The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess


The File High Club                

A year ago, a co-worker I had a crush on made moves on me after hours at work, and we stopped just short of having sex. I saw him as a potential boyfriend, and I emphasized that I was not interested in casual sex. He told me at the time that he had broken up with his girlfriend but two days later said they’d made up. Several times since, when his relationship has been on the rocks, he’s suggested we have sex. I told him I want no physical contact with him ever again, and now he rarely speaks to me, despite seeing me daily at work. I considered him a friend, so I’m devastated he took advantage of me and was only interested in cheating. I’m finding it really hard to heal and move on.    

— Disturbed

If there’s a next logical step after late-night office sexytime, it probably isn’t “Now that we’re done despoiling the conference table, let’s go meet each other’s parents!”

Remember dating? People who want relationships — especially female people who aren’t up for anything less — go on dates before they go on the conference table. This isn’t to say women should never have after-hours fun with some guy at work; it’s just that if you want a relationship, having sex before he gets emotionally attached is a risky strategy — one that often leads to just sex. Or just sex whenever his relationship is on the rocks.

Sure, you “emphasized” that you don’t want casual sex — a statement that probably buzzed on papery little wings around the guy’s ear before getting squished by his sex drive. Women evolved to be the Missouri of human sexuality — Missouri’s nickname being “the Show-Me State.” Women protect themselves by being what evolutionary psychologists Martie Haselton and David Buss call “commitment skeptics” — holding off having sex while seeking evidence of a man’s willingness to invest (beyond an evening of semi-naked fun in a desk chair). As for men, research by psychologists Russell Clark and Elaine Hatfield confirms what most of us have observed numerous times: As long as a woman has a moderate level of attractiveness, a man’s likely to want to have sex with her. In other words, while women are the sexual gatekeepers, for men, there is no gate. There isn’t even a fence.

Sure, it’s disappointing when a man you’re picturing in the “future boyfriend” slot just wants to have sex. But feeling insulted about that is like my feeling insulted that my 5-pound dog tries to have sex with my arm — apparently some sort of odd biological imperative that my arm and I don’t take personally.

To move on, turn this into a learning experience so you can protect yourself in the future. This starts with admitting that you got sucked in not because of something this guy did but because you let ego and emotion do the driving while reason was gagged, hogtied and left for dead in the trunk. Accept that it’s your responsibility to vet whether a situation would ultimately work for you instead of leaving the guardianship of your needs to others — others whose agenda may not match yours. Yes, I’m hinting that many men will tell a woman just about anything to get sex. (Just ask a man whose grandma has died suddenly and tragically … dozens of times.)


Feral hugs                  

After casual sex, why do some men spend all night spooning and cuddling? This just happened for the second time, and it really messes with my head. My nesting inclination kicks in, and I start fantasizing about engagement rings. And I’m not some needy little thing.    

— Confused

It’s like when the plane’s landing gear is malfunctioning and a person grabs the hand of the stranger seated next to them … not because that person means something to them but because it feels better than possibly dying alone in a fiery explosion.

Casual sex, like grain alcohol and ladies’ clingy knitwear, isn’t for everyone. In research by anthropologist John Marshall Townsend, many women who just wanted sex from a guy still woke up the morning after with worries like “Does he care about me?” and “Is sex all he was after?” This is perhaps because of the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin — upon orgasm or from intense cuddling. (In men, testosterone goes all defensive lineman, tackling the oxytocin and blocking it from getting to its receptor.) Understanding this may lead you to rethink hooking up. At the very least, you should take precautions for safe sex — like asking “Where’s the fire escape?” and telling a guy about the tender talk you need immediately afterward … such as “You can let yourself out” and “Don’t forget to leave the parking pass in my mailbox.” 

© 2015, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail ( Weekly radio show: Order 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


The shoo must go on                

I’ve been dating this guy long distance for six months. He’ll often fail to return texts for an entire day or even a few days. I keep breaking up with him, but he keeps apologizing, acknowledging that he can be “distracted” and then offering convincing excuses or making me feel I’m overreacting. This is getting old.    

— Annoyed

Is there some crater somewhere where all his promises go to die?

There is sometimes a good reason your boyfriend can’t return your text for days, like that it’s 790 B.C. and there’s a snowstorm and he’s sending his eunuch with the bum knee over the Alps with a set of stone tablets. When there is no good reason, his acknowledging an error, like by admitting to being “distracted,” is a first step in mending his ways. That is, except when he shows you — repeatedly — that it’s his only step (perhaps because it’s tricky to text you back when his other, more local girlfriend is sitting right next to him).

Getting somebody to respect your boundaries starts with appearing to have them. Sure, there are sometimes allowances to be made, like for an all-nighter at work or illness. As a friend of mine once wrote: “Sorry I didn’t respond to your email; I was in a coma.” But a man who cares about you generally acts in ways reflecting that — like by dashing off a text to tell you “sleepy – w/write u in am” or “kidnapped. w/be in touch w/ransom demand.” Instead, this guy gives you yet another apology — which basically translates to “Sorry that it’ll be a few days before I can do this to you again.”

