the bedroom. But not so fast. Blind dates aren't called blind dates for no good reason and are nothing if not exactly what they mean-B-L-I-N-D. Though an old-fashioned and almost pass? practice, especially in this age of online dating where, with a click of the mouse, you can scroll through hundreds and hundreds of singles just like you, blind dating is still the crap shoot it has always been. Simply because a mutual friend insists that her best friend's friend needs to meet a guy/girl like you doesn't necessarily mean a) the date will go smoothly, b) the date will turn out to be the jackpot you've been waiting for and c) the date doesn't come with his or her own sexual hang-ups and worse.

Sex with a blind date is often more complicated than sex with a total stranger, though each one is loaded in its own way. Though both might turn into something other than what it was, casual sex with someone you've just met, admittedly or not, is usually baggage-free (I say usually because these days, it seems, adults are more willing to engage in pre-sex talk). Sex with the blind date, whom you've just shared a piece of cheesecake with and some of your grandmother's really bad jokes, won't guarantee anything. If the date doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. But don't despair. Going into a blind date blindly-with no expectation whatsoever-however, lowers the stakes and relieves anxiety. As a result, you free yourself from worrying about hitting that big jackpot or winding up in that bar alone and broke. With plenty of other casinos in town, you've got all day and night to shop around for a place that will give you a lot more bang for your buck.

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Dec. 15th, 2006

The Men From The Boys

Sex, sex, sex. Sometimes, it's all we ever think about and sometimes, it's all we ever do, especially in the throes of a new relationship. Friends have told me about their all-nighters, the hours and hours of sex, that come morning, they did it all over again, he on top, she on top, the missionary, doggie-style, in every and any position. Who needs the sun when we have afterglow, those moments (sometimes hours) after sex when endorphins pump through us and we shine? Good sex produces a chemical happiness, and we carry this around with us all day long, from one interaction to the next. We go about our days on winged feet, floating just above the ground, and why not?

Sex has the ability to ward off bad feelings, fight off depression, hold back our most secret fears-that we are not worthy of real love, that we will always be alone, that we will never connect with another human being in the ways we want or need. Sex is what separates the men from the boys, the girls from the women and it's about as powerful a drug (recreationally and otherwise) that there is. It trumps all else; it drives us crazy. Once we get it, we want more and once we want more, we are ultimately giving ourselves over to the addiction. Because this is something else that sex is or can potentially become - an addiction, as harmful as heroin.

How many times have you heard friends say that the moment they introduced sex into the relationship, the relationship changed? How many times have you heard friends say that they should've waited before jumping into bed with someone they just met? This then is the paradox–we want physical intimacy with someone else, someone we desire, but we can't ever get our emotional needs met like this, because in the end a stranger can't possibly meet them. It is confusing, this idea that sex leads to intimacy, and it can, but only if you ask the right questions and only if you are emotionally mature enough to know that you are dealing with another human heart.

I'm speaking hear of casual sex, of sex that has few strings attached to it. But what about the other kind of sex, the kind that is wrapped up in future talks about commitment, about exclusivity? This kind of sex is also amazing, and more sustaining emotionally, but it also has the potential for greater failure written into it. Desire is finicky and fickle and no one's sex drive is as high or as low as the next. Finding that sexual compatibility is just as important as finding moral and emotional compatibility and most of the time, they all go hand in hand. (Unless of course you are someone who compartmentalizes and can separate the physical act of sex from its more emotional aspects. If this is the case, seek therapy now.) Not everyone wants the same thing at the same time and when you're dealing with two very different hearts and minds, chances are you'll have to do some maneuvering to get what you want. If the other person is willing to match you, then go forth and have the kind of fantastic sex that comes from this kind of union; if the other person is unwilling, hesitates, makes excuses, then you might want to rethink who you're with and why you got involved with him in the first place.

