Pillow Talk 101

Want to ace your romantic conversations? Here, some sweet nothings any gal would love to hear.

By Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro

o doubt about it: Sharing a few whispers after sex is just as crucial a test of a man’s studliness as what he was doing just moments earlier during the throes of passion. Like Jeopardy!’s Daily Double, when bodies are inches apart, murmured words can double the stakes—or bankrupt the whole affair. Worried you’ll put your foot in your mouth? Want to guarantee you increase the odds this woman will come back for more? Below is a primer on some things to say — and avoid — in the afterglow.

Keep the pillow talk positive
In the immediate aftermath, sometimes words are hard to come by. Lovers, still breathless, are in a temporarily vulnerable state, so follow this golden rule during those
Pillow talk shouldn’t be the first time you declare your love.
first few precious seconds: Say something nice or nothing at all. For someone you haven’t known for long, a simple “Wow” speaks volumes; just be sure to avoid a comment that trivializes what just happened (“Gee, that sure hit the spot!”). For bedmates you’ve known for longer, “I feel so close to you” isn’t amiss, or this classic line can be tailored up or down as the moment warrants: “I’ve been thinking about you all [day] [night] [my life].” Just make sure you don’t overdo it, since over-the-top declarations of your affection will no doubt be circumspect and should be avoided at all costs (more on that later…).

Play the perfect host
Now that you’ve recovered a bit and gotten the preliminary exclamations of appreciation out of the way, keep in mind that a little chivalry goes a long way, especially if you’re bunking down at your place. So even if you’re both raring to gab, “Would you like a towel?” is duly appreciated if she needs one; “Would you like a T-shirt to wear?” a lifesaver for the body-conscious; and “Would you like a glass of water?” shows you’re at the ready to slake her thirst. And all in all, these questions show you want to make sure she’s comfortable before you start conversing, and that’s good.

Confess something cute
At this point, it’s high time for a little confession session. “I really want to tell you…” and “I always wanted to know…” are great openers. Fess up about the first time you noticed her (“I’ve been wanting to touch your shoulders from the moment we met”) or some dorky maneuver you pulled before the first date (“It’s safe to tell you now: I got the skinny on your favorite flowers from your friend Ginny”). If there’s nothing you’re dying to get off your chest, consider it a time to show a little curiosity about who she is. Play show-and-tell with tattoos (“I’ve always loved that owl inked on your arm… are you a birdwatcher or just a disciple of Athena?”), adorable body blemishes (“That scar on your knee…skateboarding or rug burn?”), or, if you’re at her place, take a look around the room for inspiration (“So, I see you’re reading Bob Woodward’s diatribe against the Bush administration. How is it?”).

Keep the conversation sexy…
Unless you’re sleeping with a tax advisor, skip mundane chat about money woes, the weather (“Looks like rain this weekend”), whether your car’s parked in a tow zone, or (worst of all) any regrets over whether you should have even hooked up in the first place. Honesty is nice, but between the sheets is not the place for a “we shouldn’t have” morality chat. Guilty consciences, once checked at the bedroom door,
New moves and debuted props almost beg for commentary.
must wait until the confessional booth reopens on Sunday. Inexperienced teenagers aside, the adolescent “What are you thinking right now?” is also asinine. That said, if your partner does put you on the spot with this question, a seasoned bachelor always has a fresh, out-of-pocket answer: “Boy, my wife is gonna kill me”? No. How about “I was just replaying our highlights” instead?

…But don’t make it dirty…
Even if the sexual act was characterized by filthy talk of erogenous zones and sweat-drenched bed sheets, uttering any of George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words will feel slightly crass in the immediate afterglow and won’t win points. If you want to compliment her curves or sense of adventurousness, stay on the PG-13 side of the line (“The way your hair cascades over your breasts is so sexy” is better than “Damn, you have a killer rack!”).

…And keep the post-mortem to a minimum
Another good topic for pillow talk is a post-game wrap-up, especially if you weren’t very vocal during your shenanigans. For couples trying something new or risqué, new moves and debuted props almost beg for commentary, and in this case as always, keep it positive. (Face it, “That role-playing scenario was really fun” sure beats “Wow, I don’t know if wearing masks in bed is for me.”) Climactic curiosity of the “Did you…?” variety is a common pillow-talk topic, but it reeks of perverted machismo. Related to this is the sexual history query: “How many lovers have you had?” which often causes women (and men) to squirm. Such info can unfairly lead to stereotyping, so until the relationship is primed for frankness, keep your curiosity about her sexual past to yourself.

Maintain some physical contact
No matter what you’re conversing about, let’s not forget: You are in bed together. So even if your mouth is moving, your hands ought to be, too. The pillow-talk body language vocabulary includes spooning, caressing of the hair, gentle neck massage, and light teasing of the bare arms and exposed back. Don’t overdo it, though: particularly in the summer heat or when bundled up under one-too-many blankets, a lover needs to cool down without being stifled by more hot, sticky skin. And unless you get the sense she’s already up for round two, steer clear of certain regions that might give her the wrong idea.

Whatever you do, don’t say this
Remember this if nothing else: Pillow talk shouldn’t be the first time you declare your love. Silver-screen love scenes aside, “I love you” should be uttered during moments of sobriety and clarity. Between the ears, there’s a chemical change when you’re between the sheets, so beware of blurting out things you wouldn’t say if your heart rate were restored to default. Punch drunk in the post-ecstasy state, would it hold up in the court of next-day reflection? Hearken back to physics class. Under the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, one cannot simultaneously know where something is and how fast it’s moving. Thus, although you may be certain of your love at this very moment, you cannot accurately predict for how long it will last. So slow down before speaking those three little words.

Phineas Mollod traded his J.D. for the editorial life and is often found riding the congested E train with his wife and daughter in New York. Jason Tesauro pushes pen and ink by day and leads the lifestyle seminar series by night, ne'er far from his sweetheart and a Brady Bunch houseful 'o tots in Virginia. Together they are the authors of The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice and The Modern Lover: A Playbook for Suitors, Spouses, and Ringless Carousers.
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