The New Rules for Love, Sex and Marriage

Does flirting lead to an affair? Should you tell your friend you saw her husband out with someone else? And other questions answered.

And round it goes. When I tell another friend about the splinter incident, she doesn’t get it, either. But in a different way. “Haven’t they been together long enough for him to know that having that girl pull out the splinter was going to cross his wife’s line?” she asks.

I think about that for a minute. It sounds very rational. Couples probably should discuss lines. My husband, for example, knows it’s okay to check out hot girls we see at the Shore, because I tell him so. In fact, I point the cutest girls out to him, because I don’t want him to miss anything good. And for his part, he knows that our friend Danny often feels me up when we visit him. Granted, Danny is gay, and my husband knows that, but we both agree there’s no line-crossing going on there. I decide we’re very evolved.

Trouble is, we’ve never had a conversation about whether or not it’s okay to go to a massage parlor for a happy ending. And we’ve certainly never determined what constitutes the crossing of a line when you’re drunk and flirting at a bar with a person who is touching you, skin on skin. Those lines are different for everyone. Mine is planning to cheat; Jessica’s is, apparently, splinters. But lines generally don’t get discussed until they’re crossed. And by then, we’re on the other side, looking behind us for the line, but we can’t even see it anymore.

The next time I’m with Jessica, we are standing in my kitchen, talking about Hot Township Guy. Because there is a hot township guy, who looks like that guy from Grimm mashed up with some Tom Cruise circa Risky Business. We love everything about Hot Township Guy, a.k.a HTG. We text each other every time we see a white township truck being driven by HTG, which I had done that very morning, when I walked home from dropping off the kids at school and, out of nowhere, a man swooped in to remove an empty garbage can from my path on the sidewalk.

“It was HTG,” I say, just as my husband walks in the room. Jessica immediately stops talking. I do not. “He saved the day and then gave me a big HTG smile. I think I swooned a little.”

Jessica opens her eyes wide like a signal: Do you not see your husband? In this room? Right now?

“Oh,” I say. “He doesn’t care. Thad, we’re talking about Hot Township Guy. You’re okay with that? Right?” While we’ve never had a conversation about whether my love for HTG crosses any of Thad’s lines, I feel confident that we’re on the same side.

“Do I have a choice?” Thad asks as he walks downstairs to the laundry room. I turn back to Jessica, hold my hands out in front of me, shrug.