Sex can keep two people together who shouldn't be, it can bring two people closer who seemed completely mismatched at first, or it can simply fizzle out, even though the chemistry was (and probably still is) there. Once the emotional trump card is played, it's very hard to get back those all-nighters, that time in your relationship when you didn't know each other, when sex with a stranger was exciting and new and different. But if you're mature enough and honest enough with yourself, you'll understand that sex is merely the physical expression of how you feel about someone else; it is not the binding ingredient. Emotional intercourse - the ways you are with each other, the physical and mental affections, the times in-between the sex - this is what turns an ordinary relationship into an extraordinary one. This is what turns boys into men and girls into women.

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Dec. 8th, 2006

X-MAS, PDA's, and You

We are entering a period of great reflection, as we rush toward these last few weeks of 2006. Some of us will look back at this past year with fondness, others with regret. We will see the mistakes we made and wonder why we made them, how it was we repeated the same old patterns again, with our friends and family and lovers. If we are single, we will remember this time last year when we weren't; if we're coupled, we might even do the same. The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to take stock of where we are and who we're with, whether we've lived up to own demands - resolutions we set down and carry with us from one year to the next - and potential or if, like many, we've fallen into age-old grooves.

Everyone has heard the definition of insanity: going about the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If this is you, then it might be high time to identify those well-worn habits, those you've been meaning to pack up and ship off. If you're involved in a relationship that makes you miserable, the holidays will only bring out more of the same. These are difficult times ahead, ladies and gentlemen, and it's best to go into the holidays wide-eyed and clear-headed. If you're a heavy drinker, perhaps you'll leave the eggnog alone. If you're prone to engaging in casual sex, perhaps you'll remove yourself from those situations that bring this out in you. Any addiction is harmful, whether it's people, places, or things. Best to seek out professional help before professional help seeks you out.

Love, as we all know, can either send us to the moon or drop us into the abyss. With the holidays quickly approaching, senses are heightened and our sense of love, of how much we're getting, how much we've neglected, is no different. More than any other time of year, the Christmas holidays thrive on equals parts greed and good will, our own capacity to give and receive openly and warmly, and for some, in the face of such excess, this is overwhelming. If you and you significant other come from a large family, perhaps you'll spend a couple of days before the onslaught of relatives arrive being kind and gentle with each other - take some alone time, check in and make sure you're still on the same page. Love can survive almost anything except the breakdown of communication.

If you're single, don't panic. You are your own worst enemy this time of year, as you pass couples in the throes of PDA's, snuggling up close to each other in the cold. If you don't want to be alone, make a date not to be - it's that simple. But beware of overreaching at this time of year. Intimacy, like love, will feel more intense and more comfortable to you and you might end up letting your guard down for the wrong person. Take your time and don't rush. If it's meant to be, it will last well beyond these often harrowing, often joyous days to come. Stay in control of your feelings and your feelings will lead you skipping happily into 2007.

Happy Holidays!

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Nov. 24th, 2006

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The Myth of Male Bisexuality

A friend's boyfriend returned from a trip to Rome recently with some strange news from his mother, the psychic. She told him that he would meet a man and fall in love, even though (as far as he knew) he was straight and hadn't ever once slept with a man (he knew this for sure). He took the news well and while in Rome, checked out every man he could, trying to see if any of them aroused his desire. But they didn't. And they didn't because my friend's boyfriend is not attracted to men on any physical level at all. Although open to the idea of finding another man sexually appealing, he admitted that he could only get off in the company of a woman. His mother went on to say that deep down he was fooling himself and that if he really understood his own sexuality, he'd also understand he was bisexual and that he just hadn't tapped into that part of himself yet. But can these parts actually be tapped into and if so, how?