To have a caring, attentive man, you’ll need to make room for him in your life. You do this the same way you make room for a new TV: by putting the old broken one out on the curb. It’s tempting to keep believing the excuses, which allows you to believe that you’re loved. Unfortunately, believing you’re loved never plays out like actually being loved. The problem is, in the moment, our emotions are our first responder, and reason — that slacker — burrows under the covers, hoping it won’t get called in to work.

Overriding wishful thinking-driven gullibility takes planning — having a pre-packed set of standards for how you want to be treated and then pulling them out at excuse o’clock and holding them up to how you’re actually being treated. This is how you end up with a boyfriend who keeps his word. Keeps it and puts it on his phone and texts it to you — as opposed to keeping it in a drawer with slightly used chopsticks, old answering machine tapes, and a Ziploc baggie of his sister’s hamster’s ashes.


Socks and The City                 

I’m a 31-year-old straight guy. I dress pretty boringly — except for my socks. I go for crazy colors and patterns. My buddy says these make me look “weird” and “less manly.” Come on. Do women really want you to be a carbon copy of every black-sock-wearing dude out there?  

— Mr. Fun

In the sock department, as in other areas, it’s the nuances that count. So, go ahead and make a statement — but maybe one that stops short of “I’m really a Japanese schoolgirl!”

Novelty sock wearing for men has actually been a thing in North America for a few years. The really wacky ones may work as what anthropologists and animal behaviorists call a “costly signal.” This is an extravagant or risky trait or behavior that comes with a substantial price — handicapping a person’s or critter’s survival or chances of mating — thus suggesting that it’s a reliable sign of their quality. An example is a peacock with a particularly lush (and heavy) tail. His managing to escape predators while dragging around big feathered hindquarters like a train on a royal wedding dress tells peahens (girl peacocks) that he must be a real Chuck Norris among big feathery birds.

Still, there are costly signals — “I’m man enough” — and too-costly signals: “It’s raining men! Hallelujah!” To figure out where the line lies for you, average all the variables: degree of manliness, girliness of sock choice, occupation (like if you’re a British graphic designer or a guy who goes to work in oversize red shoes), and the eccentricity level of the women you like. But keep in mind that certain socks are risky for any man, such as — and yes, these actually exist — Superman insignia socks, complete with tiny red capes attached. Sure, let your socks tell a woman that you want to take her home with you — but maybe not so you can tear off all your clothes and make her watch as you play with your action figures in your Superman Underoos. 

© 2015, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail ( Weekly radio show: Order 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


Smells like bean spirit               

My girlfriend of a year is 51 and lovely in most areas — except one: She often passes gas and recently started belching audibly. She is a psychotherapist, dresses nicely, and has great figure. However, she grew up in a male-dominated, military home. She thinks I’m “weird” and “overly sensitive” to be disturbed by these behaviors, but I, like most men, like the whole “feminine” thing. I now feel less attracted to her, and our sex life has diminished somewhat. I wonder whether I’m being tested in some way.    

— Bummed

“Audible” is an audiobook producer; it shouldn’t describe your girlfriend’s butt.

OK, so she grew up in a military family — the lone sister trying to fit in with the “band of brothers.” (Semper fffffffffft!) But that was then, and this is now. These days, if she spots some lady with 11 items in the “10 items or less” lane, I’m guessing she doesn’t whip out the sat phone to order a drone strike on the woman’s minivan. Likewise, you aren’t unreasonable in asking her to respect the difference between free expression and too-free expression. (Your role in the relationship shouldn’t be “Courage Under Fire.”)

Some couples do view being gross in front of each other as an endurance test for love — a sort of “Survivor: El Bano” — as if they’ve got something so special that it transcends their seeing their beloved straining on the throne. And, sure, if you love someone and they get sick, you don’t stop loving them because you’re holding their hair back while they’re puking their guts out. But the reality is, it’s hard enough to keep the sexy alive over time when you really make an effort. As for your girlfriend’s insistence on crop-dusting her way across the bedroom, way to clear a room, lady — of all sexual attraction.

Explain to your girlfriend that of course there’ll be the occasional accidental toot in yoga class. (To air is human!) But love involves treating someone as if they matter. Even when you think their concerns are “weird.” (Crazy that you don’t find it the height of femininity when your girlfriend interrupts sexytime with “Come on, pull my finger!”)

Tell her that you’re hurt that your feelings don’t seem to mean enough for her to curtail her behavior in the most minor way — the way that she surely does at cocktail parties and around her patients. (Please tell me that as some tearful guy tells her about his traumatic childhood, she isn’t lifting a leg and letting one rip: “Wow, those nightshade vegetables really don’t agree with me!”)

If she keeps on keeping on, give some thought to whether she’s loving enough for you to continue seeing. When you have a girlfriend who blows you away, it should probably be with her kindness, intelligence and beauty — and not the chimichangas she had for lunch.


