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On Romance

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Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: How many Gulf oysters does it take for a person to see results from the aphrodisiac qualities that they are said to possess? My wife and I were recently visiting Galveston and shared three dozen to no avail.
Name Withheld
February 2011

A: Ah, the oyster. The most delectable and voluptuous of all the sea’s fruits, supple and salty, posed there on the half shell like Aphrodite herself. The Texanist has been known to wantonly lap up piles of these lovelies in sessions that last for hours, and although the purpose of such binges has been more epicurean than erotic, he has not failed to take notice of the effect a boatload of bivalves has on his libido. And, truth be told, the results have ranged from “Katy, bar the door” to “Katy, not tonight, the Texanist doesn’t feel so good.” See, the thing they don’t tell you about oysters—or cobra blood, powdered rhinoceros horn, Spanish fly, tiger penis, barbecued beef ribs, skink flesh, wolf meat, and all the other ingestibles said to possess aphrodisiacal qualities—is that eating an amount sufficient to produce the desired effect may also leave you feeling too full to perform (such is the case, at least, with tiger penis—very hard to digest). Another thing they don’t tell you is that any uptick in sexual desire that appears to correlate to the “love potion” is actually derived from the eater’s openness to and hunger for such an uptick in the first place. And it is clear, to the Texanist at least, that on the evening in question you were simply not “in the mood” for an uptick at all. Which happens. Surely Mrs. Name Withheld understands that these are mollusks, not miracles. But you shouldn’t get your dauber down. The night wasn’t a total loss, after all, as you were able to enjoy 36 of Galveston Bay’s finest, probably chased down by a few cold beers, and catch all of The Tonight Show to boot. What could possibly be better than that?

Q: I’ve always allowed my dog to sleep in bed with me, but I have just moved in with my boyfriend, and he doesn’t want the dog in the bed or even the bedroom. So far I’ve gotten my way, but it’s beginning to have a negative effect on our relationship. How do I keep both of them happy and in bed?
Name Withheld

Lubbock
January 2012

A: Let the Texanist get this straight: you want to know how to keep a man and a dog happy in bed. Heh. Well, it’s the Texanist’s experience that . . . ahem. So, well, if the Texanist understands your query, you want to know how to keep the dog in the bed and, at the same time, keep the man happy in the bed. Rather, keep the man happy in bed with the dog. Please pardon the Texanist. Not with the dog, of course. The dog will just be there while you are with the man. Or not. You don’t have to be with the man. That is not the Texanist’s point. Especially with a dog watching. But you see—okay, well, it looks like the Texanist’s editor is telling him that he’s out of space here for this month. Everyone take care!

Q: I am a young Texan who a few months ago met the most perfect little lady in the world. She is an all-over-amazing girl with whom I have fallen head over heels in love. My dilemma is that she lives in South Carolina. Also, I am not completely aware if she has feelings for me, and I have not heard from her since sometime in July. I have lost my mind over this girl, and I don’t know how I should go about this. Do you have any ideas?
Kyle Ludwick
San Antonio
November 2012 

A: In the absence of more-concrete information concerning the backstory of the quasi-relationship described, the Texanist has found himself challenged to provide adequate advice. Therefore, he has done his best to supply what he considers to be a generally plausible romantic history himself. Here’s what he has so far: on your way to your neighborhood H-E-B this summer, where you were going to pick up a case of beer, a package of bologna, and a loaf of white bread, you smiled at a woman in a car with South Carolina plates as she sped off into the hot San Antonio night. Is that about right? The Texanist jests! He’s sorry. But seriously, as long as there isn’t a restraining order preventing you from doing so, the Texanist sees no reason not to pick up the phone and give her a ring. Or write on her Facebook wall. Or take out witty “Shot in the Dark” ads in as many South Carolina weeklies as you can find. Good luck.

