the advice goddess

the advice goddess

Looking for the gaia next door

I’m an Occupy girl, age 45, into eco-shamanism and planetary consciousness stuff. I’ve mostly dated engineers with a playful side who initially seemed open to my interests but quickly became resentful of them. My boyfriend of two years is different — easygoing and willing to expand his horizons. He actually reads the articles I post on Facebook and discusses them with me. We laugh effortlessly and are very giving to each other, but I can’t shake the feeling that I should look for somebody more my type (more artistically, politically, and spiritually inclined). I fantasize about meeting an artistic shamanic guy who is gorgeous and open and shares my sense of purpose, but the truth is, guys in my social milieu can be very competitive, neurotic, and immature. I guess my question is: If you can IMAGINE a better partner, does that mean you should break up?

— Restless

These guys you dated probably believed they were open-minded … until they were invited by their eco-shamanistic girlfriend to something like the “Embrace of the Earth” rite, in which participants spend the night in a grave they dig themselves. As refreshing as you may find it to “tap into the earth’s restorative energies,” their first thought probably went something like “Thanks, I’ll take the night on the 800 thread count, slave-labor-made sheets. Could you turn on my electric blanket, please, before you go?”

If a guy thinks a girl’s hot, he’ll buy into whatever her trip is for as long as he can. My steak-loving boyfriend once dated a militant vegan. (He’d hit the Burger King drive-through on his way home.) Obviously, it’s a problem if you go out with some engineer dude, tell him you’re an “Occupy girl,” and he says, “Wow, my company designs the water cannons the police use to spray you people.” But, your current restlessness may stem from the notion that it’s a great big drum circle out there with a lot of chakra healer-boys and past-life counselors in it.

Having a lot of choice sounds great, but research by social psychologist Dr. Sheena Iyengar suggests that most people get overwhelmed when they have more than a handful of options. Essentially, when it seems the sky’s the limit, we’re prone to keep looking skyward. We end up not choosing at all, or we choose poorly and end up dissatisfied. A solution for this is “satisficing,” a strategy from economist Herbert Simon of committing to the “good-enough” choice — instead of marching off on a never-ending search for spiritually evolved, Burning Man-certified perfection.

Sure, you can probably find your eco-shamanistic cloneboy — a guy who’ll take the initiative in signing you both up for “soul retrieval training” when you worry that you forgot yours at Macy’s in a past life. But then maybe he’ll go all hateful on you on the way home about whether to save the whales or go to the movies. The longer your list of must-haves in a man, the more you shrink your pool of potential partners. Your own appeal is also a factor, and it’s probably narrowed by things like not being 22 and your plumpitude, if any. Consider whether it’s possible to have friends be your spiritual colleagues and have that be enough. You can wish for the gorgeous, artistic, shamanic perfect man — along with world peace and all the hemp bacon you can eat. But, maybe the realistic man is your sweet spiritual trainee who is fun and giving, dutifully rinses off his used foil, and smiles and pulls the Prius over when you tell him that your spirit animal needs to pee.

Sperm limits

I’m a 32-year-old woman who doesn’t particularly like kids. I told my last boyfriend I didn’t want kids, but three years in, he said he wanted a family and left. He said he thought I’d eventually change my mind. How do I keep this from happening again?

— Nobody’s Mom

You can’t just sit down on the first date and ask a man if his semen has a lifeplan. But, let a kid-wanting man get attached (even second date-attached) and he’ll want to believe you’ll eventually mommy up. So right on date one, you need to drop into conversation that you aren’t a “kid person.” Make sure a guy responds like he’s gotten the bottom-line message: His sperm, your egg, they ain’t gonna party. Now, some guys might not have fully considered the issue of kids, so you might weave the subject in on subsequent dates for reinforcement. If you’re 22, a major compatibility issue is “Eeuw, you like Coldplay?” At 32, you really need to know up front if one of you is musing “I wonder what we’ll name the twins” and the other’s thinking “Whatever they called them at the pound is fine by me.”

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

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 — — 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


Dim and her

I’m having a whirlwind romance with a man I met online on Thanksgiving. I moved across the country to live with him on Dec. 20, and we’re now building a life together. The problem is I have a high IQ (137), and he’s very unintelligent and illogical. It’s hard to have a good conversation unless we talk about sex. It’s too late to leave now, so … any advice on how to keep our IQ difference from ripping us apart when things are less new and exciting? I really love him, as he’s pure of heart. And boy, is he sexy and great in bed! So far, I’ve held back from telling him when he’s gullible or irrational, but I worry that I’ll eventually call him something nasty — like “idiot.” I don’t want to hurt him. I crave his company and love him for who he is, not what he knows.

— The Smarter One

Is there a chance you cheated on your IQ test? You seem to pride yourself on your intelligence, yet you spent a few weeks chitchatting on the Internet with some dull blade, dropped everything and moved across the country to live with him. Now, you two lovebirds are “building a life together” — that is, whenever you aren’t too busy grumbling about needing your intellectual equal and not the coffee table’s.

You might “love him for who he is,” but you also despise him for who he isn’t. Oops. Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman found that expressions of contempt are the greatest predictor that a couple will go kaput. Of course, anybody you get involved with will have some annoying habits or flaws that challenge the relationship. Relatively benign bad habits are things like snoring, and for that, you can get those little strips to put on your partner’s nose. What’s the answer here, strapping a piece of duct tape across his mouth?

