Bad Sex, Paying for the First Date, and Asking Out Your Barista

Is bad sex ever a reason to break up? Not even bad sex but lack of chemistry? I have a been with a guy for six months (known for a year) and while everything else is awesome and wonderful and he makes me laugh and loves me… the sex is, for a lack of better term, awful. I don’t feel chemistry in that way with him and everything I have tried to spice it up doesn’t work. How can it be possible that everything works but this one area? It it selfish of me to want good sex AND a great relationship? I am afraid that I would be throwing away the best relationship of my life over something that could be seen as trivial.

Yes, bad sex can be a totally legit reason to break up. The idea that the quality of sex within an otherwise good relationship is “trivial” was invented by people who want you to be as unhappy as they are i.e., everyone in the world. And about how bad everyone in the world is at relationships. Do you really want to listen to them?

That said, no duh, bad-to-mediocre sex can be counterbalanced by other factors in certain circumstances. Here are the questions I want you to ask yourself before you gnaw off your leg to save your vag from this gluetrap. (Ugh, gross.) Oh also blah blah are you depressed check your thyroid call your mother blah blah.

(1) Has sex with Great Guy always been like this? Have you been in other relationships of this duration or longer in which you have had better sex? Maybe not? Let me Mom Up and give you my version of The Talk: Sex will change over the course of a relationship (in many and non-linear ways!), and if what you are looking for is the electric-shock quality of newish-partner sex, you are gonna keep needing newish partners. (Everyone in comments who’s about to be like, “I’ve been married for 7000 years and we fuck all day every day and each time I see fireworks shaped like other, better fireworks” is lying.) The only people who consistently maintain anything like that with long-term partners are in really distressing relationships where there’s no other sort of intimacy, so it basically IS perpetual sex with a new partner.* Point being: Six months sounds like the early side of average for the shift from live-wire sex to zombie clock-watching sex. (No judgement you guys! It’s not worse just different!) If that is what is happening, and you are not going to a) open it up or b) creep (TLC version not Jersey Shore version), you are going to have to rethink what “good” sex needs to look like for you.

(2) Are you sure you know what YOU like? You say you’ve tried everything to spice things up, but you also don’t HAVE to try everything. Like, there’s no reason to bring home a bunch of Adult Baby gear out of desperation if the idea does nothing for you. What you do need to do is identify some general dynamics that are interesting to you, and explore within/expand upon those. What’s been a part of your favorite sex in the world so far? Well-timed dirty-talk? Someone single-mindedly focused on getting you off? Someone who didn’t really seem to care that much whether he got you off? Are you focusing on stuff you think you might actually enjoy or just busting out the giant sippy cups at random because they ship free with Amazon Prime? Oh, also, has he asked himself this same set of questions and conveyed the answers to you in explicit detail? If so, pls forward.

(3) Do you, in fact, need whatever it is you consider good sex? There are plenty of ladies and other humans who don’t prioritize it in relationships or at certain points of their lives, etc. and do just fine. That said, there are plenty of people who feel really shut off from themselves and the world if they’re not having sex that they’re into. If you are the second kind of person, and I bet you are, because you’re writing the internet about “do I have to not have sex,” I can think of two, and only two, reasons that I’d buy (not approve of, but not laugh at) for staying with this dude. (And reaaallly six months is not THAT long. I say amputate before the gangrene spreads?) (God my metaphors are gross today.)

Reason 1: You want a kid, and you’re getting pretty old for it (really pretty old, not older than your sister was or whatever). Having kids is stupid hard, no matter how awesome your network/family is. I get wanting to lock in someone you think will be a good co-parent. But know that’s what you’re locking yourself into: a good co-parent. That’s a different thing from a good partner, and that chicken is gonna come the fuck home to roost ALL THE FUCK OVER YOUR LIFE.

Reason 2: You’re not sure you’ll find someone better, and you don’t want to be alone. Re: finding someone better, I dunno, maybe, maybe not. But as nice as it can feel, being partnered doesn’t eliminate ambiguity or chaos from our lives, and if we aren’t prepared to be good single people (you know, generally positive self-image, some job skills, a network of friends/family), we’re fucking ourselves over in AND out of relationships.