Where it is perhaps difficult to think of a man in his thirties or forties suddenly waking up to his own latent bisexuality, especially when he's had no prior experience or desire for men, it's not as difficult to imagine a woman exploring the same terrain. With popular shows like "The L Word" and "Sex in The City" demystifying the topic of sexuality-from hetero to homo, and everything in-between-the world seems like a safer place for all people and yet, bisexuality itself remains as taboo a subject as ever. Though these shows in particular might have brought into focus the lighter side of sex, the way in which they deal-or don't deal-with larger concerns, i.e. what it means to be a bisexual man in America, is still an ongoing issue. And an issue worth exploring and fixing, since many continue to believe that male bisexuality, while in the air, is nothing more than a myth and beyond that, a copout.

Dating back to the mid-19th century, bisexuality is nothing new. What is new is the ways in which we deal with it today. A recent Times article, "Straight, Gay, or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited," debunked the myth completely, citing that male bisexuality isn't a "distinct and stable sexual orientation" and that men "who claim bisexuality are ambivalent about their homosexuality or simply closeted." But what about people like my friend's boyfriend, who checked out guys in Rome, if only to put to rest his own doubts?

Relying on statistics and science is a risky business in any case, but in this climate of racial profiling and rightwing religious fervor, it's downright scary. To eliminate an entire group of men based on a single study and then to call them liars to boot seems the height of hubris and incredibly short-sighted. The world might be quite a different place if men fought less and slept together more. Maybe instead of looking into ways of tearing down a man's self-proclaimed sexual identity, it might serve scientists better to find ways to cure the general public of its sexual hang-ups and phobias.

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Nov. 17th, 2006

A Stroke of Good Luck

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, masturbation is "the excitement of the sexual organs, often culminating in orgasm." For men, this might occur as many as several times a day (if you have such free time), and is a wonderful stress-reliever for the usually sweet, albeit aggressive Alpha male. For women, however, masturbation-or autoeroticism–usually happens with far less frequency. It is not enough to hang gender on the differences in masturbatory practices, though many studies often allude to, if not cite outright, the gulfs between a man's sexual voracity and a woman's sexual sublimation. How can this be, when it's more than obvious women have come into their own hyper-libidinal rights?

Take Kim Katral's character, Samantha, on "Sex and the City." A femme fatale for all ages, she's a timeless example of just how far female sexuality has been pushed into the open. As she beds one man after the other, Samantha rarely if ever complains of regret. She masturbates willingly and gleefully, a modern-day Gloria Steinem, without the heavy, psychological baggage and concomitant analysis. The girl just wants to have fun; and the show, which condones Samantha's free-wheeling sexual appetites, wants less to instruct its audience on the ins and outs of romance and dating in the Big City than it wants to foster a healthy, cogent and real take on four friends and their vastly differing, often antagonistic, views on what it means to feel satisfied-without the aid of a man. One such way, of course, is through masturbation.

As a country founded on creaky, antiquated ideas (and ideals) of sex and sexuality-i.e. Victorian hair shirts and Puritanical repression-here, now, in 2005, it seems silly to think we were ever mystified by the act of stroking, but we were. Just take the etymology of the word masturbation itself: from Latin, manu stupare, which literally means "to defile with the hand." Throughout history and in certain cultures today, women are still viewed as chattel, less than men, and made to wear get-ups to keep their better parts hidden. But in the sanctity of their own bedrooms, the same hands and wrists become weapons against depression and loneliness. A fist between the thighs, a finger rubbing away at the clitoris, a dildo in the anus-pleasurable distractions that no one, not father, brother, lover or country can take away.

"Sex and the City" did much to change men's opinions of women, but more than this, it helped to change women's opinions of themselves, even though for many, masturbation continues to be a hushed topic, something better left out of polite chitchat. Samantha and her chums attracted (and still attract) a huge following, women from all over the world who tuned in week after week, not to see Samantha triumph or fail with one man or another, but to see how she coped with her own wants and needs. In this way, a whole new generation of women was born, women who are more open to discussing sex and sexuality. Thus, a new breed of women emerged who think about sex just as much as men, who aren't afraid to go after and get it. Though studies show time and again women masturbate far less frequently than men, this simply doesn't mean women are any less horny. A man might jerk off a dozen times a week, whereas a woman might finger herself once a month-but in the end, who's to say that once isn't enough or that a guy might have to try twelve different times to have the same mind-blowing orgasm a woman gets right the first time around?

