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September 10, 2011

How I Planned a MÉNAGE À TROIS

When Pamela Druckerman's husband asked for a threesome for his 40th birthday, she reluctantly agreed, on one condition - that she pick the other woman.

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Pamela Druckerman at La Fee Verte cafe in Paris

Photo Credit: Michel Figuet

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The question on my husband's birthday is always: What do you get for the man who has nothing? My husband isn't a shopper; he buys food and, lately, diapers. He recently declared that he has enough pants to last the rest of his life. When I asked about his intentions regarding a drawer containing dozens of stray socks, he said his heirs would sort it out.

For his 40th birthday, I had my eye on a vintage watch. It would complement his tattered sweaters and declare to the world that he is, in fact, employed. But when I mention this to him, he balks. He says that what he really wants isn't a good, but a service: a threesome with me and another woman.

This isn't exactly surprising. He'd voiced the fantasy before. So had practically every guy I'd ever dated. But this time I say yes. Maybe it's the moral weight of the big birthday and the fact that he never asks for anything. Maybe I'm daunted by the price tag on a stainless-steel Rolex. Maybe, as a journalist, I can't resist a deadline, or I pity him heading into middle age consigned to sleeping with the same woman (me) for the rest of his life. And maybe, just maybe, it's because I fancy the idea myself.

I should say that we are normally quite dull. We don't swing or have an open marriage. We're rarely even awake past 10 p.m. Although I wrote a book about infidelity around the world, I ended up concluding that fidelity is quite a good idea. So far, it has been for us. This wouldn't technically be cheating, but it's not textbook monogamy, either.

Indeed, the idea of a threesome is so exotic that for a few weeks, it just sits there. I occasionally mention the name of a female friend.

"Would she be acceptable?"

"Absolutely," he says. It turns out that all of my girlfriends and practically all the spouses of his friends would potentially make the cut, including the pregnant ones.

Although I'm a novice, I'm pretty sure that getting someone we know would be a mistake. There's the enormous potential for awkwardness. And I don't want someone creating a wedge in our cozy twosome. I'm envisioning this as a onetime deal.

Anyway, I wouldn't know whom to ask. My husband and his friends can chat over a beer about getting two women into bed. Heck, that's porn. But middle-class straight girls don't tend to compare same-sex fantasies. It's hard to know who'd be tempted and who'd be appalled.

Over brunch one day in Paris (where my husband and I now live — I'm American; he's British), we tell some friends about the planned birthday "present." One of them, a single British banker who's nearing 40 herself, grimaces and goes silent.

"You look horrified," I say.

"Yes, I mean, I just think it's extraordinary!" she says, blushing.

My husband rejects the idea of a sex club as too public. I rule out advertising online, since that seems like an open call for venereal disease. We decide that the ideal candidate would be a sexy acquaintance. She'd be vetted (everyone knows acquaintances don't have herpes) but easy to avoid afterward.

A candidate soon emerges. She's a friend of a friend I've met at dinner parties but whose name I can never remember. By chance she's seated behind us at a concert, with a man who appears to be her date. For the first time, I notice that she's quite pretty. She's tall and thin, with a little ballerina's waist. And I'm pretty sure she's sassy.

"How about her?" I whisper to my husband.

"Yes!" he says, too loudly.

After the concert, the four of us chat. I make firm eye contact with the woman (who I've figured out is named Emma), act fascinated by her comments on the music, and wait for my window to suggest that she and I meet for lunch. She seems flattered. A few days later, we exchange e-mails and make plans to have Thai food. I get gussied up, and am pleased to see when I arrive that she has, too. Does she know that she's on a date?

Usually I'm so self-absorbed that my companion could be bleeding to death and I might not notice. But the pursuit of the threesome has made me more attentive. Over soup, I listen carefully to Emma and quickly understand something that would have taken me years to notice: Under a pond of sassiness is a lagoon of insecurity. She clings to boyfriends who mistreat her, convinced that she doesn't deserve them. I'd mistaken tall for self-possessed.

This probably means that she's too emotionally fragile for a threesome, but I decide to broach the topic anyway, at least to get some practice. I do it under the guise of exchanging girly confidences, saying, "You won't believe what my husband wants for his birthday." I tell her that I've agreed to it in principle but that I haven't yet found the third party.

I think she gets that I'm propositioning her, but instead of taking the bait, she becomes the Cassandra of threesomes. She describes the rogue ex-boyfriend who pressured her to go to bed with him and his other lover, and the friends of hers who swapped partners and never swapped back. She says that I'll be scarred by images of my husband doing unspeakable things to another woman. "And what if it's someone who's incredibly hot? How could you possibly handle that?" she asks, a bit insultingly.

Not only is Emma out of the running, she seems to be morphing into that most dreaded of creatures: the friend. She talks of future lunch dates at other Asian restaurants. I'm suddenly sympathetic to those male "friends" of mine who disappeared when I got engaged. Why stick around?

That night I tell my husband about the "date," which cost me $50 and ate up half my workday.

"Thanks for taking care of that," he says, without looking up from his computer. It's exactly what he says when I've waited at home all morning for the plumber or replaced the rechargeable batteries in our phones. It occurs to me that planning this threesome has become another one of the things I do, like organizing playdates and supervising the renovation of our kitchen.

Nevertheless, my new man's-eye view of the world is thrilling. I notice women everywhere — at the photo shop, in line at the supermarket. I even scan my book group — middle-aged expatriates who like to read about the Holocaust — for candidates.

I have a belated feminist revelation: Women don't demand raises and promotions, because we're trained to sit pretty and let someone else chase us. In my new role as decider, I don't care what anyone thinks of me. I just go after what I want from them. It's refreshing to have some time off from wondering whether I look fat.

And putting this once-furtive fantasy on the table is energizing. Threesomes suddenly seem to be everywhere, although the message about them is paradoxical: Everyone (at least everyone male) wants to have one, but no one's had a good one. A friend says he bedded two women on the night of September 11, 2001, as they all watched television together. But — as in many stories I hear — there's an imbalance. One of the women had a serious, unreciprocated crush on him. "Inside every threesome is a twosome and a onesome," a character on Gossip Girl warns.

I'm undaunted, but no closer to finding a candidate. Fortunately, my husband and I extend the deadline a few weeks past his birthday after realizing that, between work trips and school holidays, we don't actually have time for a threesome until the end of the month.

NEXT PAGE: I decide to have a look at some websites. Perhaps not everyone on them has gonorrhea? To my surprise, I get a reply 15 minutes later. It's literate and nice.

Get more ideas for sex positions and tips.


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