The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Mouse Ado about Nothing

I’ve tried to be open-minded, but I’ve decided that men are givers and women are takers. I study at my local coffeehouse. I am interested in this woman who comes in and often I unplug my computer and offer to let her use the outlet. Two weeks ago, I decided to make my interest clearer by buying her coffee. She said, ”Oh! Thanks!” Then she put her nose back in her books. The next time she came in, I offered her my large table because she had tons of books. She blushed as girls do, asking, “Are you sure?” I said, “Of course!” I then worked at a small, cramped table next to her. She made no effort to talk, except when she asked me to watch her computer while she went to the restroom. Finally, I decided to be really clear and asked if she’d like to grab a bite sometime. She smiled and said she’d just see me here, but thanks. Yeah, she’ll see me there and expect me to give her my big table. I’m sick of this take, take, take. A woman needs to tell a man right away if she’s not interested and not let him sit there like an idiot, planning to make her life easier.

— Irate

I guess when you ask a woman whether she’d like to use the power outlet, she should just come right out and say, “I would, but I don’t find you very attractive.”

Why go after what you want when you can dance around it, do it favors, and hope it figures out that you’ve made a secret agreement with it in your head? There are girls who would respond in a way you’d consider honorable — who would not only show appreciation when you provide them with complimentary food and beverages but even follow you home. Unfortunately, they’re the sort of girls who catch a Frisbee in their teeth.

Like the sign spinner on the corner in the Statue of Liberty suit, you think you need to lure women with a special offer, except instead of “Cash for gold!” it’s “Snake your drain for a date!” You’re apparently convinced that no woman would want you for you. This probably isn’t entirely off base, since the “you” you currently are is a guy who thinks instilling a sense of obligation in a woman for favors rendered is your best hope of having sex again before you forget where the parts go.

Stop grumbling that women are conniving takers, and work on accepting yourself, flaws and all. Once your self-respect is no longer trailer-hitched to whether women want you, you can be direct — just talk to a woman, let her see who you are, and ask her out. She may turn you down, but if you feel OK about yourself, you’ll see her rejection as your cue — simply to find the next girl to hit on, not to storm out behind the coffeehouse, shake your fist at the sky, and yell, “Hey, weren’t the meek supposed to inherit the earth? Where’s mine?!”

 

Wait problems

A friend of a year has a pattern of raving about people she meets and then completely cooling on them. Last week, she met a man online. On their first date, he took her shopping, buying her a gold ring and a key ring he had engraved with both their names and “Thinking of you always.” She describes him as perfect, brilliant, etc., and said she loves him and would marry him. I said things like “Take some time to get to know him,” but I don’t think she really heard me.

— Concerned

A first date like theirs raises some questions for the second date, such as, “Who should pay the invoice for the side-by-side burial plots?” Be prepared to wear out your face trying to talk sense into your friend. The problem is “confirmation bias” — our tendency to seek information that supports what we already believe and toss information that does not. In other words, your time would be better spent painting a wall and speaking meaningful thoughts to the paint as it dries. Another productive use of your time would be adding up how much of it you’re spending worrying about this woman’s problems. It isn’t mercenary or ugly to expect a friendship to be mutual and to influence you in positive ways. If how she lives is dragging you down, you may want to give her a little less prominence in your life. Then, when you do see her, you can just admire her ring and share in her happiness at reaching that milestone golden anniversary — celebrating 50 joyous minutes of knowing a man. 

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)


It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).


Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Golden pond scum

I went to meet my girlfriend’s 90-year-old father. They have a conflicted relationship. He doesn’t “agree” with his daughter’s homosexuality, generally looks down on women, and believes they should be helpful, nice, pretty, and married to men. When we got to his upscale senior living facility a few hours away, I jokingly asked my girlfriend whether I should change out of my jean shorts and into dress pants. She said yes, and I said, “I don’t have those; are you serious?” She then pulled out a “nice outfit” she’d brought for me. I felt angry that she’d sneaked this up on me. I felt even angrier meeting her father, who barely acknowledged my existence and didn’t notice this “nice outfit” I ended up putting on. Should I remind my girlfriend that she no longer chases her father’s approval? Tell her I certainly will not?

— Steaming
 

Here’s an ornery guy who’s probably spent much of the past 90 years convinced that women belong in the kitchen wearing ruffled aprons, baking pies, and practicing saying, “Yes, dear.” Yeah, he’ll be changing — the direction his finger’s pointing when he looks at his daughter, gestures toward his closet, and says, “Could you go back in, change into a dress, and come out with a husband?”

