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The Urban Etiquette Handbook

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Love & Sex
What obligations does one have after a one-night stand?
They correlate directly to the expectations raised the night before. If you wooed your one-nighter to bed with promises of Central Park picnics and weekends in the Hamptons, you are obliged to follow through. But if you made no false promises in order to close the deal, then you simply need to be polite. If the liaison takes place in your own apartment, let your new friend stay the night and offer to cook/pay for a quick breakfast, but don’t dilly dally in your effort to get to that place you “need to be” the next day. If the tryst is at the other person’s place and you wish to depart, engage in light caressing and conversation for at least twenty minutes. If you decide to sneak out at 5 A.M. instead, leave a YOU WERE GREAT LAST NIGHT note on a Post-it or napkin. Don’t ask for a phone number if you have no intention of dialing it, and don’t leave yours if you plan on accidentally making the “6” look like a “0.”

How do you politely determine the level of commitment of a gay couple?
One approach, of course, is to do it the same way you would for a straight couple: Ask how long they’ve been together; determine where Party A lives and, later in the conversation, ask Party B if he lives in Chelsea/Park Slope/Hell’s Kitchen, too; ask one of them if he has a dog and listen to see whether the other speaks about it with a tone of ownership. Cohabitation isn’t necessarily a sign of commitment, though: Many gay men have open relationships, so the only surefire way to know the level of commitment is to offer to go home with one of them.

Who pays the bill on a date?
The asker pays, unless the woman does the asking—then the man should pay. If the check’s on the table and her suitor hasn’t moved for it, a woman should allow him a one-bathroom-trip grace period. If it’s still there when she comes back, she should split the bill but is entirely free to silently ruminate about what a cheap jerk he is. (For same-sex couples, the asker really does pay.)

When can you get together with your friend’s ex?
The simple answer is never, for the sake of simplicity, good karma, and world peace. However, if you suspect this could be a case of Romeo-and-Juliet love without the suicide, there are certain requirements that should still be met:
• The statute of limitations has passed on your friend’s right to be possessive (three months for every year they were together). A man should wait longer to do the asking, not out of politeness to his ex but so he doesn’t come off as a dog. A woman can always pretend she needs a shoulder to lean on when what she really needs is a tumble in the hay.
• The uncontrollable feelings have been discussed in a considerate and sensitive conversation with the friend. Initiating said conversation falls to the pursuing friend, not the ex.
• The friend has moved on and is in a wholly satisfying, happy, healthy relationship.

If you start dating someone you met online, at what point should you take down/hide your personal ad?
Taking down your personal ad, like referring to someone as your “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” is a step that should be taken once you have reached Mutually Acknowledged Monogamy. You can’t make any assumptions until you’ve had The Talk: Until you utter or hear the words “Let’s be exclusive,” you can’t expect your partner’s ad to come down.

How do you respond to an online personal message from someone whose picture you don’t like?
If you’ve established an e-mail connection before seeing the other person’s photo, which then reveals a mullet or other disturbing feature, you must suffer the consequences of jumping the gun. Set up a very brief coffee date and hope that the person doesn’t photograph well.

At what point in a flirtatious conversation should you mention you have a significant other?
If you have a suspicion that your conversation partner would take his clever remarks elsewhere if he knew you were officially off the market, then it’s only fair to release him to said market. Casually mention your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife in passing, but don’t belabor the point: No single person will miss that sign, and if he continues, it probably means he’s actually interested in having a conversation, but not one in which he’s battered over the head with reminders of his partnerlessness. (If you keep chatting for upwards of an hour, it’s well within his rights to forget about your boyfriend/girlfriend—because it appears that you have, too.)

How do you decide who gets what restaurants, bars, and friends post-breakup?
Distinguish between those acquired before and during the relationship. What was yours before remains yours afterward—the same goes for your ex. As for items, book clubs, pets, and dining preferences acquired as a couple, the person being dumped gets first dibs on everything—as a general rule, the one whose heart has been put through the blender claims the social detritus of the relationship. Except for friends, of course—they make their own decisions which side to choose. As for that mythical unicorn, the mutual breakup? Those freaks of nature clearly don’t need any help.

How do you respond if you’re straight and a gay person asks you out?
Laugh and say, “I don’t think my girlfriend/boyfriend would approve.” It won’t become awkward unless you become patronizing. (“Oh, that’s so sweet! I would love to go out with you. It’s so unfortunate that I’m straight. I wish I were gay! I mean, not like that, but . . . ”) If you’re not sure if you’re being asked out, just drop an unmistakable hint into the conversation referring to your heterosexuality.


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