Q: I go on this great first date, and we decide to share a cab home—separate stops. When we get in, he buckles his seat belt! I know that’s a wise thing to do, so I feel like a jerk saying this, but it totally turned me off. It just seemed so kidlike and lame. Is he too much of a weenie for me, or am I out of my mind?
UNRESTRAINED LADY, UPPER WEST SIDE
A: Could it be that with the demise of those accursed recordings, more New York taxi passengers than ever are buckling up? (After all, how many of us used to ride around belt-free just to spite Elmo?) Still, your reaction is perfectly understandable. Seat belts make a taxi ride safer, we can all agree, but at the end of a hot date, the last thing you need is sudden, incontrovertible proof that your suitor isn’t the stalwart man of your fantasies. From stud to wimp in a New York minute: “Not only am I nervous on the road,” he was essentially telling you by fastening his seat belt, “but it doesn’t matter to me that I’m physically restrained from making a move on you.” On the other hand, he was also saying, “Go ahead and judge—I’m not ashamed to be myself.” So give him another chance, but stick to activities that can’t possibly involve safety gear.
Q: I’m a single, straight 40-year-old woman. A few months ago, I moved into an apartment with two great female roommates I met through friends. One spends most nights at her boyfriend’s. On those nights, the other one, Cindy, has taken to crawling into bed with me. She’s straight, too, and there’s nothing sexual going on, but we chat and cuddle, and sometimes she falls asleep while spooning me. I must admit I enjoy it, and I’ve even been disappointed when she hasn’t joined me. It seems like the most natural thing in the world, but when I recently mentioned it to some friends, they looked at me like I was from Pluto. Am I?
SERIALLY SPOONED,BOERUM HILL, BROOKLYN
A: You know what’s not adding up? Having two roommates, doing the whole “I’m not gay even though I’m sleeping with a girl” thing, and being 40 years old. But okay, it’s an expensive town, and you can’t put an expiration date on susceptibility to nebulous relationships. What this sounds like is an extremely intimate relationship with a roommate, a formula for disaster if ever there was one. And why do you insist you’re straight when you two are having a perfectly lovely and physically close (if asexual) relationship—or flirtation, at any rate? Don’t act so shocked by your friends’ reaction. If it’s as natural as you say, why are you doing it only when your other roommate’s out? It sounds like one of those blissfully convenient arrangements that can turn on a dime, so get ready either to move out when it all goes sour or to consider the possibility that, improbable as it may seem to women so sure they’re straight, you two have a thing for each other.
Q: I got an invitation to a good friend’s birthday party—cocktails and dinner at a trendy new Tribeca restaurant—that specified “no gifts.” That directive has always struck me as weird, even disingenuous. Would he really object to a gift? And isn’t it bad manners to show up empty-handed? What if (à la Larry David) I’m the only guest to follow instructions—how embarrassing would that be?
PRESENT TENSE, MIDTOWN
A: What part of “no gifts” don’t you understand? Your host is being gracious. He realizes he’s already asking you to drop a wad of cash on pricey-tinis and micro tuna-tartare tidbits; that—not to mention your presence—is present enough. If you were raised so perfectly that you’re constitutionally unable to arrive without some token of your excellent manners, slip it to the birthday boy in deepest secrecy. Because far worse than theoretically disgracing your mom by going to a party empty-handed would be actually embarrassing your fellow guests by showing them up. This isn’t TV: Suspend your paranoia and trust them to get this one right.