The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Carbon dating    

I am a single 58-year-old woman with a one-year subscription to eHarmony. In the six months I’ve been on, only two men have contacted me. Of the dozen men I’ve reached out to, only one responded, and nothing came of it. I’m stumped as to why I’m getting such a sparse response. I am attractive, very fit, have a career and own a home. Is my online dating experience typical for women my age? Sad to think I’ll face the next 20 to 25 years without a partner. And I am NOT just sitting at home waiting for a man to fall into my lap. I’m in a cycling club, a wine group, a music lovers group, and a craft beer group. Yet none of it has produced a boyfriend.
 

— Cobwebs  

 
On dating sites, where the face-to-face embarrassment of overstepping the bounds of reality has been removed, 70-something men are hitting on 30-something women as fast as their wrinkly fingers can hit “send.” In other words, the youngest guy to even include 58-year-old women in his search criteria will likely want to talk about Titanic — not the movie but the boat wreck he survived.

Sure, dating sites promote themselves as a bonanza-in-waiting for people of all ages, but the truth is, online dating is heavily skewed toward younger people. It works like dog years. You may be 58 on your passport and driver’s license, but in Match.com years, you’re 406 going on 407. Also, men on dating sites care first and foremost about your four or five profile pictures (in which you’re competing with pix of women in their early 20s — typically the height of female hotitude). Musical interests? Favorite hobbies? You may as well list them in Cantonese.

But there is hope for you, and it comes from behavioral economics research by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. It turns out that we decide the value of things not out of the blue but rather by comparing them with similar alternatives. In other words, you need an “anchor” to make yourself look more attractive to men, and no, I’m not suggesting you start accessorizing with the big iron thing from a ship. An anchor is a reference point for comparison. For example, after hearing about this concept on my radio show, a lumber company owner started stocking an expensive ceiling tile next to the one he sells a ton of, in order to make buyers feel they were getting a really good deal.

Likewise, as a 58-year-old who takes care of herself, you’ll look far more appealing in a neighborhood filled with 58-year-old reference points than 20-something ones. Like, for example, on a dating site specifically for singles over 50, such as OurTime.com. The same goes for activities. The best groups for you are those where you aren’t the anchor making some 22-year-old of average attractiveness look hot. It may also help to acknowledge and even try to laugh about how hard dating is for women your age. Seeing this simply as an annoying fact of life after 50 may help you take it less personally. It could also lead you to a greater appreciation of later life’s small victories, like when sex ends with a man rolling over and snoring (as opposed to being zipped into a bag by the coroner).

 

On a felon        

My best friend’s new boyfriend is a convicted sex offender who has three children from three different women. He has no job and pays no child support. I’ve tried in vain to convince her that he’s a bad bet. They keep insisting we all go to dinner so I can “get to know” him. How do I explain that I want nothing to do with him without ruining our friendship?   

— Uncomfortable

 
When your friend meets guys online, it shouldn’t be on MegansLaw.com. Unfortunately, pointing this out to her is probably futile. We’re slaves to our ego, determined to see ourselves as smart, lovable, and making wise choices, even if it takes believing the unbelievable: “Soulmate, inmate — what’s the difference?” What you don’t have to do is accept their offer of a ringside seat. Instead, tell her you’re happy she’s happy but you’d prefer to spend time with her alone. Her knowing you disapprove of him may put a gash in your friendship, but it may be a smaller gash if you stop trying to convince her. This may mean you’ll be around when she needs you most —after things go south. Maybe you can at least keep her from immediately seeking his replacement, like by dolling herself up and lingering outside parole hearings: “Hey, handsome … didn’t I see you on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit?”

© 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 (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon.

Get Amy Alkon’s new book, Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck (St. Martin’s Press, June 3,  2014).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Bridle party   

I’m going to a friend’s bachelor party in Vegas, which includes a strip club visit. My girlfriend said I have to sit that out. She believes going could lead me to cheat on her. I assured her that I have no intention of cheating  — ever  — and strippers have no interest in me anyway. Well, she’s adamant. I caved, agreeing to skip the strip club, but my friends’ teasing will be merciless. What if I just go and fib to my girlfriend to keep everyone happy?

 

—  Restricted  

 
Unless your girlfriend’s name is Moses and she’s just come back from a mountaintop chat with God, she doesn’t get to hand down commandments: “You look at some other woman’s woohoobies and I’ll ask The Big Guy to smite you.”

Regarding your caving to her demand, you should un-cave; go to that club with your friends. Not secretly. Openly. In other words, tell her you’re doing it. Because an adult shouldn’t get to control another adult’s behavior, and being in a relationship doesn’t change that. Also, allowing her to give you orders sets a really bad precedent. (What will she object you out of doing next? And how soon before she fits you for a leash and a bark collar?)

A bachelor party is a male friendship ritual. While women tend to share their feelings Oprah’s couch-style, men often bond through drinking, ribbing and humiliation, like forcing their soon-to-be-married buddy to get onstage on his hands and knees to be spanked by the stripper. Your girlfriend seems to have given no thought to the social repercussions of your telling the guys your governess is making you stay back in your hotel room and watch a movie. (Would Fried Green Tomatoes work for her or would she prefer you watch something on the Lifetime channel?)