Q: Can I get married at the Capitol? And if I can get married at the Capitol, can I also have my reception on the Capitol grounds? And if so, will I be able to have a band and serve alcohol to my guests?
Holly Johnson
Dallas
August 2013

A: Yes, Holly Johnson, it turns out that you can get hitched at the grand old pink-granite statehouse. The Texanist asked, and it is indeed allowed. Actually, the rules are somewhat loosey-goosey. You don’t need written permission and you won’t have to pay a fee, but since the building is, as it happens, the seat of our state government, it is a very busy place and cannot be reserved for the purpose of your nuptials. This goes for both the interior and the exterior, which means that an affair of any real size is out of the question. Also, booze is prohibited (but not firearms!). However, the Texanist, who has now exchanged his advice-giver hat for his wedding-planner hat, has already decided that we don’t want to do the event there anyway. If it is a truly Texas-style affair that you are envisioning, which is to say possibly a little raucous, then the Capitol, even though it is itself prone to fits of raucousness when the Legislature is in session, is just not the venue we’re looking for. But there’s no need to panic! Austin is a great destination for a wedding, so before you go all bridezilla on him, the Texanist has another option to run by you. Have you ever heard of the Texas Chili Parlor? It’s a short walk from the Capitol, stays open late, and has been known to tolerate many forms of rambunctious behavior. It also has a back room, a full bar, very few rules, and hot chili; further, it’s across the street from a hotel, appears in the great Guy Clark song “Dublin Blues,” and was, many years ago, the setting for one of Gary Cartwright’s weddings. What more could you need?

Q: A few summers ago I went camping with some girlfriends at Guadalupe River State Park. Imagine our surprise when we were startled one evening by a loudly amorous couple in a neighboring tent. The passionate din went on most of the night. At four in the morning, desperate for sleep, I finally yelled at our horny neighbors, but to no avail. Is it really appropriate to make love in a campground? 

Kate Kiser
Austin
April 2008

A: The Texanist confesses with apologies that after reading your missive, his first thought was to forward it to Penthouse Forum. His second thought, with another apology, was that this would be the perfect basis for an adult film titled Guadalupe River State Pork . His third thought . . . well, the Texanist never thought this would happen to him, but he is having trouble focusing.

As to the question, if you were deprived of sleep and bothered, it was not wrong to cry out. But generally, when happening upon nonindigenous state park fauna in rut, the Texanist responds with applause. Here’s to them! Were he to find himself in earshot of the sleeping-bag thrashers whose clamor disturbed you, he likely would have paused in wonderment of the natural world and then vigorously saluted the enthusiastic and impressively protracted doings. Among purveyors of social advice, the Texanist may be alone in his appreciation of campsite copulation; as far as he can tell, no etiquette manuals have addressed this situation. Perhaps one should be written. It might be called Campground Love: A Many-Splintered Thing . Or perhaps The Hornythologist’s Guide to the Tented Texas Lovebird . Or simplyThe Kampa Sutra.

Q: I have noticed that Texas ladies don’t go to dance halls alone. They go in groups. But why is it that if you ask the blonde to dance first, the other ladies won’t dance with you (this doesn’t apply to Anhalt, as all the ladies are blond)? Good luck on this one. I will pray for you.
Jack Shanafelt
Lake McQueeney
December 2010

A: Like foxes in a skulk, beavers in a colony, and bunnies in a herd, dance-bound women find safety in numbers. And when they are approached by a lone wolf such as yourself (the Texanist is just guessing), they will, at his first pass, assume a politely defensive posture (zone, 3-3-5, nickel, or prevent). In order to break these ranks and secure a partner, the lone wolf must be wily and smooth. Though the Texanist cannot be entirely sure what you are driving at with your question about “the blonde,” he thinks he has a pretty good idea. As a rule, the lone (and somewhat creepy) wolf should always endeavor to gain the group’s trust by first offering his paw to the shyest and most wallflowery member of the group, whatever her hair color. This is one of the most basic codes of dance hall behavior. Any wolf who instead attempts to pounce directly onto the sparkling blonde with the bright-red lips, low-cut blouse, painted-on jeans, and nose-burning tequila breath will usually find himself shut out of the skulk, colony, or herd. This wolf can usually be found at the end of the bar. Or back at his den with the blonde, who by this time will not seem so sparkly.

