The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Dinner and a second mortgage?

 

I know you’ve discussed how the guy should pay on the first few dates. I’ve been dating a pretty fabulous woman for a month, and I’m dipping into my savings to take her out to the sort of restaurants she’s used to. I earn a decent living in a creative field, but she is in finance and clearly makes far more money than I do. I may have complicated things when, on our third date, she wanted to pick up the check and I wouldn’t let her. Is there a smooth way to let her know that I now need her to throw down some dough?

— Can We Say Awkward?
 

The organ that gets used on the third date isn’t supposed to be the kidney you sold on the black market to pay for dinner.

It’s nice to take a woman out for a special meal from time to time, but the guy who can keep up the weekly wining and dining at restaurants where even the cockroaches speak passable French isn’t the guy you are — and probably isn’t the guy she expects you to be. Women do look for a man to be ambitious and show potential. But typically, a woman who wants a rich guy not only has calculated her date’s net worth (probably pretty successfully) long before the first date but has also trained herself to identify a fake Rolex at 50 paces and read even the subtlest signs about a man’s income like fiscal tea leaves. So, this woman is probably well aware that if you’re “managing a hedge fund,” it’s just a little money you’re putting aside to replace the dead plants on your balcony.

Also, unless a man’s a spy, a woman doesn’t like him to pretend to be somebody he’s not. This isn’t to say you should have some awkward conversation with this woman about how you really do need her to pay for dinner — or hope she gets the idea when she sees you standing by the on-ramp with a cardboard sign, “Spare $264.50, plus tip?” Instead, just take her to places you can pay for painlessly and wait until you’re in a relationship to talk about money. Though women evolved to look for potential partners to show generosity, you can do that in a symbolic way, simply by treating her to something more affordable — maybe a ticket to a museum and fancy ice cream afterward — and by showing generosity of spirit: fairness, kindness, and willingness to do the right thing even when it’s hard. A woman who really likes you will really like you when you’re treating her to the shoe rental at a bowling alley. Plus, you’ll be more fun when you aren’t worrying about money, and she’ll be more relaxed when she isn’t worrying that you’ll have to file for bankruptcy if she adds shrimp to her Caesar salad.

Sigh Tunes

Am I the only one who doesn’t like to have music playing during sex? When I’m with a guy, I’m turned on by hearing his breathing and sounds he makes while aroused. If the music’s good, I’ll be listening to it rather than paying attention to him or my own arousal. If the music’s bad, I don’t want to hear it at all. I’m seeing a new guy, and I’m already worried that he’ll play some annoying pop music when we get intimate. Plus, if he needs music, I’ll think, “Well, am I boring you?”

— Audibly Distracted
 

Responding to this question on Reddit, “What is the absolute worst song to play during sex?” Redditor 5secsofpleasure posted, “Hi, I’m Sarah McLachlan, and I’m about to kill your erection.” Though for many people the right music can be a real sex enhancer, there can be tragic accidents, like when a guy doesn’t realize that he got sloppy in pulling together his HSP (Hot Sex Playlist) and the dogs barking “Jingle Bells” play at exactly the wrong moment. Regarding your suspicion that a guy would only put on a soundtrack because he finds sex with you a bore, you’re probably just falling prey to a common cognitive bias — the assumption that other people’s minds work just like our own. You simply need to make your preference known before any clothing goes flying. Maybe start talking about music and casually mention that you don’t understand why some people like to listen to music during sex — such a distraction. The guy will probably nod offhandedly, but in his brain, a tiny stenographer from the sex department will be feverishly taking notes. As for any worries you may have that this will turn a guy off, trust me; there probably isn’t a guy out there who won’t find the musical silence during sex preferable to the sound of you sitting with your arms folded on the couch.

© 2014, 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

  

Weirding bells are ringing  

I am a bridesmaid in a wedding in four months and haven’t been able to think of a guy to be my date. I recently met a guy at a party. He is the friend of a friend and is cute and funny and seemed really nice. He lives two hours away, so it isn’t easy to meet for coffee or something, but I thought I could ask him to be my date for this wedding and see where things go from there.

— Single Bridesmaid
 

Taking a guy to a wedding on the first date is like taking a cow sightseeing at a slaughterhouse.

 
On a first date, the only person asking “So, are you two next?” should be a counterperson at Starbucks. The commitment-ganza first date also goes against the three things I always say first dates should be: cheap, short, and local. That way, even if you and a guy hit it off like the Israelis and the Palestinians, you can probably stick it out for a polite 59 minutes of happy-hour drinks and then bail — in a way you can’t if you’ve signed up for a wedding ceremony, a four-course sit-down dinner, and people you don’t know crying on your sleeve and throwing up on your shoes.