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Nov. 10th, 2006

The Vagueness of Soon

"We had an amazing time," my friend said of her first date with B, a successful dermatologist in New York. "We spent the whole day together and then, well, I stayed at his place. The best sex I've had in years!"

"Don't you think that's moving pretty fast," I said. "You don't know this guy at all."

"Isn't that point? How am I going to get to know him unless I spend time with him? Letting him see me naked (and seeing him naked)-that's just a bonus."

And so it went. The morning after, my friend and B left his downtown loft and walked out to the street, neither one mentioning the previous day's events. When they parted, my friend watched him go, a blue shirt and pressed slacks, the back of his head receding in the distance. She went home, the endorphins kicking through her, happier than she'd been in ages. And why not? She'd just spent an entire day and night with a man she found charming, sexy, intelligent, witty, attentive, sweet, in all, a damn great catch. Her type, he was tall and dark-haired, an ivy-league graduate twice over, dedicated to his profession, his friends; and in the sack, dedicated to making her feel extraordinary. Why wouldn't she spend as much time with him as possible?

In her mind, my friend hadn't only met her match intellectually, but also a potential soul mate, though as the day progressed and she hadn't heard from him, she began to wonder (and worry) if she'd made a mistake, if she'd something contrary (she was known to be contrary) that had put him off. She sat at her computer, staring at the screen, vacillating between calling him and calling her therapist.

When she called me, she was close to tears. It was evening and I could hear the cars and sirens and honking in the background.

"He isn't going to call," she said. "It's over before it began."

But then, her computer chimed, announcing a message. She read me his email, which was nice and sweet and said everything that a man ought to say to someone he'd just spent the previous night with. Even his attempt to make another date seemed charming: he asked if she was interested in seeing a play on Broadway. The email, in and of itself, was perfect, except for one small detail-his choice of the phrase, "Let's see each other soon."

"Soon just means soon," she said, coming to his defense. "You read too much into things."

"If he really wanted to see you, he would've made explicit plans," I said. "He would've given you dates and times. He would've . . . not been unclear."

It was hard to tell my friend that her new beau might not be as perfect as she thought he was, that there was a clear distinction between setting aside a specific day and leaving it wide open. And then, when I really got to thinking about it, I thought about the way he'd contacted her: email. How hard would it have been to tell her the same thing on the phone or even better, in person? Not hard, if he were really thinking about her. Hard, of course, if he weren't.

And yet, to say that B didn't want to see her again wasn't so cut and dry, because they did end up getting together later in the week. On a sticky Sunday afternoon, they met up for brunch and afterward, strolled around the West Village, though at a certain point, toward late afternoon, B bowed out and went home to ostensibly "clean his apartment." Before he left, he asked her if she wanted to catch a movie later that night. She agreed and went on about her own day, still enthralled by him and what he'd whispered into her ear: "You're the sexiest woman I've ever met."

In the sweet wake of his words, my friend prepared herself for the evening, happy and oblivious. If she'd been more alert, really alert, she might've been able to see what was coming next, but my friend, like many of us, held on to a hopeful naivete that she'd met a man truly interested in her. I wasn't surprised when she called me, then, in tears that night or when she told me the date ended abruptly when he turned to her after sex and said, "I'm just not feeling this." I don't want to say his first email to her tipped me off, that I endowed his use of "soon" with too much weight, but that's exactly what I did.