Your girlfriend can tell herself she’ll no longer be chasing her father’s approval yet be running as fast as she can after it on the inside. It’s deep-seated stuff, wanting your parents to approve of you, to appreciate who you are and love you for it, and it’s tough stuff knowing they don’t and probably never will. So as much as she might wish things were different and vow they’re going to be, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that her father still wears the pants in the family (even if he also wears the diapers).

It’s probably tempting to go all one-woman gay pride march and picket the old goat’s bed: “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!” (Or, later in the day, “We’re here! We’re queer! We need a beer!”) And if how your girlfriend handled the change of clothes — going sneaky to get her way — is a pattern, you two have a problem. But maybe she was just desperate to keep her time with him from being conflict-filled and awful and couldn’t bear to do battle with you right before facing her father’s disapproving looks because the man of her dreams is a woman.

Her father is grazing 100 and will be dead soon; doing what you can to relieve your girlfriend’s stress when she sees him isn’t exactly the equivalent of bringing a plate of cookies out to the Westboro Baptist Church marchers. Consider telling her that you know how hard visiting him is for her and, in the future, she should just tell you what she needs from you to make things easier. Hearing this will probably make her melt into a pool of love for you and inspire her to extend herself when it means a lot to you. Sure, it’s unhealthy to always be in the habit of muzzling your beliefs, but there are times to stand up for them and there’s sometimes a time to just crawl into the back seat and put on those “nice pants” your girlfriend brought for you.

Soul mite

I’m a 36-year-old guy who’s dated some great women but ended most of my relationships around the six-month mark. I wasn’t concerned about this until I was talking about how cool my girlfriend of two months is and my married buddy looked at his watch and said, “Yeah, bummer. Only got four more months of her.” I had a long relationship in my 20s, so I don’t think I fear intimacy or commitment. Do I need therapy? Or is this one of those things where, if you’re happy, you ignore the criticism?

— The Transient
 

You look deep into a woman’s eyes and whisper those magical words: “I want to spend the rest of my month with you.” Well, long-term relationships aren’t for everyone. Along with the benefits come the tradeoffs, like having to give up the suspense and buzz of the new for the comfortable old slipper of stability. It’s OK to be unwilling to make that tradeoff, provided you aren’t just covering for a bunch of unexplored fears. The problem comes in letting women believe that you have the potential to be Mr. Right when you’re most likely Mr. Lite. Unfortunately, some will see your pattern of succumbing to Restless Boyfriend Syndrome as a challenge to domesticate you. To keep things from going ugly, you might gently remind them that you’re looking to be there for them in good times and good times — and that someday their prince will run.

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)

It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).

Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Tease for two

I’m dating a wonderful guy I’m totally in love with. He’s always looked up to his older brother, a very attractive guy who’s a real lady’s man. I’ve found myself behaving in some unsettling ways when we hang out with his brother, like fixing myself up beforehand like I’ve got a big date. I realized that I want his brother to want me. I get a very naughty feeling when he looks me up and down, and I love it. To be clear, I don’t want him in any real or threatening way, and I don’t want to jeopardize my relationship with my boyfriend. Perhaps I’m motivated by knowing that my boyfriend has never been envied by his brother, and now I get to make that happen.

— Puzzled

Like many good people, you’re inspired to do volunteer work to bolster the less fortunate, such as the boy who grew up deprived of being envied by his older brother. Interestingly, others who do charitable work, like Salvation Army Santas, somehow manage to accomplish it without first re-engineering their cleavage to graze their jawline.

 
In addition to your push-up humanitarianism and the ensuing uplift for your ego (and possibly your boyfriend’s, too), another explanation for your behavior is that you aren’t just yourself; you’re also what two researchers call your “subselves.” It’s long been believed that we each have one consistent “self,” with stable preferences, leading us to make consistent choices from situation to situation. That actually isn’t the case. Psychologists Douglas Kenrick and Vladas Griskevicius, authors of The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think, find evidence for our having seven “subselves” driving our choices, each corresponding to a different evolutionary challenge our ancestors faced. These challenges include: 1. Evading physical harm. 2. Avoiding disease. 3. Making friends. 4. Gaining status. 5. Caring for family. 6. Attracting a mate. 7. Keeping that mate.

Although we like to think of ourselves as driven by rational thought, environmental triggers can prime a particular subself to grab the controls. For example, seeing a scary movie or a crime report primes our harm-evading subself to take charge, amping up our loss aversion. (Good time to sell us a Rottweiler and the world’s first suburban moat.) And although you’re in a happy relationship, real or imagined potential mates on the horizon prime your mate attraction subself, which is the one leading you, whenever your boyfriend’s bro will be around, to dress for sliding into a booth at the diner like you’ll be sliding down a greased pole.