Beyond this being the wrong venue for a first date, inviting a near stranger four months in advance has to come off weird and desperate. This far ahead, a guy has to wonder why there isn’t another male soul in your life you could ask — and wonder who’s next on your list if he says no, the wino living under the bus shelter? (On a positive note, that guy would especially appreciate the open bar.) Also consider that there’s a reason this guy hasn’t asked you out, and it’s probably that he isn’t interested or isn’t interested enough to date a woman he has to travel two hours to see. (A guy who’d date the 7 who lives around the block would probably need her to be a sexually gifted 11.5 to make up for the two-hour drive.)

But there is an upside in the rubble of all these downsides. If you can accept that you won’t have a date for the wedding, you might find a date at the wedding by turning it into an opportunity to strike up conversations with interesting and possibly handsome strangers. Who knows, you might even meet a really great guy for you — one who gets that glimmer in his eye, realizing there’s no better woman to invite on a first date to either his nephew’s circumcision or his grandma’s funeral.

 

Pottery will get you nowhere

My boyfriend and I are attending a wedding next month, and he wants to buy the bride and groom a gift from their registry. However, I recently got into handmade pottery and thought it would be much more special to make a personalized gift — something totally unique, like a ceramic honey pot. Besides displaying our creativity more, it’d be cheaper, and there would be no shipping charges.

— Crafty
 

A handmade ceramic honey pot seems like the obvious best gift — if the happy couple are Martha Stewart and Winnie-the-Pooh.

I, too, used to turn my nose up at gift registries, which I thought were a tool for the lazy and uncreative. It does seem that being a truly caring friend means putting real effort into gift giving, like by spending six months crocheting a couple an afghan out of cat hair rather than just rolling out of bed and mouse-clicking on something they’ve registered for at Bed Bath & Be-yawned.

But two business school professors, Francesca Gino and Francis Flynn, did a series of experiments to find out whether this is true. Lo and behold, they learned that gift recipients actually preferred the gifts they’d registered for, appreciating them more and finding them more thoughtful and even more personal. (Gift givers assumed the opposite to be true.) The gift givers’ mistaken assumption seems to stem from what another researcher, Adam Grant, describes in his terrific book, Give and Take, as a “perspective gap.” We tend to interpret what another person would want by asking “What would I want?” rather than what would get us to the right answer: “What would THEY want?” In other words, though your pottery efforts may far surpass the artfulness of my macaroni assemblages, your boyfriend is probably on the right track in sticking with the registry. So, keep on potting, but get them that monogrammed garlic press they say they want instead of what you want them to want: for you to save money on a gift and not have to pay for shipping.

© 2014, 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

 

Eat, Pray, Barf  

My girlfriend and I just got back from vacationing in India, where we lived in an ashram (essentially a yoga camp) and she studied yoga and meditation for a month. Since we’ve been back, she’s been wearing a sari everywhere, which stands out completely here, and she greets everyone by bowing and saying “namaste” (an Indian greeting). She talks constantly to people about spirituality and energy and, to be honest, comes off as totally pretentious. This is all starting to wear on me. Is it shallow of me to be bothered by her new look and attitude when she’s feeling so enlightened?

— Downcast Dog
 

When your girlfriend bows and says “namaste” to the bag guy at the supermarket, you have to wonder, are there two yogis in India fist-bumping and greeting each other, “Wassup, home slice?” and “Nuthin, dawg. What’s crackalackin with you?”

It’s understandable that you feel guilty about being annoyed that your girlfriend has gone Suddenly Swami. If she’d come back from Paris and started marching around in a beret and an Hermes scarf and speaking French to the grocery bagger, you’d probably deem her an obnoxious phony and suspect she has a superiority complex (a shrink term for covering up feelings of inferiority by acting superior). The problem is, we’re told we have to “respect” people’s spiritual beliefs and practices. We should respect their right to have them, providing they don’t involve baby eating or witch burnings, but there’s been what British philosopher Simon Blackburn calls “respect creep,” the expectation of “more substantial respect” — admiration, approval and deference. Well, these things are earned; they can’t be expected or demanded, and it’s no more wrong to have critical thoughts about somebody’s spiritual beliefs and expression than about their politics or choice of pizza toppings. So, getting back to your girlfriend, no, she isn’t exempt from being considered a pretentious jerk when she signs her credit card slip in Sanskrit.

