Long-term relationships can be such beautiful things. Having been with my boyfriend for a pretty long stretch now, I can safely vouch for the fact that when it’s working, there’s nothing quite like it. There’s warmth and security, comfort and shared history.
Of course, there’s also a trade-off: being in each other’s pockets for so long means any mystery you once held evaporated long ago. Some couples try to stave off the inevitable by establishing ground rules: you must always close the toilet door; you must never look at me when I’m changing; you must never see my anus—that sort of thing.
But rules are difficult to maintain, and complacency usually settles in after a while. Comparing notes with other long-term couples, I’ve found most of us have already slipped into bad, unsexy habits with our lovers: belching in the bedroom; talking openly about bowel movements; using stupid accents and baby voices; discussing menstrual cycles in a graphic and matter-of-fact fashion.
There are stories of boyfriends using their girlfriends’ boobs as novelty musical instruments, and couples holding farting competition under the sheets. I’ve also discovered it’s alarmingly common for long-term couples to roll over in bed, look at their partner lovingly, only to spot patches of dead skin and whiteheads, and begin to groom them like chimpanzees.
Once, after an argument with my boyfriend, I cut the tension by pulling down my pants and drawing googly eyes above my wang, pretending it was an elephant. Sure, it was a success, and we both had a mighty chortle. And while transforming your penis into a cartoon animal is undeniably funny—especially when you slope the eyebrows downwards so it looks sad—I now look back on this as a low in our relationship. What does it say about someone when they purposefully turn their genitals into a joke? What would I have done if I were a woman? Pretended I had a taco?
One of my friends, Marissa*, recently took action against this type of undergraduate, unbecoming behaviour. One of her lovers would regularly release what Marissa describes as “the most offensive belches, so forcefully delivered, I would feel physically taken aback.” Although perturbed, Marissa drew upon her reserves of quiet, restrained dignity, and sat her lover down for a talk. “If I wanted to date a teenage boy,” she said, “I most certainly would. But I don’t. And if you ever want me to have sex with you ever again, this kind of looseness in decorum needs to be eradicated.”
Another friend, Najette*, even developed her own slogan after she suspected her partner preferred to cupcake her with farts, rather than have sex with her. Keep it Sexy, Keep it Hot, she now tells both herself and lovers, and the mantra has been adopted amongst my circle of friends with semi-religious fervour.
Martin Amis once wrote that marriage is essentially “a sibling relationship—marked by occasional, and rather regrettable, episodes of incest”. Perhaps this is true of all long-term relationships. All this belching, comedy skittery and out-grossing one another? It’s is the behaviour of brothers and sisters—not lovers—and it must stop.
To his credit, my boyfriend has always had the right idea. He even closes the door to clip his toenails, and if I accidentally intrude upon his private space, he’ll scowl and promptly slam the door in my face. Part of me finds this behaviour difficult to comprehend, since I’m the type of person who’ll place my foot over the living room bin and start hacking off hard skin into it with a butter knife or safety scissors. But when I passed this by Najette, I got a firm response. “He has the right idea, Ben, and I fully support his stance.”
So the next time you feel the urge to be repulsive or make digusting jokes with your partner, resist it. If you’ve laid a particularly massive post-breakfast crap—one where the sheer volume of it shocks even you—stand firm. There is no need to call out, “Come and look what I just made!” Just flush the goddamned toilet. Light a match. Open the windows. Call your sister about it instead. Yes, yes: we’re all comedians, and giving the gift of laughter is the most precious gift of all, and so on. But what about the gift of smoking-hot, uncompromised horizontal love? That’s something you want to maintain with your lover, not your goddamned siblings. Unless, perhaps, you’re married to Martin Amis.
*All names and identities have been changed, except the author’s. And Martin Amis’s.