Q: I have finally had it with the disgusting appearance of my husband’s feet and his nasty toes. I insisted that he begin getting regular pedicures. He responded with a chuckle and said that a man could not do such a thing. Other than amputation or divorce, what are my options? 
Name withheld
December 2008

A: The Texanist has a friend who was once singled out, as you have singled out your beloved husband, for an “unbelievable lack of shame” regarding his “wart-covered, cadaver-like feet” with their “yellowy ingrown toenails.” He was not pleased. Such dogs are not uncommon to the male human, and while they are admittedly painful to look at, it is even more painful to have them spotlighted for ridicule by one’s own wife. That said, this friend of the Texanist’s (who is not the Texanist) eventually visited his wife’s toe lady and swore to the Texanist that the experience was actually somewhat enjoyable and that, once his feet had dried and he could get rid of those disposable aqua flip-flops, he had felt not the slightest bit emasculated. The Texanist was skeptical until one day when, having some time to kill, he wandered into a pedicure shop and requested the deluxe spa package. Two blissful hours later he emerged a changed man. While the experience was not entirely flawless—the Passion Pink toenail polish, in particular, was difficult to remove—it was thoroughly relaxing, far more relaxing, it must be said, than having one’s feet harangued by one’s helpmeet.

Q: I am newly married to a wonderful man who was born and raised in Waco. I was born and raised in South Texas. Here’s the rub: I have lived and worked in three very exotic countries and had a fabulous time. However, when I broach the subject of vacationing abroad to my new hubby, he fears that there will be no chicken-fried steak and American Chopper . What can I do to elicit a more adventurous spirit in him?
Darla Deen
Valley Mills
December 2008

A: The Texanist has two words for your spouse: vyprážaný rezeň ! It’s Slovak for “chicken-fried steak.” The Texanist has two more words for him:Wiener schnitzel ! That’s how Germany spells “chicken-fried steak.” Here’s another word: the exotic and dangerous-sounding milanesa, the Latin American variant. There are many words like this: the Portuguese bife panado , the English parmo, the Polish kotlet schabowy , and the Czech Republic’s smažený Å™ízek . There is even a Persian version, but the Texanist can’t write Arabic. The CFS is not, as your ungallivanting darling probably believes, unique to George’s Restaurant in Waco. Delicious incarnations of pounded, breaded, and fried meat can be found the world over. The Texanist suggests presenting the idea of exotic travel to him as the Deen Family Chicken-Fried Steak World Tour. This is your only real hope of finally uncouching him. Bon appétit and happy trails!

Q: I have recently learned that my boyfriend is getting ready to pop the question. I’m going to say yes, but I’m afraid that he’s afraid to first go ask my father, who comes across as much scarier than he really is. My daddy will hold it against him if he doesn’t. I don’t know what to do.
Name Withheld
August 2009

A: Your daddy would be right to hold it against him. You’re his daughter, and although we’re long past the days of dowries, it is still good manners for a suitor to alert the proud father and acquire his blessing before proceeding with the direct appeal. Chances are that your boyfriend knows this and would like to observe the ancient protocol. All he needs is a signal that indicates that his father-in-law-to-be has a nastier bark than bite. Perhaps you can persuade the old man to speak during the next family dinner about his new love of flower arranging or his obsession with Felicity. A subtle sign should be all that’s required. Congratulations.

