Some thoughts on relationship "firsts"

Tonight’s a family dinner, my dad’s 64, and I think his health is beginning to fail. I wonder sometimes how long he’ll be around, and being the monster-sized man that he is, coupled with diabetes and heart conditions, it’s anybody’s guess.

The Guy was supposed to join us for dinner – something he claims he really wanted to do. I believe him, but I say “claim” because I can’t fathom why he’d be looking forwards to meeting my folks. I think most guys run from that, but since he’s the one who started it by inviting me to meet his father (didn’t happen), I figured I’d invite him over. Unfortunately, his leg’s being a bitch today (surgery/broken leg) and with his sick days rapidly vanishing on him, and 11 months left in his calendar year, playing it safe at the start of the week is the wiser way to go. I can’t fault that, and even support his choice.

Besides, I’d rather him save his energy for me alone. I doubt my dad’s expiration date looms that closely, but I’ll be happy to have them meet sooner than later. It’s strange having a guy around who flies in the face of the stereotypes for a change.

I’m still the one being a tad more cautious about the things I say, et cetera, but I’ve been thinking of late about the beginnings of relationships, such as when one embarks on different “firsts,” like this “come meet the folks” invite extended by each of us in the recent past.

For example, the inevitable Toothbrush Debacle. When is it the right time to bring a toothbrush and leave it at your new partner’s? Is there a good time? Is it the first time you’re formally invited for the night? I don’t have to worry about that, since the Guy bought me a toothbrush for his place about two or three weeks ago, and deposited his own here rather unceremoniously a couple weeks back. (I’ve been avoiding opening the brush he bought for me, to be honest, as if it was the Sign of Serious Things or something. I’m still a tad apprehensive that way, but I’m thinking about forcing myself to crack that bad boy open the Next Time I’m Over.)

Then, testing for STDs, such as AIDS. How do you approach the subject of getting tested for your partner, especially if neither of you are the Lifestyler types who dismiss testing with ease, given it’s part of your routine? Again, the Guy brought it up first. “I think we should get tested,” was about the gist of his simple-but-good approach. Ironically, he was planning on going for a full work-up after work on the day he busted his leg. Thus, testing’s been delayed. I’ve just made myself a post-it note to get my ass in and take care of my end of things. Not like I have a broken leg for an excuse/reason.

I think there’s no delicate way to say, “Hey, you better get tested.” I think, if you’re looking at a commitment, the incentive of condomless sex is about as good an incentive as anyone needs. Condoms = Mood killers, but necessary evils. With a commitment, not so necessary anymore – provided you’re both toting a clean bill of health and other forms of birth control are in use. I think it comes down to taking a moment after sex or at some other point and simply saying, “What are your thoughts on getting tested for STDs? I know I’d prefer it if we’d both go ahead and do that, and I’m wondering if you think now’s a good time to go ahead and take that action?” Or, the simple-but-good Guy approach worked well for us.

Another issue is that of unwanted pregnancy. If you’re getting into that committed, yet condomless point of a relationship, I think it’s just pragmatic to discuss what a course of action would be if you suddenly were accidentally to become pregnant or get her pregnant. An opportunity arose for me to make my sentiments known (I would abort, with absolute certainty – I have no interest in having children at all, and that’s probably something worth writing about on its own) and I did so. Now he knows where I stand, and he’s relieved, since he’s of the same non-childbearing state of mind. Obviously, guys should let the chick state her stance first. If you force the issue with “I think an abortion would be appropriate,” you may never hear her true feelings on the matter – feelings which might well be contrary to your own, and this is not a subject to dismiss lightly.

It’s awkward, these beginning things. Coming to conclusions on each of the above certainly makes for getting on page a little quicker. There are some conversations that just need to happen. There’s no right way to go, unfortunately. The Guy buying us both toothbrushes might have fallen flat with another girl. Me, I thought it almost seemed like a statement of intent, and I sort of liked the way he took charge and simply made that decision. Another woman might not feel so warmly about it. Ditto with him inviting me to meet his father within about two weeks of the start of our relationship – something that actually did freak me out a tad, to be honest.

Like sex, like taxes, like navigating a new furniture layout after dark, it’s learning by bump-in-the-night, and there’s no simple way. What works once for you will likely fall completely apart the next time. Humans are an unpredictable beast, and you takes your chances every single time. You need to use your instinct, and you need to keep all these situations light by not making a big deal of them. Just simple, matter-of-fact comments and actions go a long ways to taking the edge off of what can be a pretty intense moment (yes, even toothbrushes can be intense).

I still get my moments of total apprehension and weirdness, but I keep them at bay by keeping conversations open with the Guy. He volunteers much in the way of feelings and communication, and I reciprocate both in person and through this blog. Together, we’re making it through the minefield of discovery, and the future looks interesting, if even a tad promising.

Meanwhile, if you want an absolutely incredible recipe, this is what I’m making for din-din this evening. Don’t you wish you were invited? ;)