Elliot: Hi, Caeli.
Caeli: Let's continue with the other ten ways to keep your romance alive.
Play the Dating Game
Get out of the same old Saturday-night film-and-food groove. For your next date, come up with three out-of-the-ordinary evening ideas -- perhaps a starlit ferry ride, a game of mini golf, dinner at a restaurant with a kind of food you've never tried, or even seen, before -- and write them down on index cards, suggests David D. Coleman, coauthor of Date Smart! How to Stop Revolving and Start Evolving in Relationships (Prima Publishing, 1999). "Then, have your guy blindly choose one of the cards and embark on a mysterious, exotic adventure."
Caeli: The sex count was 11/13, so now it's 11/14. This article sure likes trying to sell books, doesn't it?
Elliot: Yeah. No matter. What stands out to me is that this is supposed to be exotic and mysterious, but the examples given are all very well-known, usual ideas. And even if this works, won't most people have personally tried them with a previous partner?
Caeli: What's your point?
Elliot: That they are seeking mystery in the mundane, and somehow this works for people. So either they are unfamiliar with the mundane or forgetful. Neither of those is an impressive quality.
Elliot: Also, this tip uses randomness to try to make things more exciting. But I advocate an intentional life. Think about which activity you'd like best, use your best judgment, and do that one. Letting chance decide is abstaining from living part of your own life.
Caeli: Isn't thinking about everything a hassle? Sometimes people want to relax.
Elliot: Thinking doesn't have to be painful, or time consuming. But even if we imagine thinking is sometimes distasteful, people do think often. So, what is the explanation which shows that the particular decisions that are especially painful, and must be avoided, are ones like which fun activity to do, from a short list?
Caeli: You mean that if we're going to avoid decision making, why avoid those decisions in particular?
Elliot: That's right. It's an easy decision with limited options and only pleasant results.
Caeli: If they have a bad time, they might blame themselves later for choosing it.
Elliot: If they choose randomly, and have a bad time, they might blame themselves for choosing to choose randomly.
Caeli: You mean no matter what they do, they could blame themselves?
Elliot: Yeah. So that isn't an argument against any of their options.
Caeli: OK. Next?
Read Seductive Stories to Each Other
Pick up a steamy best-seller like Vox, by Nicholson Baker (it certainly got Monica boiling for Bill), and take turns reading it aloud. "My boyfriend and I love sharing juicy novels," says Liz, a 30-year-old producer. "We'll get in bed or curl up on the couch and take turns being the narrator. At first I was a bit nervous and rigid -- I sounded like Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone -- but eventually I found my natural rhythm and got really turned on by it. It's so utterly romantic because we're in this sort of fantastical fictional world together rather than sticking our noses in our respective books. And listening to my boyfriend's voice is unbelievably sexy."
Caeli: Plus one for sex. 12/15 now. She says once she got into her rhythm, she was really turned on by it. It's about getting aroused with each other.
Elliot: Some of the messages are: romance is about fantasy; they would have read their own books, because they have different interests, if not prodded to do otherwise; it's good to find voices (and all sorts of things) sexy; you should focus more of your life on sex and romance (by reading "steamy" novel -- note the euphemism).
Create some surprising postal passion by mailing I-want-you notes to your man. Start by telling him exactly what you love about every part of his body.
Caeli: 13/16 are about sex now.
Elliot: Why doesn't he already know he's wanted?
Caeli: Maybe he just likes hearing it.
Elliot: Is he insecure? Or maybe most days she is not passionate about wanting him (for sex)?
Caeli: Most days she probably isn't.
Elliot: So the advice is she should be more interested in sex, and feel more passionate about it, more often. Just like most of the others. By the way, what if she doesn't love every part of his body?
Caeli: I guess her attitude will be to go without, or to break up.
Elliot: That's an unpleasant set of options.
Caeli: What else could she do?
Elliot: Never mind that for now. Just notice that romantic monogamy offers unpleasant choices.
Caeli: OK, noted.
Play Barber Babe
Show your man some passionate pampering by giving him a sensual shave. After his morning shower, lather up his face with a great-smelling shaving cream and slide the razor in the direction the hair grows. "It's a way to steal a very intimate moment when you're both usually so rushed to get out the door," says Kelly, a 26-year-old massage therapist who loves to groom her guy. "Not to mention the perfect excuse to straddle him."