If you want to ride this out because you’re not a good at being a single person, that’s the most normal, understandable thing in the world. Normal and understandable doesn’t mean healthy or exciting or joyful, though, and maybe while you toil in the bad sex mines (that one wasn’t so gross) you wanna do some thinking/planning/working on stuff that would make you a better single person and then see how you feel. I say three months of major self-work then reevaluate? And then mini evaluations every month. And then still probably break up.

Wow, did A Lady just get all “chaos and ambiguity”? What is even her deal? This has been Ask A Stylite Lady: breakup with everyone, forever, and go live on a column!

*No, OK, there is some crazy low percentage of loving couples who manage weird erotic novelty charge long term, but seriously, I will show you the journal articles, it is NOT HAPPENING FOR YOU. Yes, you are allowed to hate these people, and murdering them is legal in every country.

I’m a guy in his early-to-mid-20s who has been going on a bunch of dates in the past six months, mostly with girls I meet on the internet. I consider myself a pretty rational, progressive human being who agrees with a lot of feminist principles, and I pretty much never pay for the young women I go out with. My reasoning is that:

1. I don’t have very much money, the woman probably doesn’t have very much money, let’s shoulder the load of food/drinks together. I don’t want to resent her for ordering something expensive, or pressure her into liking me if I pay for her meal.

2. I like to date women who have their shit together enough to afford their own half of the meal.

3. It’s our first date, and we might hate each other — why should I be the one to foot the bill for our mutual shitty time?

If we go on more dates and become a couple, I will probably start offering to pay every now and then, especially if it’s one of those “romantic” days like her birthday, Valentine’s Day, etc., but I thought that in 2011, the unspoken rule for first dates was you split the check. But I was chatting with a girl I had met on OKCupid, and she said that she expects the guy to pay for the meal on first dates, as does her roommate, and if the guy split the check with her she wouldn’t care to see him again. So what’s the rule here? Is the obvious solution of going out for drinks on a first date and paying for ourselves the correct one?

You know what I have never cared about that much on an early-ish date? Who ended up paying. You know what I have cared about? People with elaborate philosophies constructed around why they shouldn’t have to pay. Oh, and people who call themselves rational human beings. You’re a confused, hairless gibbon just like all of us, get over it. Against my better judgement, which still isn’t that good, I am going to explain this paying-for-shit concept to you, though, in the hopes that you will someday age into a confused hairless gibbon with some capacity for self-reflection.

No matter who asks who, if it’s a hanging-out date, like if you guys meet up at a bar then go to another bar then grab some pizza then go throw rocks off a bridge then make out some, and it’s all “we’re both poor, no one really asked anyone out the internet just somehow teleported us both here,” I fully admit that in this totally egalitarian post-feminist paradise with no inequality at all we inhabit, she should probably make some gesture toward her wallet. That said. When she does so, you should PROTEST HEAVILY if only for pragmatic reasons. A lot of otherwise really awesome girls are pretty heavily socialized on the dudes-pay issue. You will be shutting out incredible people with almost no other issues if you won’t pony up the what, the 30 dollars it takes to have an awesome dive bar/chalupa night out? And on the flipside, being willing to throw down those 30 dollars can raise your stock a lot more than it ought to because if there’s one thing there aren’t a lot of, it’s men in their early-to-mid-20s with any sense of gallantry. Hahaha oh man I am literally crying I’m laughing so hard over here, now just crying, now sort of staring at my feet and giving up forever, OK, climbing back up my column! Maybe I’ll try facing west this time!

How do you break up with a friend?? I’ve wondered this my whole life, even when I was like five years old and my best friend threatened to punch me in the face if I stopped jumping on her trampoline with her.

Does this happen? I am trying to remember the last time I for reals broke up with a friend instead of just like, gradually phasing them out. I have friends who have dramatic friendships with their other friends where it’s like, “I’m never talking yo you ever again, you bitch!” but that never sticks and then it’s all HUGZZZZ and crying three days later. No, I think Lady protocol on this one is the phase-out. If ex-friend is all, what’s up, I suggest saying something with the structure of “I’m not comfortable around people who punch me in the face, and have decided not to allow that dynamic in my life.” P.S. Can I come jump on your trampoline?