Meet Joe Blank —                

I’d really like the guy I’m dating to compliment me more. I know he’s super-attracted to me, but he’s not very complimentary, and it makes me feel that he doesn’t think I’m pretty. How do I get him to compliment me without the awkward “Don’t you think I look hot?”  

— Insecure

Unfortunately, men tend to do poorly at hint-taking. So, no, you can’t just stand next to the kitchen table in your cute new skirt after laying out Doritos in the shape of a question mark. But because male sexuality is visual, it’s comforting to know that your boyfriend’s looking across a party at you and thinking “I want you” and not “I want you to move over so I can see that hot woman behind you.” And it turns out that complimenting you is actually good for him, too. Research on gratitude by psychologist Sara Algoe suggests that the stock-taking that goes into a person’s expressing appreciation for their partner works as a sort of emotional Post-it note, reminding them of how good they have it. And the appreciation itself tends to leave both partners feeling more bonded and satisfied with the relationship.

Instead of fishing for a compliment in the moment — yicky and humiliating — take advantage of how men like to know they’re making their woman happy and tell him (and remind him, if necessary) that you love hearing it when he thinks you look good. But you might also recognize that he’s been complimenting you, just not in a chatty way. (As you noted, “I know he’s super-attracted to me.”) And sure, there are men out there who’d be far more naturally verbal about their feelings — men who haven’t exactly walked a mile in your stilettos but have a pair that looks a lot like them in size 14 extra-extra-wide.

© 2015, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail ( Weekly radio show: Order 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 the single M’ladies              

I read your manners book and loved it. I just feel that for most men, chivalry is dead. Maybe feminism killed it, and maybe men have just gotten lazy. Well, I was staying over at a (platonic) male friend’s house, keeping him company because he’s sick with cancer. Despite that, I woke up to him serving me breakfast in bed! Is it really so much to ask for a guy I’m actually sleeping with to at least hold the door open for me? I mean, come on!     

— Disappointed Woman

Especially if you’re under 30, expecting a man to open a door for you can be a bit like expecting him to remove his cape and lay it across a puddle or challenge your neighbor to a duel for blocking your driveway with his trash cans.

What we still call “chivalry” got its formal start in medieval times. It was a knightly code entailing, among other things, courage, honor and the defense of those more physically delicate — as in, women and children (who were not exactly grabbing battle-axes, donning blue face paint, and going all Mel Gibson on the fields of Scotland).

But chivalry actually traces back through millions of years of evolution. As developmental psychologist Joyce Benenson writes in Warriors and Worriers, an excellent new book on evolved sex differences, “Throughout most of human history, men and women have specialized in different behaviors necessary to ensure the survival of their children to adulthood.” Men evolved to be warriors, physically and psychologically prepared to do battle in a way women are not. Most men have far more muscle mass and physical strength than women and far more of the hormone of aggression, testosterone. Even very young boys show a love (not shared by girls) of play fighting, of having an “enemy” to battle, and of weaponry — to the point where Benenson finds it common for boys in preschool who lack toy guns to shoot “bullets” out of a doll’s head.

In addition to women being physically weaker, research finds that they are more fearful than men — from infancy on — and rarely engage in physical fighting. This makes sense, Benenson points out, as physical injury would jeopardize a woman’s ability to have children or to survive to protect the ones she’s already had. So women evolved to prefer men who would protect them and their children — a preference that is still with us today. (Our genes are clueless about the women’s movement and the fact that a woman can defend herself just fine by using a pink Glock with a Hello Kitty slide cover plate.)

This is why it makes sense for men today to at least symbolically show they are protectors, like by putting their coat around a shivering woman’s shoulders. (This implies that they’d tackle the valet guy or invade Cleveland for her if necessary.) The problem is that men sometimes get hollered at for door opening and such — largely as a result of the bro-ification of women that comes out of feminism’s biology-snubbing confusion of “equal” with “the same.” So, before the first date, a man should ask a woman where she stands on this stuff. And you should let men know the sort of woman you are — one who responds to a door being held for her by flipping her hair and saying thank you, not twirling her mustache and snarling, “Smash the patriarchy!”


Hitting rocker bottom              

I have a crush on this really hot musician guy. I know he’s trouble with a capital “T.” He’s super-charming, handsome and promiscuous. (He’s “slaying” on Tinder — juggling women and getting lots of sex.) My plan is to become friends with him first — as a prelude to becoming his girlfriend. I feel like that might give me some insurance against being one of the ones he just uses and tosses.

— Strategic

What a sweet person you are, trying to show this guy that there’s more to life than Tinder-swiping his way to empty sex with a bunch of near strangers — or, as he probably refers to it, sexual Disneyland. Women, especially, have a tendency to believe in the transformative power of their fabulousness. And sure, people do change — when their life is no longer making them happy (or, in his case, thrilled, ecstatic, and out of his manhussy mind with joy). And though a man who feels emotionally attached to a woman is more likely to stick around after sex, he also has to be up for a relationship to begin with. In other words, by becoming this guy’s friend first, yes, you could become a very special person in his life — the woman he knows he can always drop in on when he can’t find his phone charger.

© 2015, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail ( Weekly radio show: Order 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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