I don't want to get too detailed about my first sleepover date with my husband, but I will say this: The words "bad sushi," "old plumbing," and "late-night plunger purchase" were all involved. But I survived, and so, miraculously, did his interest in me. When you're in a relationship Ã¢â‚¬” especially a new relationship Ã¢â‚¬” awkward moments that are sticky, messy, or downright mortifying are as unavoidable as CNN in an airport. So stop praying for perfection and instead start thinking about Inevitable Snafu Survival. Here are seven scenarios that leave most women drifting (in a small dinghy) on a sea of awkwardness Ã¢â‚¬” and seven handy lifelines that just might save you.
Awkward Moment #1:
The prefirst sex STD talk.
Wouldn't it be great if we could just fall into bed without a word about diseases and bodily fluids? This not being 1975, and you being you and not Diane Keaton in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, well, bummer. You have to know if this guy has had a test for HIV/AIDS, even if you are using a condom. (Condoms break, and there's no morning-after pill for sexually transmitted diseases.) And that means you have to have the sex talk.
Your lifeline: Utter directness with all deliberate speed. No chat about life-threatening diseases, recurring red sores, and pain during urination is going to be a knee-slapper.
Don't: Hem and haw or apologize. You'll just give him an excuse to do the same, and you're turning a forced situation that's not your fault or invention into something dirty and shameful.
Do: Keep your language direct and your message as clear-cut as possible. "Here's the deal: I've had a full STD screening since ending my last relationship ... how 'bout you?"
Unexpected bonus: Even though STDs are the least sexy aspect of sex, the guy will be relieved to hear you confirm that things are going in that direction, and he'll tell you everything you need to know. And if he's a jerk about it, well, that awkward moment's over because you're outta there.
Awkward Moment #2:
You wake up from a great first night with that sinking fight-or-flight feeling.
You were hoping for strawberries and cream Ã¢â‚¬” and roll-around No. 12. Instead, all you're feeling the morning after is free-floating anxiety and alienation.
Your lifeline: Run away. Fast. Oh, I know what you're thinking: Shouldn't I have a mature, honest conversation where I say maybe we moved too fast, blah blah blah ... Short answer: No, not yet. What you need now is some distance, and distance isn't something you're going to get struggling for small talk over a western omelet.
Words of wisdom: Just because things are a little off doesn't mean it's over. If waking up with a guy were as easy as going to bed with him, you'd be married to your first boyfriend.
Important side note about his feelings: If he's like most guys, he'll be happy to stretch his toes into the cool parts of the sheets and reflect on you in your postsex absence. And if he's the sensitive type Ã¢â‚¬” or he's still in his underwear at your place Ã¢â‚¬” tell him you have to run: Restorative Yoga at 10 a.m. is a never-miss.
Awkward Moment #3:
The two of you run into his ex.
Oh. Did we mention she's angry and bitter?
Your lifeline: Stone-cold silence and class. Do you know how to stand still with a smile on your face? Good. Because after saying, "Hi, I'm Karen, nice to meet you," that Ã¢â‚¬” nothing more, nothing less Ã¢â‚¬” should be the extent of your involvement here. This is between him and her.
Best-case scenario: She's polite, he's polite, and you all go on your merry way without commenting on her a) face, b) body, or c) clothes. Because there's no way you're going to give her the satisfaction.
Worst-case scenario: She gets into it with him. No problem. Because (see above) you're still standing there as poised and blank-faced as a store window mannequin.
Even worse: She gets into it with you. Lucy Liu looks great delivering deadly roundhouse kicks to her enemies. You'll look a lot better walking away.
Stealth situation: She tries to get buddy-buddy. Exchanging confidences with the ex/enemy is tempting. But you want to endear yourself to him, not her.
Awkward Moment #4:
The two of you run into your ex.
Oh. Did we mention that you're angry and bitter?
Your lifeline: Measured, detached friendliness.
Watch out: If you're still in love, you're going to want to talk too much and too fast. Make introductions by name only. No need to breathlessly explain the relationships. Don't brag. Don't overshare. Do not say, "God, it's incredible to see you again."
If you no longer love your ex and think he's a giant loser: Resist the urge to be bitchy-smart. Just say, "Nice to see you," in a pleasant, don't-think-you-can-get-to-me-mister tone, and move along. The only point-scoring you're trying to do here is with your new guy.
Useful skill: Whether he's the one who got away or the one you got away from, breathe and count to 73 before saying anything. (Most experts say count to 10 Ã¢â‚¬” which isn't nearly long enough.) If there's ever a situation in life for monitoring your impulses, it's this one.
Awkward Moment #5:
You meet his best friend. And you hate him.
If he's a mass murderer, or once appeared on a reality show in 1999 and still speaks of nothing else, well, yes, those could be deal-breakers. Otherwise, you're just going to have to handle this.
Your lifeline: Group socializing. Stop fixating on the fact that the man of your dreams identifies with this super-dork, and start thinking about ways to see this person without ever actually interacting with him.
Suggested activities: Large parties Ã¢â‚¬” where you can wave once or twice from behind the punch bowl. Hiking, especially on a long trail where you all move at different speeds. Sports, theater, concerts, and movie events provide a chance to get together with minimal conversation.
For full avoidance of toxic personalities: Bird-watching and professional tennis matches.
Awkward Moment #6:
You're fighting, and you cross the line and say something really, really mean.
So you tried "sorry" and that didn't work.
Your lifeline: The Note. Here's what The Note is: Nothing about justifications for why you said what you said. All about how much you love him, how you don't believe what you just said (even if, somewhere deep down, you do), and all of the things that are just so wonderful about him that you can't live without. Give him the note, and then get away from him. If you hang around apologizing over and over, he's not only going to be mad and hurt, he's going to be annoyed, too. He needs time to let your apology sink in, and then to miss the person who gave it.
Awkward Moment #7:
You make more money than he does.
The chances of you outearning your mate are better than ever before, but there's still a vestigial part of our brains that says men are supposed to be earners and women are supposed to be taken out for shrimp scampi at the Fantasia Club in their mink stoles.
Your lifeline: First, tenderness. Make sure your guy knows that while you may be Donald Trump out there in the business world Ã¢â‚¬” minus the Velveeta-colored hair Ã¢â‚¬” part of you still needs to be taken care of. And that there are about 10 jillion ways for him to support you that don't involve money. As for paying the bills, use common sense. If it's easier for you to pick up the dinner check or cover the mortgage each month, do it. A man who's threatened by practicality really is a wimp.
Necessary objects: Once a year, he could save up and get you the nicest piece of jewelry he can afford. It'll do wonders for any resentment problems on your part, and any ego problems on his.