And sure, sex for pay is easily findable in Vegas. However, a typical bachelor party visit to a Vegas strip club takes place not at some seedy, out-of-the way joint where anything goes but at a ginormous corporate warehouse of stripping where some 6’8” genetic experiment of a man makes sure no male paws wander anywhere on the dancer they aren’t supposed to. The strippers at these places can make $100K a year just dancing, and they aren’t looking to the crowd for sex or boyfriends. (Their primary job isn’t even dancing but stripping men of their money.)

You could have reassured her about all of this if you each hadn’t taken the emotionally easy way out. Instead of talking about her fears, she went all ayatollah on you, and instead of standing up for yourself, you figured you’d just lie to her. Problem-avoiding — rather than laying out your feelings and problem-solving  — tends to bode poorly for a relationship’s survival. Backtrack and try a little adult conversation. You just might convince her that looking isn’t the gateway drug to cheating — much like ogling a Porsche doesn’t lead to grand theft auto. And when you leave for the weekend, she might be more likely to say, “Bye, have a ball” than “Bye, I have your balls.”

 

June wetting       

My fiancée and I are getting married in Hawaii. She planned to have photos shot of us afterward, kissing in the ocean in our formalwear. I’m fine with this, but her dad is absolutely irate. We don’t want kids, so there won’t be any daughter to pass her dress to. Then again, her dad paid almost $3,000 for it, so I get where he’s coming from.


— Middleman

 
There’s her father growling, “Why not just flush my money down the toilet?” (Best that she not answer that with, “I actually had my heart set on taking it out to the ocean and drowning it.”)

Your fiancée is looking to get in on a trend called “trash the dress,” in which the bride gets photographed, post-wedding, destroying her dress while running through muddy woods, playing paintball, frolicking in the city dump, or throwing herself in the ocean. In concept, I love the “elegance goes for a muddy stroll” photos. However, I think this trend is pretty horrible, even when the bride  — rather than the National Bank of Dad  — has paid for her dress and is thus entitled to do whatever she wants with it. Maybe a far more wonderful final photo in your wedding album would be one of another bride — one who can’t afford a dress or much of a dress  — walking down the aisle in your wife-to-be’s $3,000 gown. You’d be kicking off your marriage with an act of kindness, and she could still do the shot in the ocean  — say, in a $35 sundress  — or perhaps on the beach, dancing around the fire you light to burn all of your wedding gifts.

© 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 (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon.

Get Amy Alkon’s new book, Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

All is not flossed  

I’ve gone out several times with a girl I really like, but her breath bothers me enough that I don’t want to kiss her until it improves. (It smells like pepper and socks.) She doesn’t smoke, eat stinky foods, or have an odd diet (beyond not eating red meat), so I’m not sure where this is coming from. I think her feelings might be hurt if I were to say something. What’s the best approach?

 

— Holding My Breath  

 

 
When you read a book about the horrible chemical weapons used in World War I, you shouldn’t think, “Hey, that reminds me of kissing my girlfriend.”

People will tell you that you can just give the girl a hinty-poo in the form of gum or a mint. And sure, Altoids can eliminate persistently bad breath — if the person who has it gets killed in an avalanche of them. But terrible breath that isn’t caused by something a person ate or eats regularly could point to dental problems — issues even “curiously strong mints” can’t fix, not even when combined with a really strong mouthwash, like Lysol Basin, Tub & Tile Cleaner.

There’s a common misconception — held even by many doctors and dentists — that serious bad breath originates in the stomach, notes the health care research-vetting group the Cochrane Collaboration. In fact, only 9 percent of the cases at an “oral malodor” clinic were caused by things such as gastric imbalances, diet and sinus infections. But 86 percent of the cases originated orally — most caused by gross microscopic critters relaxing and playing poker on a person’s tongue.   

Studies find that these microbe meetups can be shut down with tongue scraping, at least for a while, but you can’t just present this girl with a Tiffany’s box with a silver tongue scraper. (“Thinking of you …”) Sure, you may lose her if you say something, but if you don’t, you’ll almost definitely have to ditch her or have your sinuses filled with cement.

To break the news, start positive: “I find you totally hot and an amazing person, but I have to tell you: There’s a sort of ongoing issue with your breath, and I’ve read that this can point to dental issues or a need for tongue scraping.” Assuming she isn’t so mortified that she dumps you, this news is likely to send her to the dentist and/or to the drugstore for a tongue scraper. This, in turn, should get you longing to kiss her — a far more enjoyable act once you’re no longer dating a woman who maybe looks like Xena the warrior princess but tastes like Xena’s horse after it’s licked the break room refrigerator.

 

Out of leftover field      

My buddy was hit on by a girl he plays softball with, but he politely told her he is married, and they’ve since become friends. Recently, he set me up with her. She’s actually very cute and nice, but I can tell that she still likes my friend. I feel like a consolation prize. Is that just in my head? Should I let this girl go even though I like her? 