It also isn’t “shallow” to feel that the new her doesn’t work for the relatively unchanged you. (As a flamboyant bigmouth, I can tell you that flamboyant bigmouth girls aren’t for just any guy.) But you might give this some time. This might just be the yoga ’n’ meditation version of somebody excited about losing weight on a new diet and wanting to spread the word, and she may become less affected, preachy and annoying in a month or two. To help speed the process, you could gently ask her to consider whether her clothes and talk might be creating distance between her and other people. A person shows their spiritual growth and attracts others to their path through how they act and treat people. (The saying is “Be the change you want to see in the world,” not “Dress as the change.”) Sure, Buddha dressed like an Asian monk, but it isn’t the monk suit that made the man. (If Buddha were from Milwaukee, he’d be sitting cross-legged in Levi’s and a trucker hat.)

A ruse by any other name

I am 23 and like this really cute guy who lives in my building. I think he likes me, too, because he flirts back a bit when I flirt with him, so I’ve been trying to send stronger signals that I want him to ask me out. I friended him on Facebook and started posting cute photos of myself, and if I’m at the store, I’ll buy him something and knock on his door and say, “Hey, I got an extra box of cookies; thought you could use them.” I’m thinking of throwing a party and inviting him, but I’ll feel dumb if he doesn’t come and I threw the party for nothing.

— Impatient

Unfortunately, men are more complicated than cats. You can’t just tie a beer and a bag of Doritos to the end of a string. A guy takes note of your existence because your legs give him whiplash, not because you deliver snacks or slip a coupon under his door for a free carwash with every date. You should flirt to let a guy know you’re open to being asked out — and stop at that. What makes you attractive, in addition to the physical stuff, is your being a little out of reach, not inserting yourself into his life at every possible social or social media opportunity. The ploys you’ve been engaging in may not be so overt and aggressive as asking a guy out, but especially in combination, they cross over from indicating interest to screaming desperation. Because a guy can’t unhear that scream, your best bet is forgetting this guy, chalking this up to a learning experience and moving on. And no, that doesn’t mean moving on to the plan of covering a big pit with leaves and luring him over to it with some Fig Newtons.

© 2014, 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

 

Down on his luxe

I’ve always loved surprising my wife with expensive jewelry and lavish vacations. However, I lost my job, and my new job pays far less. There’s barely money for necessities, let alone luxuries. My wife has been very supportive, reassuring me, “I’d love you if you were flat broke,” which makes me feel even more of a desire to wow her. But realizing we have no funds for a big trip this year, I suggested a “staycation” (where we’d just stay local and lie around and relax). She agreed to it, but I could tell she was disappointed. I’m worried that the “magic” of our relationship was based in part on the lavish gifts and that we’ll lose it now that our resources have dwindled.

— Underfunded

 
A staycation doesn’t have to be a bummer — provided you don’t make it sound like it’ll entail your wife’s climbing a mountain of dirty laundry while you go sightseeing in the basement. Sure, it’s better when living hand to mouth means being fed chocolate-dipped strawberries at a spa in Gstaad. But it wasn’t just the lavishness of your gifts that made your wife happy. The money you were able to spend camouflaged what you were really doing to delight her, which was employing the element of surprise.

Over time, relationships, like powdered substances available on dodgy street corners, stop providing the buzz they did at first. Neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz found that unpredictable rewards are the most exciting kind for the brain — maybe even three or four times as exciting as expected ones. And research by Sonja Lyubomirsky, who studies happiness, finds that one of the most effective ways to keep a relationship buzzy is by injecting surprise — the novel, the unexpected. (Unexpected good things, that is, not having your partner come home to find you in bed with the cleaning lady.)

People think they have to go big on surprise, and this keeps them from doing much that’s surprising. But it’s the surprise itself that counts, not whether you rented elephants. Recently, I was having a particularly craptastic day — until my boyfriend, who was away on business, told me to look above the molding over my kitchen doorway. Most awesomely, he’d hidden a little bar of my favorite French chocolate there before he left. In other words, don’t worry; there should be “magic” aplenty if you just shift your surprise pipeline from, say, Tiffany the store on Fifth Avenue to Tiffany the postal worker who delivers your mail— including a handwritten love letter you’ve mailed your wife.

Likewise, in staycationing, you just need to go places and do things that are exciting and new. This takes only imagination, the events calendar from the paper, and what you’ve already shown you have: love for your wife and a desire to make her happy. While you’re out there watching the sunset instead of your bank balance, consider that there is an upside to your downturn: finding out that your wife didn’t just love you for your money. Of course, there’s no telling whether she’s just been using you for sex.

The flirt locker

My boyfriend of two months doesn’t seem insecure. But last week, after we left a party, he said it was humiliating that I was flirting with this good-looking guy in front of all of his friends. That guy is a professional photographer, and I was just asking for some tips. I’m annoyed because I don’t think I did anything wrong.

