Dear Ms Behavior:
We live year-round in a vacation community, where we rent a house from a couple of very messy lesbians. They come and stay in the separate little downstairs apartment for just a few weeks in the summer, but they definitely make quite a ruckus with their snotty nosed babies, lawn furniture, toddler toys, dogs, cats, barbecue, garbage, and friends.
About nine people converge on the house and yard—which the lesbians own, granted, but which we, as their upstairs tenants, keep clear, neat, and well-tended all year round. We acknowledge that they own the place. On the other hand, they are heavy drinkers, with no sense that this place is actually our rented home.
We are looking to you for a nice way to say, “Hey, Loud, Messy Lesbians, Have a Little Respect!”
Is it possible to say this politely?
—Quiet Homos Upstairs
Dear Quiet Homos Upstairs:
You can’t tame mountain lions or rude lesbians. You do not speak their language. Plus, if they are drunk, and encumbered with babies and Big Wheels, you’re invisible to them, anyway.
If you still feel moved to attempt communication, keep in mind that your complaints about their empty beer cans and their general messiness will make them view you as a nuisance. They don’t sound like very process-oriented lesbians, so your need for order may confuse or annoy them.
As renters, you unfortunately don’t have much power to change the behavior of the people who own the house. The only thing you can adjust in this case is your expectations. Try to be grateful that the rude lesbians only descend upon you for a few weeks.
Think of it as a planned natural disaster. Instead of stocking up on water and canned food, barricade yourself inside with movies and treats. Plan some weekends away, if possible.
Once the interlopers leave, sweep the snot and garbage from the yard, and restore order in any way that makes your little hearts sing.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
How can I refuse an invitation for a joint bath without insulting my girlfriend?
She has herpes. She’s on an antiviral medication to help prevent the virus from becoming active. So far, the drug seems to be working. It has been years since she has had an actual outbreak, and she hasn’t had any symptoms in the months we’ve been together. We do take precautions during sex.
The problem is that we are planning a vacation together. Along with hiking, biking, and dancing, she includes “taking a bath together” near the top of her list of fun and romantic things to do while we’re away.
I haven’t said anything yet. I might be more worried than I need to be, but I’ve read mixed things about whether you can get herpes from sharing a bathtub with a person who’s infected.
It shouldn’t even matter. The bottom line is that I’d rather not take a bath with anyone. I don’t like sitting in a tub of water with other people.
I don’t want to make her feel self-conscious or bad, so it’s hard for me to say anything. I really like this girl. I hope you have some advice for me.
What can I say without offending or alienating her?
Some “herpes authorities” say that you can’t transmit herpes in a hot tub. Others say that it’s at least remotely possible. However, because you’re opposed to taking baths together anyway, you have no need to make an issue of the bath concern.
Do not mention that it skeeves you to think of basting in someone else’s bodily fluids. Do not wax poetic about the ring of scum encircling the average bath drain, or about how hotels frequently use the same cloths and brushes to clean every tub, perhaps even employing the brush that just scrubbed the toilet.
It is far easier to say, “I’m just not a bath person”—which seems true enough—without mentioning anything about dipping into a soup of other people’s viruses and bacteria.
However, to avoid suspicion that you’re a wet blanket, please be sure to come up with 15 or 16 other fun and romantic things that you and your girlfriend can do together on vacation.
© 2010 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to email@example.com. 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.