— Runner-Up

People often give their romantic partners food-related nicknames. Maybe yours can be “my little half-eaten muffin that somebody handed the homeless guy.”

This woman knows in her rational mind that there’s a big wife-shaped roadblock between her and your friend. The problem is, when she initially turned getting him into a goal, she switched on the human motivational system, which is highly efficient in maintaining a craving but lacks an off switch for easily discontinuing one. As for where this leaves you, well, in game show terms, your friend’s the trip to Bermuda; you’re the set of steak knives.

When somebody you want still wants somebody else, the temptation is to chase after them and then tie them to a chair and pontificate on your greatness. That’s the most counterproductive thing you could do. This isn’t to say you have to give up on this girl. Just forgo hot pursuit for lukewarm pursuit. Instead of going whole hog, go one-eighth or one-sixteenth hog. In practical terms, make yourself occasionally available but generally somewhat scarce. She should have the sense that you’re also dating other women, and ideally, you are doing that. A month from now, if she’s still looking at your buddy the way a dog looks at a piece of bacon teetering on a counter ledge, it’s probably time to move on. When your future wife tells the grandkids, “I’ll always remember when I first saw your granddad,” the rest of that shouldn’t be, “Because I’ve still got the hots for the guy who fixed us up.”


© 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 (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon.

Get Amy Alkon’s new book, Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).

 

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 
 

Are we having fund yet?  

I’m a single mother with a 12-year-old son. Four years ago, when my boyfriend fell in love with me, he would buy me clothes and jewelry. He also promised to build a house for my son and me to live in. (We can’t live with him, because he repairs motorcycles from home and it’s loud day and night.) Well, he is building the house but now says it’s for his mother — a woman living perfectly fine on her monthly Social Security checks. I work six days a week and still have trouble making ends meet, despite my boyfriend’s giving me $400 to $500 a month. He keeps making promises that get me excited and make me want to stick around, like that he’ll take me to Hawaii one day. I love him, but I fantasize about having a boyfriend I could live with so he could help me with the rent and bills.

 

— Conflicted

    
We all dream of finding that special someone to pay the cable bill.

There’s looking for love, and there’s looking for some man to take over where Daddy left off on your allowance. You do say you love this guy — well, somewhere in there, between all the grumbling over money, clothes, jewelry, trips, and elderly moms getting houses. Compare your kind of love with my favorite definition, by sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein: “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” This implies a level of effort — beyond waiting around, frowning, with your hand out, for that other person to slap a handful of $100s into it.

The truth is, money actually can buy happiness, because the possibility of having real love starts with not having to choose boyfriends according to which provides the best financial aid package. Monetary independence would also allow you to have higher standards for a partner than you can now. Though no man owes you a home or a trip to Hawaii (are you dating a man or a game show?), promises should mean something. You wouldn’t have to stick around to see which promise your boyfriend breaks next if you could go to the ATM and get a stack of your own money (instead of what the ATM probably spits out now — increasingly rude receipts: “Cash? Are you nuts, lady? You’re more overdrawn than Greece”).

Consider taking steps to become independent, like living a more “European” existence. (Europeans seem content with far smaller living spaces, fewer appliances, and not living life as a mad dash to get the next shiny new whatever.) You could get a roommate or move in with one — perhaps some other single mom whose values you seem to share. And you could figure out and work on ways to improve your earning power. It won’t be easy street, but it should eventually prove far more satisfying than sitting around feeling cheated out of a house and resenting some old lady (already living the high life on her Social Security checks!) for not reusing more of her teabags.

 

Jerk stoppage      

What’s with a man who fathered three children with three different women but never married any of them? He always cheats on girlfriends and then just moves on to the next. Sadly, I was the most recent. By the time I learned how he operates, I was very much in love with him. I told him he’ll end up a sad old man with no one to care for him, but he still won’t work on our problems; he just left and is now with some new woman. When does he pay the piper?

   

— Still In Love With Him And Hating That

Unfortunately, “paying the piper” is just a metaphor, out of a folk tale about a town with a rat infestation and a mayor who tried to stiff the medieval cousin of the Orkin Man. As for your rat problem, the state may make this guy pay child support, but they can’t make him come back and talk about his feelings. You say you love the guy. But you don’t. You love who he pretended to be, like in one of those movies where Mr. Wonderful’s face finally falls off, revealing the creepy space alien underneath. You’ve now seen the creep. Focus on that, and use it to avoid being fooled again. Even the cleverest deceiver will have little truths that leak out — behaviors that don’t match their words. We’re prone to focus on the good things about a person, but it’s essential to also look for the bad. It’s the bad stuff that leaves you filled with longing — for your boyfriend to be thrown in somebody’s trunk, tried for crimes against womankind, and sentenced to spend the rest of his life being belittled on national TV by Dr. Phil.


© 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 (advicegoddess.com).

Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon.

Get Amy Alkon’s new book, Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).

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