Recently I was talking to a male friend about relationships. Occasionally I like to confer with the enemy on topics such as this, in order to gain a greater understanding of their species. I was interested to hear his views on the subject. Despite being an open-minded chap, breezy about subjects sexual and seemingly unfazed with the idea that a girlfriend might have had lovers in the past, he expressed, in no uncertain terms, that as a rule, things from the past should be left in the past and not discussed at length in the present.
This is not something that is unique to him either. It hasn't escaped my attention that most articles entitled 'How to get a boyfriend', 'Why you haven't got a boyfriend', 'How not to be single' and 'Why you are single' start with the premise that you should never give too much away about your sexual past or talk about your ex's when in the company of a new partner.
Initially, I dismissed his thoughts on the subject, until a few hours after our discussion, when I pondered his opinions and reflected on my own loose tongue in previous conversations.
To illustrate the point in hand, a few examples of what, in hindsight, might not be the best conversation starters when in the company of a new man.
Entirely fictional, of course. Ahem.
Do not tell a man you lost your virginity to a gypsy in a bunk bed when you were 15. What is an hilarious anecdote amongst your friends over three bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, will fill your new boyfriend with thoughts of caravans, bare knuckled boxing, fluorescent pink polyester and tarmac driveways. There are things your lover's mind should be subconsciously infiltrated with, this is not one of them.
Try and avoid telling him about the time you were so ill in a nightclub you had to lie down on the toilet floor because you couldn't stop throwing up. In future, whilst visiting the bathroom, he will inevitably spend the majority of the time visualizing you face down on piss-covered tiles with last night's dinner in your hair. Never a good look. In fact, it is advisable to avoid the subject of vomit/urine/uncontrollable intoxication entirely, regardless of how hilarious you think the story it accompanies is.
Do not tell him about the time you stalked your boyfriend after you broke up, even as a joke, even in the context of a 'slight detour' down his street a couple of times a week. (You know who you are.) Men don't associate 'slight detours' with a bit of fun - they associate slight detours with craziness and dead pet bunnies.
Do not tell him about the time you joined a cult because the guy you were seeing was a member. Again, what you think is a good example of your open mind and willingness to understand different sub-cultures, he will think of as example of you having group sex with 67 people wearing white boiler suits, at a mass wedding in an unidentified location in Southern America.
Do not bring up the time that you snogged your best friend on a boozy weekend in Ibiza. Initially this may present itself as a successful and immediate way of gaining his affections but will actually just serve to double is estimations of how many people you have had sex with in the past.
Do not tell him how many people you have had sex with in the past, or launch into a conversation on your second date about how under-rated threesomes are.
And finally do not tell your new lover that you have a 'big secret' which you have never told anyone before. In the past I have used this little soundbite thinking it will make me appear rather glamorous and mysterious. However, I have learnt from experience that men, generally, will not think you sound glamorous and mysterious - they will think you were either born a man called Colin or have an incurable disease.
If still unsure about what is acceptable to disclose with a new partner in the early stages of a relationship, a simple thing to remember is this - anything from your past regarding sex and men that your friends find hilarious, your boyfriend from the present will probably not.
Keep it buttoned and buy yourself a bit of time, after all, it's only a matter of time before he finds out that you are a total liability with more skeletons in the closet than the Natural History Museum. Why ruin the surprise by fore-warning him of the treat?
Ancient history? ... Not on my watch.