Caeli: 14/17 are about sex. This is touching-based, and an excuse to straddle him.
Elliot: Why does she need an excuse to straddle him? They'll both like it, apparently.
Caeli: It's more fun if they don't talk about it first, and confusing if she just does it with no context.
Elliot: Setting things up so that talking ruins the fun is awful. How are people supposed to decide what's best without saying their preferences?
Caeli: That's a rhetorical question?
Elliot: Yes, mostly. One could answer, for example by saying, "sign language".
Elliot: How come they are rushed to get out the door, by the way? This isn't a flaw in romance, but it is a flaw in conventional culture. As a pattern, they have this unpleasant morning rush.
Tempt Him With a Slew of Where-to-Find-You Clues
Make your usual rendezvous a million times racier by keeping them mysterious for your man. "I have a standing Friday-evening drink date with my boyfriend," says Sue, a 27-year-old tax attorney. "To keep it exciting, I have this trick for spicing things up: I send him on a treasure hunt ... to find me. I pick an obscure, out-of-the-way bar, one we'd never normally go to in a million years. Then every hour on the hour during the workday, I send my boyfriend an email feeding him clues about where I want him to meet me that night -- little riddles that hint at the name, landmarks that will lead him to the location. When he puts all the pieces together, he finds me waiting in the most private booth I can find. Now he's scheming up the next mystery meeting."
Caeli: 14/18 for sex.
Elliot: What if they don't find each other?
Caeli: I suppose the hints will be fairly obvious, at least the last one.
Elliot: Or she could get mad that he "doesn't know her at all" because he couldn't understand some obscure hint, and he could be mad about wasting his time looking for her. So he calls her cell phone, and she says "if you don't know, then I'm not going to tell you". Then they break up because both are angry about different things and neither will apologize.
Caeli: They might apologize, and have make-up sex.
Elliot: Or they might have angry sex before that. Sex doesn't actually solve the problem. They'll still break up later. Or get married, and fight for their whole lives.
Caeli: Is that fair? Maybe they'll put it behind them.
Elliot: What's needed is an attitude of problem solving. This is lacking in romantic relationships, where compromises are expected.
Caeli: What's wrong with compromise?
Elliot: It's a course of action no one thinks is best. The goal should be something that everyone thinks is best.
Caeli: What if I approve of the compromise?
Elliot: You think it's the best option available?
Elliot: Then it's not a compromise, it's getting what you want.
Caeli: No, what I want is my way.
Elliot: You think your way is not best, but you want it to happen anyway?
Elliot: You want the wrong thing to happen?
Caeli: Oh. I guess so.
Elliot: That's not good.
Caeli: What's the right attitude?
Elliot: Whatever you think would be best to do, you should want to do that.
Caeli: But what about what I initially wanted. Won't I be giving that up?
Elliot: If the "compromise" proposal doesn't get you what you wanted, why would you think it's best?
Caeli: Because we have to do something, and I don't want to fight.
Elliot: OK, it probably is better than fighting. But that's not the real alternative. The alternative could be to try to think of some plan that you'd be happy with, that didn't involve any fighting.
Caeli: Isn't it assumed that we've already tried to do that, and failed?
Elliot: No. It seems more like it was assumed that wasn't possible, so it was never tried.
Caeli: Oh. Maybe you're right.
Hold the Sports Section Hostage
Steal the paper before your guy gets a chance to check out the scores. Place a ransom note on his pillow and insist that your demands for A.M. sex, smooching, and snuggling be met before you'll consider giving him access to the stats.
Caeli: 15/19 for our sex count. Stealing and demanding don't sound nice.
Elliot: Yeah. The assumption is that he'd rather read about sports than have sex, so he should be forced into sex.
Outlaw Work Talk
Make office gripes and groans a taboo topic when having dinner with your doll. "My boyfriend and I make meals our time," says Anne, a 29-year-old furniture maker. "We talk about upcoming vacations, friends, movies -- anything that lets us share ideas instead of bombarding each other with tales of work woes. After eight hours of focusing on other people on the job, it's such a luxurious treat to indulge in some time that's all about us." If professional topics accidentally pop up, quash them by saying, "Get your mind out of the grind and back onto me."