The complicated truth is, if your boyfriend notices his brother’s eyeballs bouncing after you like puppies, you may be priming his mate-retention subself by reminding him that you have other options. To keep him from suspecting you’re interested in other options, prime your own mate-retention subself. Look at cute pictures of the two of you and run through reasons you’re grateful for him and for your relationship. This, in turn, should help you refrain from saving your sexiest looks and moves for when you two are hanging out with his brother: “Just gonna twerk my way to the bakery case, bend over in this short skirt, lick the glass, and see if the banana nut muffins speak to me.”

The Blocked Stallion

I really like this guy from my college English class. We hang out a lot, eating together and playing pingpong, and when it was raining, we ducked into a building and talked till 2 a.m. No matter how much I flirt with him, including touching him, he never makes a move or touches me, beyond once fist-bumping with me for what seemed like a long time. Should I make a move on him?

— Confused

A man’s body language can tell a woman a lot about his intentions. A series of fist bumps, for example, suggests he wants to have a burping contest. You’ve done your part — flirting to let this guy know you’re interested — which was his cue to do his part and ask you out. There are four possible reasons he hasn’t: 1. He’s gay. 2. He’s got a girlfriend. 3. He’s just not interested. 4. He’s a huge wimp. Even if you suspect he’s a wimp who’s crushing on you, do you really want to reward this behavior by manning up and doing the asking? If a man can’t endure a possible 10 seconds of rejection, is he the man you want with you when danger rears its head? (You’ll be facing it head-on; he’ll be hiding behind a bush.) Look elsewhere for a boyfriend, and look to this guy for what he’s capable of providing: friendship. In fact, it seems he’s fast becoming one of your best girlfriends — although probably not the one to go to when you need to borrow a tampon.

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)

It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).

Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

 

Social notworking

My 40-something younger brother has been “friending” my hot female friends on Facebook, women I have befriended in real life whom he’s never even met! I said nothing at first. Then, one of these women posted a photo of herself, and I commented on it in a flirtatious way. Up pops my brother, commenting on my comment in a way that killed her ability to respond to me and adding a personal message to me, “Hey, bro, call me when you’re up.” I was upset that he’d butted into my conversation with her, and I don’t think her page is a place for him to leave messages to me. I asked him to remove his comment, and he was upset and insulted. Shouldn’t etiquette standards apply online, too? If I’m having a face-to-face conversation with someone, it’s considered rude to just walk up and butt in. And, isn’t it a little creepy that my brother trolls my Facebook page and “friends” women he’s never met?

— Invaded
 

Facebook brings a lot of people closer, like the hot women you’ve gone to the trouble of developing friendships with in real life and your brother, who’s gone to the trouble of paying his electric bill and turning on his computer.

Hot women on the Internet — those who don’t take credit cards for their friendship — can be pretty guarded. Luckily, your brother shares your last name, so instead of your hot friends seeing his friend request and thinking “Eek, who’s this perv?” they probably think something like, “Oh, how adorable. Joe Blow has a little brother, Bo Blow.” As unfair as it seems that your brother logged in to Facebook and sat there in his underwear helping himself to a salad bar of your female friends, you seem to have misunderstood something about the nature of Facebook conversations. “Facebook” is not the name of a romantic restaurant where you’ve booked a table for two. You’re having these flirtatious exchanges at a “table” for, oh, 547 of a woman’s closest friends — along with any “friends” she might’ve made through those friends. This might explain why they call it “social networking” and not “social isolation.”

No, your brother shouldn’t turn some woman’s Facebook page into the digital version of the write-on/wipe-off board your mom used to have by the kitchen phone. Because he got to this woman through you, this makes you look bad by association. So, you aren’t wrong to want him to change his message-leaving behavior, and you can call dibs if there’s one particular woman you’re putting the moves on. But telling someone what to do, even when a demand is phrased as a request (to remove the comment, in this case), generally doesn’t inspire him to say, “Right, I was a jerk. I’ll change, pronto!” It makes him angry, hurt and defensive. A more effective approach is telling him you feel bad about something he’s doing, evoking his sympathy. That’s probably your best bet for getting him to back off a bit from your Facebook harem, considering it’s a little late to put your privacy settings on lockdown and way late to take the age-old approach to brotherly conflict resolution: “Maaaaa! Bo’s stealing all my hotties — just like he stole my firetruck 45 years ago!”

 

Battle of the Divulge

My boyfriend won’t “friend” my friends or relatives on Facebook. He says he doesn’t want to worry about censoring his posts or friends’ comments. Well, I have a handful of friends, and now a brother and a cousin, who’ve told me that he never responded to their friend request, and I worry that they’ll think he is rude or doesn’t like them.