— Social Butterfly

If you go to a party with your new boyfriend and spend a half-hour mesmerized by another guy, it helps if the guy’s wearing a feather boa and size 15 women’s shoes. Assuming your boyfriend isn’t insecure and you aren’t covertly on the prowl, it’s the optics that are the problem. A guy’s buddies are both supportive and competitive — sometimes looking out for him and sometimes looking for his Achilles’ heel so they can poke it with a sharp stick. So, what to you is a totally platonic conversation, to the guys standing across the room with your boyfriend, comes off like you’re sitting in some dude’s lap and licking his earlobe. The good news is the optics can also be the solution. Engaging in sporadic touchy-feely with your boyfriend —  hugging him, kissing or stroking his cheek — can be a sort of ad for “I’m with him, and I plan to continue that.” It’s bad to let a boyfriend curtail who you are, but it helps to be sensitive to how even innocent extraversion can come off to an audience, especially in the early stages of a relationship. No guy wants to bring around his hot new car and then watch as some other guy gets his fingerprints all over the hood. 

© 2014, 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

 

Kin I see you naked?

I’m 22 and deeply in love with the wrong person — my uncle-in-law (my mom’s sister’s husband). We started confiding in each other, one thing led to another, and we’ve been sleeping together for over a year. I’m so drawn to him. He’s magnetic, charming, a great person and a devoted dad. I know I need to end this, and before my family discovers it, but my lust for him seems insatiable.

— Drowning

It’s sometimes good to confide things of a personal nature to one’s uncle — like that your mother always loved your brother more, not that you aren’t wearing any panties.

Don’t kid yourself that you’re into the guy for all of his great qualities, like what a “devoted dad” he is — a term not typically used to describe a dad devoted to sneaking out to meet his niece for sex. Your “insatiability” is textbook behavioral conditioning. Lab rats that only sporadically get a pellet when they push the little bar become obsessed with pushing it. Rats that get a pellet every time will stop pushing when they’re no longer hungry and go about their ratty business. Likewise, if this guy were totally available — if you could get sex pellets on demand — you’d stop seeing him through a junkie’s glazed eyes and notice who he actually is: a guy who doesn’t care enough about devastating his wife and kids to keep his willy in its cage.

You aren’t going to stop lusting after Uncle Romeo; what you can stop is the behavior that follows: running off to have a sex date with him. Tell him it’s over, and then come up with replacement behavior — maybe doing an hour of killer cardio — to plug in whenever the uncle lust bubbles up. To help maintain your resolve, especially at first, consider the kind of woman you want to be. Do the sorts of things this woman would do and avoid doing the sorts of things (and people) she wouldn’t. For example, it might be nice to find a guy who loves being around your family, but not because he’s already married to somebody in it. And finally, when you’re thinking of activities more in keeping with the new you, consider the obvious — that if you’re meeting your sex partners at family gatherings, you really need to get out more.

Making stall talk

After three years of dating, I’m ready to propose to my girlfriend. She’s in college across the country now, so I’m waiting until late February when she’ll be home to visit. My plan is to take her on our favorite hike and ask her there. The thing is, we’ve been arguing about when (and if) I’m going to propose. It’s starting to get awkward and maybe even hurting our relationship, but I’d hate to ruin the surprise by telling her I’ll be proposing in a few months and not to worry. Any ideas on how I can keep the peace while keeping my secret?

— The Gloom

At a certain point, a woman starts to believe the only way she’ll get rice thrown at her is to start a food fight at a Chinese restaurant.

Of course you want to propose just right, out in nature, complete with small woodland animals holding the “Will you marry me?” sign and breaking out in song. The reality is, you’ll probably do OK with just about any proposal that includes a diamond ring and the words, “Will you marry me?” (Ever hear of a woman complaining, “Yeah, all he did is get down on one knee, pull out the little velvet box and tell me he wanted us to spend the rest of our lives together”?) So maybe what’s better than the perfect proposal is the perfect-enough proposal — the one that comes before your girlfriend builds up so much resentment that she changes her voicemail message to “Sorry, can’t come to the phone right now. I’m having revenge sex with the guy in the next dorm room.”

You’re smart to want to take advantage of the romantic power of surprise, but you can do that on any old Wednesday. My suggestion is that you get on the phone with her one morning (extremely soon) and make like your boss has interrupted your call. Tell her you’ll talk to her later, and do that— at her door on one knee. The unexpectedness and the extravagance of your flying there will give her a romantic story to tell in class the next day, and doing it sooner rather than later will allow her to spend the next few months engaged instead of enraged. (Not to worry — you’ll have a lifetime of opportunities to make her so pissed off that she refuses to have sex with you ever again.) 

© 2014, 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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