Once again, Savage Love is given over to letters from the readers who made the largest donations to campaigns to preserve marriage equality in California (noonprop8.com), protect same-sex couples in Florida (sayno2.com), and defeat Stephen Harper in Canada (better luck next time). I neglected to ask readers to send dough to the campaign against an anti-gay-marriage amendment in Arizona too, because I am a bad, bad man (it’s not too late—votenoprop102.com). OK, on to this week’s top donors…

QWhen I met my girlfriend, she had recently quit smoking. She knew from the very beginning that smoking is a deal breaker for me, but despite the encouragement from me and all her friends, she keeps having “lapses.” I haven’t dumped her over this because we live far apart at the moment. However, I feel very firmly that we can’t take the next step—one of us moving to be with the other—until she kicks this habit for good. She has always insisted that she wants to, and she knows how much smoking bothers me. But at what point will I know if she has finally quit? My fear is that there will always be another “lapse” coming. She is so great in every other way that I don’t want to blow her off prematurely, and I want her to quit for her own health, too. Am I being an unreasonable perfectionist? —Do Not Use My Name

AHere’s my bought-and-paid-for advice, DNUMN: Beware the smoker who stops—or “quits”—just long enough to convince you that her smoking days are behind her and then, once you’re living together or married or otherwise hopelessly entangled, suddenly experiences one final and everlasting “lapse.” Be clear and up-front, DNUMN: Smoking is a deal breaker if she moves across the country to live with you, it’s a deal breaker if you marry her, it’s a deal breaker now, it’s a deal breaker forever.

QI don’t have a question. I have a story to share.

My parents had an unusual strategy for sex education. Instead of picking a day to have a birds-and-bees discussion, they first explained all the mechanics of the penis/vagina/uterus/baby when I was six months old. This was to give them practice. Then, as I got older, any question I asked that was moderately related to sex resulted in me getting the whole penis/vagina/uterus/baby story again.

Fast-forward to sophomore year. While playing a drinking game, people were asked to retell the story of when they got the Talk. But I never got the Talk because I grew up with it. So on winter break, I demanded the Talk from my dad. He came up with a few quips—sex is easy, sleeping in the same bed is hard. But the next day my mother pulled me aside.

“So I understand that you and your father had a conversation yesterday,” my delightfully WASPy and cheerful mother said.

“Um, yeah—”

“I want you to forget everything he said and remember this. Whatever you’re doing, do it slower. Whatever you’re doing, do it softer. And whatever you’re doing, ask more questions.”

She turned around and walked away as I picked up my jaw from my floor. —J.

A I don’t want to contradict your mother, J., but for the record: Some folks like it fast and hard, and prefer barked orders to thoughtful questions. But it’s a sweet story; thanks for sharing…

Q I am a bisexual woman in a nonmonogamous marriage with a lesbian. We met one Sunday afternoon through an ad in our local alternative newsweekly. It was supposed to be a booty call, but Jennifer is so smart, witty, and just plain good that I had to have some more of her and her milky-white breasts.

The sex started off fantastic—for the first six months, every time we got down was the best sex I’ve ever had. Eight years later, we’ve had lots of sex toys, some gents and ladies on the side, and a few sex parties, and we’re just as passionate and creative in bed as ever. We respect each other’s sexual autonomy and our other partners, as well as our own relationship. Domestically, we are very compatible and even agree on how to spend our money: good causes, traveling, and a Tempur-Pedic bed. Things are fantastic.

My question: How can I be any more smug? —Holly

A You’ve stumped me, Holly. But thanks for sharing both your fortune and your good fortune.

Q I’m an American man but I’m writing from Canada, where my husband and I live. Please remind everyone that even though defeating Proposition 8 is vital, getting rid of the federal Defense of Marriage Act is equally important. My hubby cannot live there with me until DOMA is repealed, no matter what happens in California or any other state. Many people don’t get that state and federal marriage laws are two different things.

OK, here’s our pressing question: What is the proper threesome etiquette once the good times are over? What do you do with your third? I say we should roll over and make room in the bed, while my husband thinks we should (nicely) toss the guy out. What say you? —Married and Gay in Canada

A I’m with your partner, MAGIC, unless it’s pissing rain or freezing cold outside, or you live in a neighborhood that’s unsafe to stroll through alone at 4 AM, or your third ditched his friends—and his ride—to come home with you and the husband, etc etc. Then, MAGIC, you should offer to let the third stay the night. But no third worth inviting back will accept. A good third knows to say thanks and get out—or eat it and beat it—so that his hosts can decompress, check in with each other, and resume the open, flagrant, unself-conscious farting that characterizes all long-term relationships.

QCould you mention my recycled T-shirt Web site, Teecycle.org, in the column? Here’s how the site works: Every day I post a new (used) shirt. Each one costs $7, and a dollar of that goes to restoring urban rivers. —Tim Cigelske

A I don’t see the connection between urban rivers and used T-shirts, Tim, and I think urban rivers are in serious trouble if we’re restoring them one-dollar-per-used-T-shirt-sold-via-Web-site-at-a-time, but thanks for the donation, and here’s your plug.

Well, hey, that was fun! But next week I’ll be selecting letters using my tried-and-true method: sit in a bar, have a few drinks, read a few hundred e-mails, respond to ones I find interesting/appalling/nauseating. And a word to the hundreds of folks who made donations and are waiting on personal responses from me: I’m a bit overwhelmed. Perhaps I should have made the cutoff for advice $100, not $25. I’ll get to everybody, I swear, but it’s going to take a week or two. Everyone who made a donation will hear from me before we all go to the polls on November 4 and vote for Barack Obama.

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