Hello, Faithful Readers, and welcome to the November rantings . . . er, musings at Gothic Charm School. The very first thing the Lady of the Manners wants to do is thank ALL of you, every single one, for being a Faithful Reader of her column. The Lady of the Manners used that handy “Top 5” link on the Gothic.Net home page and was pleasantly shocked to discover that she WAS in the Top 5. So thank you, all of you.
Secondly, the Lady of the Manners would like to offer an apology to William and Scott (sweet boys that they are) — yes darlings, the Lady of the Manners will indeed answer the question you posed to her in a future column. However, the Lady of the Manners felt that she had to, simply HAD to try to help the poor distracted creature who turned to the Lady of the Manners with the following desperate plea:
Dear Gothic Charm School,
Two of my friends, who I’ve known for about five and ten years respectively, got together eighteen months ago. Separately they are the same delightful people they always were. Together, they are the Two-Headed Couple Beast From Hell.
They constantly indulge in public displays of affection, often breaking off in the middle of a conversation to kiss and grope each other. Gothic Charm School, I am not a prude or a sourpuss, but when I ask people what they bought on a recent shopping trip and they pause in the middle of describing their purchases to swap saliva and reassure themselves that they both still have buttocks, I have no idea what to do. Should I wander off and leave them to it? Politely look away? Wait for them to finish as if they were suffering from an unfortunate sneezing or hiccupping fit? I have tried jokily saying ‘Get a room!’ but they only seem to take this as encouragement.
When they do actually participate in a conversation, they invariably attempt to turn the subject around to the satisfactory nature of their sex life. I’m glad for them, but it’s not something I need to hear about.
Is there anything I can do to turn these bizarre conjoined changelings back into the people I made friends with in the first place?
Yrs affec. The Distracted Calligrapher
You poor, poor dear. The Lady of the Manners has suffered through the exact same thing, and it made her want to start shrieking at her otherwise delightful friends.
Normally the Lady of the Manners would tell you that time is on your side — that most couples start to be less publicly demonstrative about their passions for each other as months roll by. Not because their feelings for each other will have lessened (tho’ that is a possibility, and the Lady of the Manners will discuss THAT separate comedy of horrors further down), but because the first rush of hormones and twitterpation that blooms at the beginning of a new romance will have settled to a pleasant background hum in your friends’ brains, instead of being The!One!Thing! Monopolizing their every waking thought.
(You see, most people really are aware that aggressive demonstrations of affection are Not the Done Thing in public; that stopping in the middle of a conversation to grope and kiss each other is a pleasure best enjoyed in private. However, many sensible people who understand this sort of thing turn into gibbering mush brains when Cupid strikes. And in that first giddy rush of love, people might not remember what are appropriate social behaviors around those of us whose actions aren’t clouded by a rosy red fog of emotion. In a few months — usually — while they may still be very much in love, the novelty of having Someone Else in their life will not be quite so overwhelming.)
HOWEVER — you said that they had become An Item some eighteen months ago. Obviously, waiting it out could take much, much longer. Or your friends may be the type of people who NEVER tire of overt and over-the-top displays.
In the meantime, what are you to do? There are two paths you could take. The first is to be, well, somewhat rude. When your friends break off a conversation with you to make out, offer ironic or withering commentary on their technique in a conversational tone of voice or start holding up scorecards, that sort of thing. The problems with this path are that this sort of thing could lead to quite the blazing argument (thus ending the friendship), or that they will take your attention as positive re-enforcement. This path tends to work best when the whole shared social circle is in agreement about the annoyance level of your friends’ “performances,” but is, no matter what, still a rude and somewhat risky strategy to use. Of course, if your friends think that having critique and barbed comments thrown their way is a small price to pay for indulging in public passion, then there isn’t much more you can do with this tactic other than ask if they’ve signed away the video rights to their relationship. The Lady of the Manners doesn’t really advise doing that, but it might shock some sense into them.
The other choice you have is to be aggressively polite. When they start making out, walk away. If you could always manage to have a book to start reading at those sorts of times, so much the better. An air of slightly-contained boredom with their shenanigans is what you’re trying to convey here.
As to the attempts to turn all conversations to how satisfactory their sex life is, change the subject. Yes, that will get wearing after a while. But if every time one or both of them starts holding forth about that topic, you start talking about something, anything else, they will eventually get the hint. Or ask you why you keep doing that, at which point you can explain that while you love them both, you DO NOT want to hear details about those sorts of things from them, and could they please, please humor you in that. If you’re very lucky, saying something like that might even make them realize that their public love fests might not appropriate either, but keep repeating that statement as seems necessary.
In fact, you might want to try having separate conversations with each of them, wherein you point out that you are extremely happy for them, you think that they make a lovely couple, but you REALLY don’t want to watch them swap spit anymore. Don’t make it sound like they are at fault for wanting to do this, because they’ll both get defensive. Just keep explaining that while they’re both lovely people, you don’t want to be a voyeur to the more passionate and physical aspects of their relationship. You may have to have this conversation with them (separately and with them as a couple) several times before they get the point. They may trot out that charmingly “liberated” notion that no one should be made uncomfortable by expressions of physical love; that’s all well and fine, but then ask them if they would want to watch their siblings, parents, or co-workers in those sorts of heated clinches. Hopefully they’ll get the point about people (even close friends) NOT wanting to observe every last detail of their romance; if not, go back to the idea of whipping out a book to read whenever they start kissing OR talking about their sex life. If nothing else, you’ll get to catch up on a lot of reading (the Lady of the Manners IS trying to look on the bright side here).
Now, remember that Comedy of Horrors the Lady of the Manners mentioned a few paragraphs ago? Contemplate, if you will, the utter hell you will be living through if, heaven forbid, your friends break up. Both of them will want to turn to you for comfort and company in ripping apart the other party. Both of them will most likely want you to take sides in the disintegrating relationship.
The very best thing you could do in that instance is to remain as neutral as possible. A non-committal “mmm-hm” will be your safest conversational tactic. Also, refuse to give in to emotional blackmail — “If you were really my friend, you wouldn’t talk to them!” “I’ll leave if they show up!” and so on. Be warned — the Lady of the Manners has seen perfectly reasonable adults take refuge in this sort of behavior once they feel they’ve been slighted by their former love. But don’t give in to it! Unless you really do like one of them better than the other and have been longing for a way to show it, just be as neutral and non-inflammatory as can be. Saying something like, “You know I’m friends with them too, and I don’t want to exclude or hurt them,” may feel awkward, but will go a long ways towards salvaging whatever you can (friendship-wise) from the post-relationship fallout.
The other thing to be wary of is when either of the “injured” parties try to pump you for information about the other, or use you to relay information back and forth. While it may seem trivial, being roped into “And if you see them, tell them I’m REALLY happy” by both parties, especially when you know otherwise, is annoying.
Mind you, the Lady of the Manners hopes these last few paragraphs of advice won’t be needed; that your friends have found their True Love in one another, and that they’ll settle down and stop forcing you to witness their heated embraces. In fact, since the Lady of the Manners is indeed a hopeless romantic at heart, she’s sure that will be the case. But better safe than sorry, and there (unfortunately) is probably someone else out there who WILL benefit from the quick pep talk on how to deal with the breaking-up of mutual friends.
With that all said, the Lady of the Manners is going to wander off and browse clothing catalogues or something. Be sure to scurry back next month and see what happens, but until then, send any questions you might have to firstname.lastname@example.org.