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Sects and the city

My wife of a year is from a very conservative culture (a Muslim country). She said she'd only dated three guys, and only kissed and held hands. I told her it's nice she was a virgin, but honesty was more important. She kept saying I was the first man to touch her, sleep naked with her, awaken her sensuality, and on and on. Later, she let it slip that she'd slept naked with her exes, but said she'd never lie to me again. Eventually, she let it slip that she'd pretty much done everything but intercourse with two of these guys, but it was a detail she'd forgotten. She doesn't understand how it hurts the male ego to repeatedly say, "You're the only guy I've been with," then, "Sorry, I forgot, you're the third." Had this happened with a guy in her culture, it would have resulted in immediate divorce, and maybe something much worse. So, do I divorce her, or let this go? I'm concerned she may be hiding other things. Betrayed

In our country, if people find out you've had premarital sex, they might hoot and slap you on the back once or twice. In Muslim countries, they bring in a guy with a bamboo cane to do it 100 times.

In Saudi Arabia, it's not just premarital sex that'll get you in trouble, but premarital seating. Religious police there actually arrested an American businesswoman for sitting with a male colleague in Starbucks after her office lost power and she needed Wi-Fi. The Times of London reported that the woman was interrogated, strip-searched and jailed for violating laws against public contact between unrelated men and women. The judge reportedly told her, "You are sinful and you are going to burn in hell." You have to wonder, if she gets hell for sitting near a man in Starbucks, what happens to the giddy 15-year-olds I saw groping each other in the big chair? Is there Hell Plus? Advanced Hell? Or maybe "New Hell! Now With Extra Charcoal!"?

Ask a Western woman if she's "dated" a lot, and she isn't likely to confess, "Why, I'm the whore of Babylon!" Yet, you married a woman from a culture where "slut" can equal "death," and you thought all you had to do to get her to spill everything was tell her honesty works best for you? As for telling you that you were blazing uncharted territory, and were quite the lover to boot, even Western women with sterling integrity have been known to exclaim, "Wow, that thing's enormous!" Meanwhile, they're thinking, "... compared to the stub of a No. 2 pencil."

Poor Booboo, you weren't her first. Or her second. And there is that possibility you weren't even her third. Get over it. All this moping is distracting you from the essential question: Did she lie about her sexploits out of some ingrained policy for self-preservation, or are you likely to wake up alone one morning and find that your bank account's cleaned out, your car is gone and she's even taken the dog?

The fact that her character is kind of a mystery to you suggests you pledged to spend the rest of your life with a near stranger. Smooth move, dude! At least get to know the woman before you divorce her. Is she ethical? Even when nobody's looking? Does it mean something to her to do the right thing? Does she act in your best interest or does she just act interested out of self-interest? I know, boring questions, but they'll ultimately be more instructive than interrogating her about whether she let Ahmed get to third base in the summer of 2003.

Nip it in the buddy

This great guy at work seems on the verge of asking me out. I'd like to be friends with him, and even invite him to my dinner party. He'd actually get along great with my boyfriend. So, how do you tell a guy you have a boyfriend without seeming presumptuous or rude? Worried Girl

A guy you aren't interested in shouldn't get to the point where he's on the verge of asking you out. This guy's probably spent months flirting and plotting, and you're probably getting more and more uncomfortable which means you're more likely to respond to "You going to the staff meeting?" by blurting out "I have a boyfriend!" That's when you're likely to hear back, "Yeah? And I've got a spastic colon."

This really isn't difficult. Casually tuck the boyfriend into conversation, like, "My boyfriend and I went ... " or, "So does my boyfriend." And do it from the start, whenever you aren't interested or available. Unless, of course, the guy mentions that his last two "girlfriends" were named Kenneth and Stephen, both of whom he met at a cute little joint called something like Chaps, Ramrod or The Manhole.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail adviceamy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).

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