Q: My husband and I go dancing almost every weekend, but I end up dancing with his best buddy more than I do with him. His friend is just a better dancer, and there’s no hanky-panky going on, but I’m starting to feel guilty. Do I need to stick with the one that brung me? 
Name Withheld
May 2010

A: The conventional wisdom would have you reserve your dance card for him that brung you, yes, but the conventional wisdom would also have you stop at five tequilas and refrain from trying to “sit in” with the band as guest vocalist on the “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” Where’s the fun in that? The Texanist learned how to navigate a dance floor from overbearing junior cotillion chaperones at the Knights of Columbus hall in Temple. (Another flaw in the conventional wisdom: Back then the one that brung you was often your mom.) These ladies instilled in him a firm conviction that dance cards are made to be filled. And if it requires the efforts of multiple partners to fill yours, you should not feel ashamed. The real question is not whether you must dance only with the one that brung you but why the one that brung you didn’t also brung his dancing shoes. If it’s because he would rather drink beer to excess and dribble tobacco spit down his chin and onto the crisp white Western shirt you gave him for Christmas, then he has only brung the situation on himself and you should not feel guilty.

Q: My husband has put on more than thirty pounds since we were married, just five years ago. I’ve had two kids and gained next to nothing. Now he’s so sensitive about his weight that it’s not even up for discussion. How can I get him to start exercising and watching what and how much he eats if he won’t even talk about it?
Name Withheld
September 2010

A: A man the Texanist once knew (not the Texanist) went through a similar though not quite so severe postmarital transformation. He too was affected in such a way as to not want to be mercilessly ridiculed by his beloved and then forced to talk about it. If memory serves, the Texanist seems to recall the helpmate in that case holding certain “favors” in a sort of “escrow” until a time when the man (again, not the Texanist) was able to hit an agreed-upon poundage. The Texanist does remember very clearly thinking at the time that this was as low-down and underhanded a technique as he’d ever come across. And although he does seem to recall that it worked like a charm for that guy’s wife, he in no way would ever in a million years recommend it. Simply try having your husband, the man you love, the man who helped bring about your two children, cut back on the butter and drink a lighter brand of beer. He’ll be in shipshape soon enough.

Q: I grew up on a ranch in West Texas, and my dad is a pretty serious trophy hunter. Currently I’m a student at TCU, and my girlfriend, who’s from Boston, is not that into hunting. She’s okay with me going bird hunting, and she knows that I like to hunt deer about once a year. But I’m planning to take her home for the first time, and I’m worried about what will happen when she sees my parents’ house. It’s packed with trophies. Anything you can think of—black bear, deer, elk, mountain lion, all kinds of exotics. I’ve never told her about all that because I knew it would turn her off, and so I know she’s going to be shocked. I’m afraid that either she or my dad will say the wrong thing and get off to a bad start. What should I do?
Name Withheld
Fort Worth
September 2011

A: The Texanist cannot help but observe that though you may not consider yourself half the hunter that your father is, it is you who has opted to stalk the more exotic game. A girlfriend from Boston? For a West Texan at TCU, this is the romantic equivalent of an African kudu or a scimitar-horned oryx. Anyone can kill and stuff a bobcat and keep it poised forever beside the La-Z-Boy, but it takes the skill of a true predator to lure a Beantown beauty back to your dorm room—and keep her there. Yet your success is at risk, as you rightly note. One false step and the quarry may bolt. This is why you must warn her, with gradually intensifying natural intrusions, like the soft squawks of a wooden duck call. The time for disclosure is nigh, yet you must ramp up these signals until you have reached a calculated high pitch, designed to overprepare her for the spectacle. Build up to it during the drive such that by the time the front door to your ranchito opens, she half expects to find your father roaming the floor of a rank and sticky abattoir, clad only in a blood-spattered apron, blithely flossing his teeth with the sinew of a freshly butchered hog tendon. When all she sees are a couple stuffed animals, she’ll be fine. Then you must take her out for a little shooting lesson. Once she’s comfortable blasting beer cans to kingdom come, maybe try taking her out for a little hunt. Snipe can provide an excellent entrée into the great outdoors; they’re always in season and require no hunting license. If the relationship survives a night of snipe hunting, you may have bagged yourself a keeper. Happy hunting.

