More than a thousand people showed up for a recent Savage Love Live event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It goes without saying that the students at UW submitted more questions than I could answer in 90 minutes. As promised, Madison, here are some bonus answers to questions that I didn't get to during our time together ...
Q: Can an open relationship work if it's this type: dating two people, separately, both serious, neither relationship is the "primary" one?
A: Define "work."
Most people define "work" — in the context of a relationship — as "a loving, lasting, long-term relationship that ends only with the death of one or both parties." But I define "work" as "a loving relationship that makes the people in it happy, whether that relationship lasts for the rest of their lives or whether both parties — or all parties, if we're talking about a poly or open scenario — decide at some point to end the relationship amicably." So, yes, I do think the relationship you've described can work. Whether you'll be in this relationship — or these relationships — for the rest of your life remains to be seen. You may wind up getting more serious about one person, or you may move on from both and find someone else — or a couple of someone elses — but if you're happy right now, and if they're happy right now, then your relationship is working.
Q: I know you lived in Madison for a while. Got any great Mad Town stories?
A: Savage Love got its start in Madison: I wrote my first columns on a computer in the back office of Four Star Fiction and Video, where I worked as a night manager/VHS-tape-slingin' clerk. I did other things — after-hours things — in the storeroom of Four Star. Those things are known only to me, an insanely sexy guy named Roger, and one of the bartenders at the Plaza who one night overheard us talking about the things we'd just done to each other in that storeroom.
Q: What would you say to Ann Coulter, who said that if her son told her he was gay, she'd "tell him he was adopted"?
A: Parental rejection of a gay child (which doubles a gay kid's already quadrupled risk for suicide), the implication that adopted parents are less emotionally invested in their children and that adopted children are loved conditionally — only Ann Coulter could pack so much hatred, malice and emotional violence into a single "quip." I'm not sure what I would say to Coulter — I've never had the pleasure of meeting her — but I can't imagine that any child of Coulter's, gay or straight, would be on speaking terms with her anyway, so I'd probably tell her that her feelings about her hypothetical children are irrelevant.
Q: I have been treated badly in several past relationships. I am now in a great one, but I have a hard time believing or trusting that nothing bad will happen. How can I get over this dread?
A: Something bad is going to happen — believe it. Sooner or later, your new squeeze will do something bad and you'll get hurt. Hopefully the bad that happens won't be as bad as the bad you experienced in the past relationships — no physical or emotional violence, no unforgivable betrayals, nothing that requires you to end this relationship — but your new partner will behave badly toward you at some point. And you will behave badly toward your new partner. There's some bad even in the best relationships. You'll experience less dread if you can accept that.
Q: Can a successful long-term relationship form if the other person can never admit that they're wrong?
A: Anyone who's ever been in a successful long-term relationship knows that both parties have to be able to admit that they're wrong — sometimes you have to admit you're wrong even when you know you're not. So the answer is "no."
Q: How and when is it best to use whipped cream?
A: We've covered this before: Whipped cream is not a sex toy. Two minutes after you put it on your nipples — or two minutes after you fill your belly button or ass crack or armpits with it — you begin to smell like baby puke. It's not sexy. And it's not like you're not getting enough dairy in your diets, Wisconsinites. Save the whipped cream for your ice cream, and if you want to lick something off your partner, work up a sweat and lick that off 'em.
Q: My friends and I have a weekly tradition where we read your column aloud, wear bathrobes, and drink whiskey. What would you add to this already awesome ritual?
A: Remote-control vibrating butt plugs, of course, each one set to go off at a different time.
Q: Facials: degrading or sexy?
Q: Do you have any bisexual friends?
A: "Dan has bisexual friends, and I am one of them," says Eric Olalde, a yogi, a hottie and a close friend who happens to be bisexual. "He has seen me shift between male and female partners at different stages of my life and has even made brunch for me and my ex-girlfriend. Dan has never shown me anything but support and true friendship."
Q: My partner lives far away, and we can't live together for at least two years. He says I can sleep with whomever I like. I want to tell him the same thing, but I am kinda jealous and insecure. I told him to just not tell me, but he doesn't want to lie. What to do?
A: Withholding information at your request — holding that info back until you're ready for it — doesn't make your partner a liar. It makes him a considerate partner. Tell him to do what he needs to do, but to spare you the details.
OK! Thanks for a great event, Madison, and I hope to come back soon. We have one more letter this week. It wasn't a question asked at the talk I gave in Madison, but it does have a Madison connection ...
I met you briefly in Madison, Wis., a long time ago. As a physician, I'm usually impressed with your savvy advice and medical accuracy. And your It Gets Better Project is a major contribution to the mental and physical health of adolescents and young adults.
Now for a quick medical comment: I agree with your suggestion that doctors give "flared-base" advice to patients who use anal toys. But there's a simple way for a person who didn't get that advice to remove an object that is stuck in the rectum. They should squat — do a deep knee bend — stay still, relax, breathe and — voila! The item will pop out onto the floor. No probing or uncomfortable procedure necessary. After learning about this technique from a very wise woman physician (who recalled the history of women giving birth in that position and applied the same principle to relaxing the rectal muscles), I used this with young adult patients who would come to my clinic in an embarrassing predicament. The result was simple and comfortable for both patient and physician. Feel free to pass this advice on to others who might benefit! —Best Advice Simplifies Exit
Thanks for sharing, BASE!
*Sometimes both at once!
Find Dan Savage's weekly podcast every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage. Write to him at
firstname.lastname@example.org or @fakedansavage on Twitter.