"Soon" has a million different meanings, but in the end, when we use it, the tone tends to imply distance and unavailability: "I like you, but I'm not ready for this yet." It places an immediate expiration on romance and slows down momentum. More than any other word in our romantic vernacular, "soon" may just be the ultimate deal breaker. It's lazy and insensitive, a way of keeping the scales of amour tilted in our favor.

I'm not saying we shouldn't pursue people who prefer to let things develop at their own pace or that if someone uses "soon" we should cut them out of our lives. What I am saying is to pay better attention to how and what your date says, ask for clarification if something seems vague and don't be uncomfortable if you put him on the spot. It's better to know sooner than later where he stands. It's just practical. Get the definitions of words then and there to make sure you're on the same page. If not, you'll spend a great deal of time with your nose in a dictionary, trying to figure out exactly what went wrong.

David Levinson is a young writer, who explores the mistiness of sexuality and human relationship, writing articles for Adult sex books, where you can find his other works or discover new sides of intimate feelings for yourself.

Nov. 3rd, 2006

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

In the newly released film, "Junebug," Madelyn, an art gallery owner, meets George during an auction and falls in love. Later, while visiting his very southern, very middle-class family, she's asked if it was love at first sight. Smiling, she not only admits that it was, but that they were wed a week after knowing each other. Dreams and independent movies are made of this sort of overly sweet stuff, random and rare encounters that lead to grand and momentous love affairs. If you're like me and most everyone else on the planet, you put little stock in this kind of happenstance and, though you know it exists and have heard about it-your friends always seem to be meeting someone somewhere all the time-you often shrug it off as impossible or worse, impossible for you.

But then you do meet someone and you do fall in love. He meets your friends, and you meet his. Since both of you are willing, you stop dating casually and enter that exclusive deal known as a commitment. Moving in together doesn't seem as farfetched as it once did. And why not? Around him, you sprout wings and a halo. Around her, you can barely control your fingers and dick. You're in love. You've hit the jackpot, baby. Every cliche you've ever heard about being in love applies and at last you feel like the world's embraced you. You understand what everyone's been talking about and what you've been missing out on for years. You're safe and snug inside the cocoon of a healthy, strong relationship, as strong and healthy as the bed you buy together and christen repeatedly.

After a year, sometimes less, sometimes more, depending upon who you are and who you're dating, the way he clips his toenails begins to irritate you and the way she hums while brushing out her hair nauseates you. Though you still crave each other, your sex life becomes somewhat rote, tapering off from seven times a week to three, mirroring what you know to be true, though are too afraid to say aloud-you're drifting apart. Your conversations, once scintillating, turn stale and foreshortened, more functional than engaging. You worry suddenly you've made a huge mistake, that he isn't the one, that she's completely and utterly wrong in every way.

At this delicate juncture in your relationship, you might seek out couples' therapy, or try your own brand of it through plain, old-fashioned powwows. Either technique is commendable, especially in light of your connection and investment. But take caution: If your relationship has become physically and emotionally abusive, chances are it will stay that way until professional help is sought.

Because we live in such an accelerated, instantly gratifying age, where ad after ad commands us to act fast, sometimes, in our relationships, we overlook the fundamental reasons why we chose the person we did in the first place: Was it her hair? Her vocabulary? Was it his eyes? The way he said your name? We misplace and mishandle these memories, cordoning them off, usually forgetting about them until it's too late. There is always someone better out there, we think. There is always someone more suited to me.

Toward the end of the film, George says of Madelyn: "Yeah, I hope she stays around." It is a touching and surprising moment, not just because we hope this as well, but because George himself wants this more than anything and his wanting resonates long after the lights go up. This is what love is: it's about wanting someone else to stick around and the willingness to help them do just that. Yes, it's hard and it's ugly and it hurts, but whoever said that growth was easy? Whoever said that life was like a movie?

David Levinson is a young writer, who explores the mistiness of sexuality and human relationship, writing articles for EdenFantasys.com - Sex Toys Store, where you can find his other works or discover new sides of intimate feelings for yourself.