Q: After Christmas dinner last year, my three sons-in-law all retreated to the master bedroom to watch football. We have plenty of chairs in the house, but there they were on the bed, cozy as three big, hairy bugs in a rug. Does the presence of televised sports make it acceptable for three grown men to share a bed?
Patricia M.
Austin
February 2012

A: The Texanist believes that the ethos of individual liberty should extend to the bedroom. He would therefore take issue with the implication that it may not be acceptable for three adult males to share a bed. That said, he gets your point. The phenomenon that you have described is usually witnessed but once or twice a year among full-grown, heterosexual males. Televised football is partially responsible, but it isn’t the sole explanation, as you rarely see the activity during regular NFL Sunday broadcasts. It takes a good feasting to really disable the inhibitions. After a few helpings of the sort of spread the Texanist imagines your family puts out for the holidays, it is, generally speaking, a medical imperative for a man to seek out a place where he can remove his shoes and lie supine. A couch may suffice, but if there’s a mattress in near proximity to a new 52-inch HD television tuned in to some professional pigskin, this will always result in two, three, or even four drowsy men together in a bed. Which is perfectly acceptable.

Q: Can I get my wife a gift card for our tenth wedding anniversary? 
Name Withheld
July 2011

A: Congratulations to you and Mrs. Name Withheld on what the Texanist guesses have been ten years of earthly bliss and perfect harmony. Ten years. Nothing to sneeze at. Good for the two of you. Now, tradition holds that the gift for this occasion would typically be fashioned from tin, but the Texanist understands your desire to break with convention here, what with the price of tin being so high (about 50 cents per ounce). A gift card is a splendid idea. It’s like a cherished keepsake that requires neither cherishing nor keeping. Genius. A dynamo of creativity you are, sir. She’s lucky just to have kept your company for the past decade. A gift card. Just marvelous. She’ll remember it forever. Bravo.

Q: In the midst of planning our March wedding, my fiancé and I have hit a wall with regard to the perfect song for our first dance. We’ve narrowed it down to “I Cross My Heart,” by George Strait, and “Waltz Across Texas,” by Ernest Tubb, with my soon-to-be voting for Ernest. We thought about a coin toss, but then we thought of you. The decision is all yours. 
Tracy Parker
Houston
January 2011

A: It was a bright and muggy day. Saturday, the twentieth of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand. High noon. Austin, Texas. Reception to follow around back. The Texanist remembers it like it was yesterday, as do all who were in attendance. Somehow the musical entertainment for the postnuptial doings (which was the one thing he’d been put in charge of) ended up being Joe King Carrasco, still king of the still-obscure genre known as Tex-Mex rock and roll. With everybody gathered round, the band launched into the prearranged song for the first dance, “Buena,” a quite jaunty number that had at the time seemed like a good idea but, as the archival footage makes clear, was not. Too fast. Never one to retreat from a challenge, the Texanist, with toothy overbite and eyes afire, circled his freshly minted missus with a jerky bouncing motion as she stood slack-jawed and helpless at the sight of his demonic flailings. Some might say this particular gambol set the tone for their future cohabitation, which has included many situations in which an off-kilter outcome results from a less-than-perfect decision on the part of the Texanist. Yet here they are, ten years later, as dedicated to each other as the day they first swapped spit. You see, married life is full of tough choices (kids or not, rent or own, corn or flour), and the important thing is not learning to make the right decision but rather learning to accept that your husband will almost always make the wrong one. There’s no better time to start absorbing this lesson than on your wedding day, so the Texanist will respectfully decline to make the call for you. Let it be a coin toss. Heads it’s Tubb and tails it’s Strait. And here’s to a “Buena” day.

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