DEAR PRUDENCE

If I give my host sex, do I still need to bring a gift?

Posted Aug. 17, 2013, at 5:10 p.m.

Dear Prudie,

I have a friend I have visited (and stayed with) once or twice a year for the past seven years. During visits where he was in a relationship, I would treat him to a few dinners and drinks during my extended weekend stay. When he has been single, we have always had sex.

I would still buy him a drink or two, but I always assumed someone I was having (albeit casual) sex with did not require as many expressions of my gratitude for hosting. It’s never seemed to be a problem, but I mentioned this to another friend during an appropriately themed conversation and he informed me that intercourse was not a substitution for flowers, dinners, or wine. I am visiting my (single) friend next week. Should I plan on bringing a gift to go along with any possible adult fun?

– Gifted

Dear Gifted,

I’m wondering if this could be a special filter for Airbnb: number of bathrooms; proximity to a city; intercourse. I’ve read a lot of etiquette books and I can’t remember the entry about gifts for the host when not only is he providing you with a bed, he is sharing it with you. You two certainly have a flexible understanding, but I think you should separate your gratitude for the place to crash from the crashing waves of sexual satisfaction.

So arriving with a good bottle of wine will mean you’re a thoughtful guest no matter what the sleeping arrangements. Then as the visit progresses you will have a better idea of what feels right as far as further thanks.

Dear Prudence,

I know that my wife loves me and we are an excellent team. We get along well and are good co-parents. We enjoy each other’s company. But she doesn’t have any interest in me. Forget sleeping with me (that hasn’t happened in years); she won’t touch me. She pulls back if I reach for her. She takes a step away from me if I’m too close. If I reach out to her in the bed we share, she rolls away.

I have tried talking to her about this (should I lose weight? What can I do to fix this?) but she just cries and says she loves me and there is nothing I can do. I just spent the whole weekend romancing her (took her out for a fancy dinner one night, booked us a room in a fancy hotel one night, made her crab legs at home for one night), and it changed nothing. Prudie, I absolutely love this woman but I am starting to feel seriously rejected. Help!

– Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

If only crab legs were the secret to sparking a fire in a dead marriage. Your wife recoils at your touch and you haven’t had sex in years. That is not being an excellent team even if you both love your children. What you have is a child-rearing arrangement, not a marriage. Tell your wife if she won’t accompany you to a counselor, you will see one yourself because you cannot continue to go through life this way.

 Dear Prudence,

When I started junior high a classmate never missed an opportunity to taunt and make fun of me. In class she would laugh hysterically and make disparaging remarks while the teacher sat silently. I never knew why she targeted me except possibly that I was quiet and non-confrontational. In the halls she would shove me into the wall or a locker and I was black and blue because of her abuse. No adult ever helped me, my parents didn’t believe me, and it continued until we graduated from high school. We went to different colleges and I haven’t seen her since.

Now it’s more than 30 years later, I’m having surgery next month, and she is a nurse at the small hospital where I’ll be. I know from friends who work there that she works on the floor where I’ll be a patient following my surgery. I can contact the nursing supervisor at the hospital and request that she not be assigned to me, but I suspect it would lead to a lot of questions, and in spite of everything I have no desire to cause her problems.

There’s a pretty good chance she’s changed since then, seeing as how she chose a profession that is associated with caring and compassion. But when I think of the hell she put me through, I don’t want her to touch me or participate in my care. What should I do?

— Panicked Patient

Dear Panicked,

I have gotten letters over the years from people who are anguished by their bullying of an innocent classmate. Often they have said they were abused at home and were acting out their own troubles on someone vulnerable. I’m betting there’s a good chance this is the case with your classmate, and not that she’s a Nurse Ratched who went into her line of work so she could turn rectal thermometers into instruments of torture.

Thanks to your friends’ inside information, you know the place of employment of a classmate you hated and haven’t spoken to in more than three decades. But even if you live in the same area, it’s obviously big enough that you’ve never run into each other, and if you’ve married and changed your name it’s possible your identity won’t even register with her.

If you were to call the nursing supervisor and say you don’t want a particular nurse to touch you because she bullied you in high school decades ago, it would likely only tag you as a head case. You were treated terribly by this classmate, but just as appalling is how the adults in your life enabled this abuse. I hope you’ve worked through this experience of abandonment. Instead of worrying about nursing shifts, bring a good book, line up some friends to visit, and focus on your recovery at home.

If you get your old nemesis as a nurse, you don’t even have to acknowledge you recognize her. But if she says she knows you, keep the conversation brisk and focused on your needs.

— Prudie

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