#2. Observing Other People's Rituals
The worst part of most new relationships, barring the discovery of a history of murdering people on the third date, is meeting the family. Few people seem to set up their family in a nice way. Are you out there, people? Do you ever tell anyone you're dating that they're going to love your family? Like, all of your family? That's never happened to me. The best I ever got was "My grandma is on pills that make her really horny, so keep an eye out." In general, someone else's family is always weird and creepy, and even if 90 percent of them welcome you as one of their own, there's always that one cock wrangler who has to give you a hard time -- usually a dad or a grandfather.
Because you want to fit in with these people, you're probably willing to put up with all kinds of bizarre new shit when you hang out with them. Like you're having dinner and, for whatever reason, they make their mashed potatoes with peas in it. Well, that's wrong on a basic level, but what the hell, you go with it. Or maybe they like to go around the table and everyone expresses what they're thankful for that day and they decide to let you start because you're the guest and they want to pretend like they seriously have no understanding of how weird it is to be put on the spot like that. Fun!
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"And that's the story of my first erection. Now who wants turkey?"
Eventually, though, and this will usually happen during an extended stay, like Christmas holidays, you're going to hit a problem to which you have trouble acclimating. They sing in rounds on road trips. They're snake handlers and invite you to church. After dinner, the pants come off. Something like that.
Has this happened to everyone? Probably not. But when it does happen, if it happens, it's just the worst. In my experience, it was religion-based and uncomfortable on a spiritual level, which is a whole new kind of discomfort. Being a non-religious type, I'll happily wait quietly if your family prays before dinner, and I'll sit in your church on Sunday morning if I really, really like you for some reason, but please don't make me partake in your rituals. You go ahead and eat the body of your god if that's how your weekend plays out, I just want to sit on the back-misaligning wooden bench and read over the plan for this week's service again to see how long until I get to leave.
The moment you turn down the love of Christ in a room full of Christians who don't know you, you may as well be Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick and start barfing cherries across the congregation, because they all think you're hell borne anyway. Why'd you show up if you're not going to eat Jesus? What kind of weirdo are you? Eat that Jesus! Eat him!
Afterward you'll hear about how you embarrassed everyone and get shady eyes from the rest of Christ's chosen few as they ponder "accidentally" exposing you to holy water to see if it sears your flesh.
#1. Backtracking Sex
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Turning down sex is the worst thing human beings can do to themselves short of watching MTV or imitating a video they saw on the Internet. This isn't to say that you should say yes if some bridge troll scuttles up to you and asks to leave its slime trail on your loins -- this is about those situations when you actively were pursuing the sex, and then when it became your time to shine, you realized that you'd taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up in Oh Shitsville.
For those not familiar, there are a handful of rare but serious circumstances that are worth rejecting sex over. For instance, you're in a hardcore, high-schoolesque make-out phase and it comes time to disrobe and treat somebody's crotch like a face cloth, and suddenly a rich olfactory miasma of aged Asiago and despair wafts into your face like a fist stored in the bowels of hell itself. You have just been confronted by the sex that hygiene forgot and, if you have any pride left, you'll not be able to force yourself to walk down that unhandsome road.
Nothin' says romance like a mouthful of bile.
Less stomach turning but no less questionable is the partner who takes you home and exposes you to what can best be described as "psycho decor." So you have a minute while standing in their bedroom appreciating just how many swastika flags they're using as posters, or the curious array of stainless steel and leather restraints attached to the bed frame and walls, to decide that maybe sex is off the menu for tonight.
Not wanting the sex is by far the easiest part of this scenario. If you genuinely intended to have sex and the other person knew it, finding a way out of it is now like tracking a jackalope across the tundra. Yes, we live in a society where everyone can and should feel free to say no at any time, but it doesn't make it any easier in what was, until a minute of stank or insanity ago, a mutually enjoyable experience.
Your option to be honest and tell them they smell like a boxcar full of hobos that someone threw up in is always there, maybe less so an option for the people who have now chilled your soul with some terrifying personal revelation, but it's also the most awkward of all awkward options. Likely you'll just want to think of a quick lie along the lines of "Be right back, I have to vomit. You know, from dinner," or the classic "Let me call my pastor to arrange the ceremony, is next week OK?" and then extricate yourself from there. You'll feel a sense of relief when it's all over and the bullet's been dodged, but man, that time from when you discover the boner-wilting (or lady-boner-wilting) horror to the moment you're back in fresh air is just brutal. Just, so very brutal.
To clarify, yes. I smelled that smell once. I then quickly feigned diarrhea, complete with loudly dumping a cup of water into the toilet to make it seem more genuine, and went home. Score one for Mr. Clay.