I'm recently out of a fairly serious relationship, and starting to meet/date/sleep with new people. Here's the question: What's a man to do when he wants to date/mate at his leisure and simultaneously be a decent and ethical person about it? At what point do you have to start talking exclusivity and boundaries, and at what point am I an emo-freak for even worrying about it? And is there a good way to say, "I like you, but you may very well see me out with someone else?"
Safe sex, of course, is mandatory. I need your sage words on navigating the hard stuff.
Help a brother out.
On the Fence
I hate the difficult questions that require deep thinking on my part! It's the holidays —my brain is addled from guzzling Prosecco and trying to corner scandalously young boys under the mistletoe!
Negotiating the land mine that is the nonexclusive dating lifestyle is an intricate dance that requires a near-impossible combination of cunning, daring, sensitivity, empathy, graciousness, and discretion. It should not be attempted by amateurs.
Experienced daters, such as myself, know that you should never, ever expect that the lad (or lady) you just had a great date with is seeing you and only you. One must always assume that there is at least one other person lurking about in their bedroom. Like I said, experienced daters know this.
It's when the newbies barge in that you have a problem. You are not an "emo-freak" for wondering about ground rules. In fact, your concerns show character and sensitivity. And the most sensitive course of action in this case is to say as little as possible.
An ex-fling of mine was a total pussy hound who would've been much better off following my don't-tell strategy. Instead, I'd suggest getting together, and he'd murmur something vague involving fitness or familial obligations. Turns out the fitness activities involved naked push-ups on top of some other girl, and the family stuff . . . well, maybe there was another lady who reminded him of his sister. Though he'd been trying to spare my feelings, I eventually forced him to admit that I was just one of approximately 10,000 other women he was putting it to. Ouchie.
A better tactic would have been to simply tell me that he had other plans. By not saying what those plans were, I would naturally assume he was seeing other people without having to hear him utter the actual words. Perhaps I'm thick, but I trusted that when he said he was going to the gym, he was actually going to work out, and therefore believed he was seeing only me. Lucky for me (unlucky for him), our mutual friends are loudmouths and I learned everything the hard way.
Which brings me to my next point: You'll only be able to avoid the subject for so long, and if asked, you should never lie about it. That's just sleazy. If you're dating online, don't lead anyone on by saying you're looking for a relationship. There are plenty of dames out there just looking for a nice meal with a nice guy. (Or a hot fuck with a sizzling stud.)
If a date asks you point blank if you're seeing anyone else, tell the truth, but with as little detail as humanly possible. Some say you should have all this clarified before you sleep together, but I say there are no rules in that department. Some women (like me) will ask. Others won't, either because they don't want to know or they don't really care. Just before my current (mutually established monogamous) relationship began, I was dating a very sweet guy who got himself banished from Judy's McBooty after referring to himself as my "boyfriend" on our third (and final) date.
One popular male course of action that should be avoided at all costs is assuming the woman you're with is hell-bent on commitment. I can't even count how many times I've had some presumptuous jackass give me a variation on the don't-pin-me-down speech. Please. In most cases, the guys who delivered it weren't even going to get laid in the first place. Assuming your date is some ring-hungry leg-humper is a one-way ticket to Smackdown Alley.
Do ask! Do tell! Write Dategirl at firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western Ave., Ste. 300, Seattle, WA 98104.