— Bothered
 

Your boyfriend probably prefers your brother remember him for the wonderful way he helped your granny and not for how he looks in that photo his friend likes to post — the one where he’s passed out on someone’s bathroom floor with a bra draped across his chest and “Princess” written across his face with a Sharpie.

Although privacy is reportedly dead, it’s his right to be one of those holdouts who refuses to be a 24-hour gas station of personal information. The problem comes in his ignoring your friends and family —tossing their friend requests in the Internet landfill with all the personal messages from African warlords with $19 million in diamonds to share with a trustworthy total stranger. Tell your boyfriend you’re afraid feelings are getting hurt, and suggest he message people back with something like, “Thanks, but I mainly use Facebook to stay in touch with a few old friends. Hope to see more of you in real life.” It’s gracious but boundary-maintaining, and if you break up, his lack of connectedness should provide a healthy barrier between him and explosive revelations about your new boyfriend, such as what he had for lunch.

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)

It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).

Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Office Despot

I just started a new job. My boss and I were having a meeting, and he started asking me about my personal life — whether I have a boyfriend, who I live with. No biggie. He then began grilling me as to why I don’t have a boyfriend and whether I’ve ever had one. I started deflecting these prying questions back to him, and he told me that he lives only with his younger brother, so he understands me well. Weird, but whatever. Well, it turns out he actually has a wife and a 4-year-old daughter! This isn’t my first experience with managerial prying, either. In a previous job, my married manager scheduled after-work “meetings” with me, delving into non-work topics. When I’d go to leave, he’d say, “Sit down! You have nowhere to be!” My exit statement every time? “Uh, well … I have to change my cat’s litter.” I’m definitely leaving this job. My last boss was an ethical kinda guy, and that’s the kind of person I want to work for.

— Creep Inc. Employee
 

We usually feel sorry for a man who has lost his wife and child. Of course, this is usually a tragically permanent event; they don’t pop back into existence as soon as he gets home from taking a detailed ex-boyfriend history from his hot employee.

Some people would tell you to sprint to the nearest sexual harassment lawyer’s office and sue your employers until they’re living out of a dumpster. The truth is, these cases can be hard to win; your supervisor can retaliate in ways that are hard to prove; and having a claim on the record can make it hard for you to get another job. Also, after a single creepy line of questioning from your boss (even one that makes you suspect that — eeuw! — he wishes he could make sex biscuits with you), you aren’t exactly ready to pick out an outfit to wear to court. Wayne State University law professor Kingsley Browne explains in Biology at Work that the “hostile environment” type of sexual harassment involves a work environment “permeated with sexuality.” Browne told me via email: “The legal question is whether the harassment is sufficiently ‘severe or pervasive,’ and the way you show that something is pervasive is to show that there’s a lot of it.”

There’s probably no need for things to get to that point. As for your approach, if you’d like a role model, think more Sigourney Weaver in Alien than Bambi in Bambi. This doesn’t mean you pull out your flamethrower every time some guy says, “Hey, nice dress.” You just need to be firm and immediate in shutting down any situation that’s uncomfortable for you, and you did a superb job of that the last time. You didn’t go limp or hysterical; you coolly informed the guy that the closest he’d get to your personal life was a status update on your cat’s turds. You might also consider whether you should dial back on how bubbly and open you are at the office and maybe err on the side of a vibe that says, “Talk to me about some boring work question!” And here’s to finding a more admirable new boss — one whose remarkable qualities don’t include the ability to make his wife and child disappear without doing jail time.

 

Wane Man

Is it a no-no to just cut off communication to break up? I am 27 and was dating a 25-year-old guy for three months. This past month, he started texting way less, ignoring many of my texts, and making excuses not to hang out. Realizing he was taking the easy way out of dumping me, I blocked his number and email. If he was looking to ignore me until I went away, I figured I’d do the same. Help! It feels terrible ending things this way.

— Regretful
 

There are times a man can’t help but disappear on a woman, like when he’s kidnapped by revolutionaries who happened to stop off for Slurpees and hostages when he was at 7-Eleven. Otherwise, there’s only one good explanation for his not telling you it’s over: On the manliness scale, he’s a little old lady’s dishtowel. Where you go wrong is in letting his bad behavior shape your breakup behavior, effectively letting him shape who you are in a small way. Do the decent, adult thing. Call him and say something like, “I thought we should have a nicer ending than we did, so I just wanted to say thanks for the good times and wish you the best.” You’ll surely feel better ending things classy, and who knows, maybe he’ll be inspired by your example — at least enough for his next girlfriend to get the message when his mom calls to tell her it’s over.

(c)2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)

It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio — “Nerd your way to a better life!” with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).

Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).

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