Dear Ms. Behavior:
My boyfriend and I own a modest little guesthouse that people often use for spiritual retreats. We are thinking of buying another small inn from acquaintances of ours.
Currently, the inn, which attracts a lot of gay travelers, is reputed to have a sauna that’s used for sex. We plan to change the name of the establishment, and to convert the sex sauna into a meditation room. We don’t want the purchase of a place that’s known to be raunchy to taint our current business.
How can we ask the owners of the inn to be discreet without insulting them?
I want to ask for a binding confidentiality clause in the contract, but my boyfriend doesn’t want to risk insulting them and/or giving them a reason to back out of the sale.
How should we handle it?
—Mum’s the Word
Dear Mum’s the Word:
Tell the owners that you need the details of the purchase to be private. Once they’ve agreed to honor your request, you can include it in the written contract.
They don’t need to know that you’re homophobic or frightened of semen, or that the thought of frottage makes your hair stand on end.
That can be your dirty little secret, as long as you don’t say anything judgmental like: “I don’t want to be associated with your filthy butt-flavored sauna.”
Just state the terms you need—i.e., confidentiality—as you would in any business transaction. Then, as soon as you take ownership, you’re free to change the name of the inn, and scrub the tainted “meditation room” to your heart’s delight.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
I’ve been getting Thai massages for years. It’s always at home, in my bedroom, on mats, wearing loose clothing, with the same massage professional named Iris (made-up name). Nothing ever has happened other than a very good stretch of my body.
I realize that it can look a little suggestive when someone lies on top of you, lifts your legs over your head, and presses on every part of your body, but it is an ancient Eastern art form.
I wouldn’t give it up for anyone or anything. It would be like asking a depressive to go off her antidepressants. I’m sure you can tell where this is going.
Recently, I got in a serious relationship with another woman, Gina (also a made-up name). She’s fantastic, and she practically has moved in to my home. We are very happy, save for one item: Gina wants me to give up Iris.
I have explained and explained and explained how good Thai massage is for my mind, body, and soul, but Gina won’t hear of it. I’m thinking of telling her I’ve quit, but meeting Iris at her place instead.
Honestly, nothing illicit is going on, so why do I feel so bad?
You feel bad because you want to deceive your girlfriend, rather than give up your massage, and you’re not quite sure that that’s a fair decision.
If you feel so committed to your Thai Massage, you need to stand up to Gina. Do so rather than lying to her about it, and then sneaking off to do it in secret.
You’re at an important point in your relationship with Gina, who apparently practically lives with you. You have the opportunity to face this conflict head-on, rather than skirt around it, only to have it come up in another way, like a pop-up weasel in a carnival.
If Gina is jealous over your Thai massage, she also may be jealous over your friendships with coworkers, or your Wednesday night belly-dancing lessons.
Your ability to be truthful, even in the face of Gina’s negative feelings, will be a model for how you handle other situations that come up. If you think that lying is a worthwhile shortcut to avoid conflict, you’ll be shortchanging yourself, your relationship, and Gina.
So, how can you convince Gina that the Thai massage is OK?
Start by buying her one as a gift. Perhaps trying it herself will persuade her that nothing funny is going on. Or, invite her to hang out and watch when you get your next massage.
Please remember not to moan in a way that sounds sexy, even if it feels really good.
© 2010 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.