I thought you gave some very nice and pragmatic advice to the boy seeking best practices for stalking women in bookstores the other day. I have zero problems inflicting myself upon women as they shop, do their laundry, reading on the subway, etc., but I do have an issue with hitting on them while they are at work. You see, there’s a girl I like at the coffee shop, and I want to ask her out, but I’d feel like a creep for doing it while she is trapped behind a counter and obliged in her duties to be nice to me.

I mean, it’s like, you don’t ask your waitress for her phone number. That’s a never, it’s a creep move! But I see this girl often, and I’d like to think to think that there is some kind of flirtatious rapport, and I don’t think I’d ever see her outside of her work.

What’s a dude to do, Lady? I’d like to go out with her, I’d rather not make her feel awkward while at work, and I also don’t want to fuck up my vibe at my closest/favorite coffee spot!

I have had ridiculous fairytale luck with the dating-your-server-person thing, so my inclination was, of course, go for it! Name your children after me! (LADIES: This does not count for bartenders. Good god, never bartenders. If you take one thing away from this entire website, or even the entire internet, maybe “never bartenders” should be it?)

Recognizing my bias rendered me incapable of giving adequate advice, so I prepared to call the Council of Ladies. Down from my column, I filled goatskins with Riesling enough for a journey of 40 days (60 in heels) and stocked the saddlebags of my mule with Parliaments and whatever was in my kitchen, mostly Saltines, and earrings to switch into if I decided later they went better with what I was wearing than the first earrings. I climbed to the highest peaks of the Andes, where at the moment of sunrise I called out the secret prayer we all know and you don’t, and the Ladies Who Know Things gathered about me in the icy dawn.

“Heeeeeeeey you guys!” We all do the kiss-kiss thing. “Um, have any of you worked in coffee shops?” One had. Also it turned out she was like one of my best friends so I really just could have Gchatted her. Thus she spake:

AH! I snagged my last boyfriend when I was a barista and he was a cute coffee-drinking customer. And it took us SO LONG to start dating because he didn’t want to come off like the creepy guy who told me that he thought there should a Playboy edition focusing on Peet’s baristas! (Creepster dude also told my assistant manager that he could get her a gym membership at his gym! Gross!) And ex-boyfriend was also worried that I was just being nice to him because I had to be nice to everyone, which I did have to be (though creepster dude got the bare minimum). But here’s the thing: my ex-boyfriend wasn’t creepy, and I was super nice to him because I thought he was really cute, and so when he fiiinally worked up the nerve to ask me out, I went out with him. And we had hot sex and feeling-sharing and all that normal relationship stuff.

So, how to ask a girl out who you buy coffee from: Don’t be creepy. That’s about it. This also applies to hitting on girls who work in bars, as I also used to be a girl who worked in a bar. At the bar in particular, dudes were giving me their numbers alll the time (thank you, beer goggles?), and as long as they weren’t creepy (e.g., stood five feet away from me and stared without speaking), I was flattered. The nice thing about working in a place that sold alcohol was that creepy guys got 86ed, and that was pretty great, unlike in the coffee shop. Finally, how to be non-creepy in the coffee shop setting: pretty much the same way as in normal life. Be friendly and casual and give her the space to say no, and then be normal if she says no. The fact that this guy is worried about being creepy makes me think that he’s not creepy. Oh, but keep in mind that if he does go out with this chica and then realizes that she is a freak show, his favorite coffee shop will be ruined all the same. Is he willing to risk that for that?

So thank you for that, A Former Barista Lady! I would add only that if Barista does say no thanks, I totally think you can still go to the coffee shop and have it not be weird. Like, smile and wave and get your latte and write your screenplay. It’s a place of public accommodation, it was like, CREATED FOR YOU TO BUY AND DRINK COFFEE AT, that is why it exists. Plus seriously, you are probably the least ridiculous customer she will have that day, like, have you seen some of these juiceboxes? Right, so what’s the goony Rudyard Kipling poem? Something like, “If you can be normal at a coffee shop after getting shot down by the barista, then my son, you have become a man + seriously, fuck India”? That.

Previously: Abuse and Parents.

A Lady is one of several rotating ladies who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Lady?

Photo via Flickr

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