Elliot: If she considers office-talk unpleasant, why would he talk about it? And why is the default assumption that they find each other's work boring?
Caeli: And why outlaw it, instead of just asking nicely?
Give Him an All-Day "Scentual" Reminder
"The next time your guy sleeps over, spritz a small item of clothing -- scarf, underwear, camisole -- with your signature fragrance, and slyly slip it into his briefcase or backpack," suggests author Corn. "With your sexy scent wafting out every time he reaches into his bag, he won't be able to take his mind off of you." When the clock strikes 5, he'll follow his nose all the way to your front door.
Caeli: Should this one count as being about sex?
Elliot: It's based on sensory stimulation. He slept over last night, so coming to the door may not mean immediate sex, but can be assumed to mean sex that night. Since we counted touch-focussed ones, I think smell-focussed should count too, to be consistent. So, 16/21.
Caeli: So it's not quite a count of sexual ones, but also ones about sensory stimulation?
Elliot: I guess so. Sex is a type of sensory stimulation. Not just touch, but smell is said to be part of it too (and the others, of course). And the quote even says specifically that the smell is intended to be sexy.
Caeli: OK, makes sense. But is it bad that the tips focus on this?
Elliot: It demonstrates that romance pays a lot of attention to sex. Sometimes people deny that.
Caeli: Why do they deny it?
Elliot: To disingenuously defend romance.
Caeli: What's the attack it's under?
Elliot: "If romance is supposed to be a way to have a good relationship, then why is it mostly about sex?"
Caeli: And the assumption is that sex is not what a good relationship consists of?
Elliot: Right. Everyone agrees to that. That doesn't mean sex can't be there. But there has to be other stuff. Otherwise it's just a fling, for fun, and won't last.
Caeli: So the conclusion is that romance, due to its focus on sex, can't be about how to make an actually good non-sex-based relationship?
Get a Sound Track
Create your relationship repertoire by picking a few favorite songs (a sentimental score, a sultry in-the-mood croon, a sassy "Feel the Earth Move"-type number) that really capture the essence of your couplehood and make them yours by playing them on romantic, sexy occasions.
Caeli: This is about a sense, and it's sexy, but I don't think it should be counted as about sex. So 16/22.
Elliot: Yeah, presumably they'll just want to dance, or hold hands and feel special. Which might lead to sex. But so might going out to dinner, and absolutely everything else couples do.
Caeli: Are you sure everything might?
Elliot: Fights can. Apologies can. Eating can. Movies can. Going to sleep can. Doing something together can. Missing each other because they were apart can. What can't?
Caeli: How about getting dirty and gross?
Elliot: Washing each other off could be sexy.
Caeli: How about giving a political speech?
Elliot: Sounds tense. They'll want to relax afterwards.
Caeli: How about being diagnosed with an STD?
Elliot: OK, you win. :)
Compliment Each Other in Public
"My girlfriend tells everyone that I'm the most talented person she's ever met," says Andrew, 28, a teacher. "She'll tell a cashier, 'We'll take a chocolate brownie because my guy so deserves it.' When she introduces me, she says, 'This is my hilariously funny boyfriend' or 'Meet my handsome boyfriend. He puts George Clooney to shame.' My heart jumps every time. I swear it makes going to the deli sexy."
Caeli: 16/23 are about sex. That's our final count. It's 70%.
Elliot: Why do they feel the need to exaggerate so badly? I think they're insecure.
Caeli: If they're insecure, wouldn't the best thing be honest compliments that they know they can trust?
Elliot: Only if the truth is good. But it might not be. They probably honestly aren't sure about each other -- they don't know if they'll want to marry or not -- and that's scary.
Caeli: Hey, even this one had to bring up sex again, it says it makes deli trips sexy.
Elliot: Yeah. It's ever present.
Caeli: Any concluding points?
Elliot: This is an advice column. In many ways, it's better than people actually, usually do. It's an idealization. It's also worse in some ways, because people don't always take romance this seriously. But if taking romance seriously makes things worse, that's a damning criticism of romance.
Caeli: Any final thoughts?
Elliot: Please don't have kids with someone just because you like the sex and have romantic moments.