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Neighbors With Benefits react: Reality swinging is (no surprise) cringe-worthy

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Mark Harris

They should have just called it Awkward Encounters. Make that, incredibly awkward.

While the idea of swinging is supposed to be titillating, A&E’s new reality show, Neighbors With Benefits proves it’s kind of anything but. In fact, after watching the premiere episode, anyone considering this lifestyle may quickly realize it’s probably something best left as fantasy instead of reality.

Or… maybe not! You never know.

The show takes place somewhere in suburban Ohio and follows a bunch of neighbors who live in nice middle-class homes (all of them parents to multiple children) who are into “the lifestyle,” as they like to call it. It centers on “lifestyle” ringleaders Tony and Diana, a cute couple who have instigated swinging in the hood.  So how did they first get into the swing of things? As Diana explains, her husband Tony was always “a player,” and she started doing it in order to keep him happy. But then it turned out she really enjoyed it, too. (So it’s not totally unhealthy.)

We soon meet couple after couple who are either in the lifestyle (Mark and Maria, Cody and Brittany) or staunchly opposed to the lifestyle, like a different Mark, who looks like a bearded Brooklyn hipster and is into Jesus, and his cute wife Aimee who wants nothing to do with it. And then there is poor, hapless Vince and Penny, who are new to town and kinda, sorta interested, but then again, not really.

(“What the f—?” a clearly uncomfortable Vince whispers to Penny, after one couple try to sell them on the scene at a party.)

But back to the lifestyle. What’s it all about? And how are you supposed to play along? It turns out, this ain’t some Ohioan fornicating free-for-all. THERE ARE RULES!

SWINGERS RULES

Rule #1: Thou shall not communicate one on one with a hottie swinger who isn’t your wife or husband. Cody, Brittany, Mark, and Maria have sort of a showdown after it turns out Brit has been sending Mark naughty texts behind everyone’s back. Everyone finds out. Cody, who is madly in love with wife Brittany (and doesn’t seem to want to really be a swinger at all), cries and wants to beat the crap out of Mark. Mark’s wife, Maria, nearly pukes on camera after finding out. Brittany cries that she hurt her husband, Cody, and is full of regret. This is going well!

Rule #2: Condoms are a must. Not that we actually see any sex or swinging, but apparently, safety first. This actually seems like a very sane rule. 

Rule #3: If you are a woman and go to a swingers party in suburban Ohio, you have to wear a tube top. No seriously—not one of the women were wearing straps or sleeves. Tube tops ALL the way.  Maybe they are easier to get off once everyone retreats to the bedrooms?

Rule #4: Unless you are really, really drunk and at a party with other really drunk people, this lifestyle is mostly just awkward and uncomfortable. Sober swinging (as seen on the world’s most awful date between Eric and Lori, and Tim and Nina) is the creepiest. 

Rule #5: Swinging is hard. Almost everyone on the show admits the lifestyle is not easy to get into or sustain.

“I would have a hard time seeing her with another guy. It’s kind of creepy,” says Vince of not wanting to get into it with Penny.

“This is dangerous. This is not a healthy thing to do for relationships that aren’t ready,” says horny ringleader Tony.

“It’s destructive to relationships!” says church-y, hipster Mark. “A plane in the sky on fire, it’s eventually gonna go down!”

While any married couple might understand the need for some variety and excitement in the bedroom after a while, something about Neighbors With Benefits ends up being a real turn off from “the lifestyle.” 

Maybe it’s because they kept flashing back to scenes of empty swings at the playgrounds, which was a good reminder: Where are all their kids? Hopefully NOT downstairs watching A&E in the rec room.

Neighbors With Benefits airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on A&E.