Girlfriend, cover thyself!

My roommate dresses like a whore when my boyfriend visits.

By Cary Tennis

Published September 17, 2003 7:27PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

My roommate is a beautiful person, and my best friend since we were 9 years old (now we're 25). We've been apart, seen the world, and now we're back in our hometown and greatly enjoying each other's company and our living situation.

Here's the but: She doesn't wear much clothing when my boyfriend is visiting. I want her to feel comfortable in her home, but I don't think this means slinky nighties that come just below her ass, sitting in such a way that we can see her thong in plain view, see-through shirts that show her perky tits, and no-holds-barred talk of her sex drive.

She knows that she is extremely sexy, everyone thinks so, and she can get a man any night of the week. It's hard to give the whole picture in the letter, but she's also kind of a drunken whore. I don't like this label, but she does often get wasted and flirt with, kiss, and fuck men that she knows are already attached or married. I have to believe that she'd never do anything like this to me, but we're talking about mixing alcohol and men with dirty minds. She can live her life however she wants, but I just wish she'd show me a little respect by not using my relationship as her peep show.

I know that my boyfriend loves me, I'm beautiful in my own way, blah, blah. Maybe she sees it as just relaxing, making friends with her best friend's man, wearing things that would be just fine if it were she and I hanging out. I find it very inconsiderate. I've relayed to her a couple of "jokes" that my boyfriend has made in the past about seeing the two of us together or having a bathroom cam when she's in the shower. She agrees that it's not cool. (BTW, I've talked with him about how I'm not comfortable with the jokes and he has refrained since that discussion; he can think it but he doesn't have to say it.) So I can't help feeling almost betrayed when she does this, especially knowing I've confided in her so much about my feelings before. I trust them both completely and I won't let myself worry about some illicit affair that may never happen.

How do I tell her in a loving and tactful way that, appropriate or not, I feel hurt by her behavior? Or are my insecurities getting the better of me and I should just bite my tongue? I have to live with her, and I want her to always be my best friend, but I can't help wishing for cold weather so she'll put on more clothes.

Waiting for Winter

Dear Waiting for Winter,

What would she do if you brought your boyfriend and his father over at the same time? Would she display herself to his father as she would to him? I doubt it. There's a clear taboo there. There should be a similar taboo between her and your boyfriend, but she apparently still regards your boyfriend as a peer, a sexually free and available male. You have to somehow get her to see him in a different light.

This conflict occurs in the boundary area between youthful sexuality and family mores. It happens frequently when young, unrelated people share a house. She is still treating your boyfriend as a peer, but you have gotten close enough to him to see him more as family, and so your sense of family boundaries has come into play.

Do you live together in a very small place? Are private and social areas not defined? That can be a problem, too. If your roommate feels that she is in her own private area, she may feel that any man who enters there is intruding, in a sense, like a visitor in the dressing room of a cabaret show. She may feel since he is the intruder that it's his job to pretend that he is not seeing the tits and ass that he is seeing, or that the tits and ass he is seeing are not significant tits and ass, because they are being observed across a firm professional boundary. If you three were genuinely family, likewise, her tits and ass would cease to exist for him because of the incest taboo.

Her behavior may also be a sort of territorial challenge: You have invaded my intimate space; by dressing as I do, I am affirming that it remains my intimate space, and not a social space.

She might, of course, feel that the father visiting is an intrusion. But there should be areas of the home that are social spaces and areas that are private. The living room is a place where social norms of dress are customarily observed.

As I say, I would suggest bringing him and his father over together, so she can experience the boyfriend in the presence of the taboo-triggering father. Afterward, tell her that you have come to regard your boyfriend as family, and ask her to show him the same respect that she showed his father.

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Cary Tennis

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