Check out your completely lame excuse for staying: “It’s too late to leave now.” Now check your feet. Bolted to the floorboards? If not, what’s keeping you there is probably irrational thinking that economists call the “sunk cost fallacy” — deciding to keep investing in some endeavor based on what you’ve already invested (an unrecoverable cost) rather than assessing how your investment will pay off (if at all) in the future. People are especially prone to overvalue prior investment when their ego is also invested — like when sticking around helps them continue the fiction that they’ve behaved wisely in going all-in with a guy whose intellectual “spirit animal” is probably the amoeba.

Fools rush in, but the real fools find themselves facedown in a pool of “boy, was I dumb” and get busy coming up with reasons why staying there is a wise idea. In The Folly of Fools, anthropologist Dr. Robert Trivers explains self-deceptions like yours, noting the difference between intelligence and consciousness: “You can be very bright but unconscious.” When you realize you’ve been unconscious, you can choose to wake up and cut your losses — before you start saying cutting things to your goodhearted sexy simpleton. To live less sleepwalkingly in the future, reflect on what got you into this — what void you tried to fill by telling your rationality to shut up and go sit in the corner so you could congratulate yourself on the great love you found. And goody for you on what you actually found — some really great sex — but let’s call a cabana boy a cabana boy, lest you turn a story that should be My Hunky Winter Vacation into a move-in special.


I’m with Cupid

What’s with all the Valentine’s Day haters? Some of my single friends celebrate V-Day ironically, and I sense that they look down on my boyfriend and me for celebrating it for real, as if we’re just buying into a giant marketing campaign.

— Romantically Uncool

Occupy Wall Street is so 2011. Trendsetting inequality haters should be occupying Hallmark: “If we don’t get love, you don’t get love, either,”and “This is what a woman without a boyfriend looks like!” Valentine’s Day has been hijacked to sell everything short of heart-shaped rubber vomit. I even got a Valentine’s-linked press release pitching surveillance services. Right. Nothing says “I love you” like installing a keylogger on your partner’s laptop. The louder the hyping of the day, the louder the message that somebody’s a loser if they have nobody to buy a bunch of red merch for. So, your single friends’ cooler-than-thou attitude is understandable, but there’s something better than being cool, and it’s being happy. Let them have their black-frosted cookies with the little dead cupids and their marches against romance-colored corporate greed … well, until next year, when they’re sneaking into Godiva to buy chocolates for the girl they fell in love with after they got pepper-sprayed together.

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail (

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

It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio: Nerd your way to a better life through fascinating and fun discussions about love, dating sex and relationships with the top brains from psychology and science. Listen live every Sunday, 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET (, or download the podcast at the link (click “play in your default player”). Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).

the advice goddess

the advice goddess

Some unenchanted evenings

My boyfriend lacks romantic ambition. In our two years together, we’ve never gone out to dinner someplace I can wear a dress and heels, and he never brings me flowers or does anything for our anniversary or Valentine’s Day. I’ve suggested he pick out lingerie he’d like to see me in and shown him how to set a romantic mood in our apartment. I’ve told him things like “Nothing makes me happier than fresh flowers, especially lilies,” and tried flat-out asking him why he never brings me flowers. He said, “I was thinking about doing it yesterday, but then I forgot! But now that you’ve asked me, I don’t want to because it will seem like I bought them just because you asked.” When I encourage him to take initiative in planning a night out, he’ll say that he’s worried he’ll choose wrong and that I complain about things I don’t like, so I always end up deciding what we do. I know he loves me (from his other actions); I just want some romance! It’s as important to me as good sex and intimacy. Should I just accept this as his flaw?

—  Roseless

You two have a fairy-tale romance. Unfortunately, it’s the part of the fairy tale where two elves stand around scratching themselves in a mud hut.

You aren’t asking for much. It would just be nice if Valentine’s Day felt like something other than a Tuesday and if, on some random Tuesday, he’d stop at the grocery store and pick you up some flowers. Otherwise, even St. Paddy’s Day can be a downer. You’ll see him getting himself a green paper hat and drinking two-for-one green beers — which stands in stark contrast to how he celebrates your anniversary: by getting amnesia.

You’ve done everything but hand him a pictorial to-do list complete with store addresses and closing times. So what’s stopping him? Well, maybe because he doesn’t need this flowers and chocolates business, he thinks you shouldn’t, either. And if he starts doing sweet things for you, he’ll have to keep doing them. And we all know how buying flowers and making reservations at a restaurant with white tablecloths is like breaking rocks in a quarry.

The problem is, as I wrote in a recent column, women evolved to feel a need for commitment cues from men. They didn’t have cute cards back in the Stone Age, but a thoughtful giftie of fresh roadkill (some wildebeest that got trampled by elephants) probably made some ancestral lady’s heart go pitter-patter. And that’s the point here. Falling in love isn’t like falling in a big bottomless hole (one tumble and you’re done). There’s maintenance required. Your boyfriend should care about doing the little things that make you happy. If he doesn’t, maybe instead of going for “long walks on the beach” (planned by you), he should be making short trips out to his car to load up boxes of his stuff.

Explain that you need him to do these things so you feel loved, and explain that the only way he can really go wrong is by doing nothing. Even the smallest remembrances count — like scrawling a heart on a Post-it and anchoring it with a chocolate or drawing “You ’N’ Me Forever” on your dirty car window. You, in turn, need to be sure you show appreciation for whatever effort he does make — even as he’s seductively drinking Champagne out of your scuzzy old bedroom slipper.”

Once you go Lewis Black

My boyfriend loves making fun of me, although he calls it “just ribbing.” I’m not humorless, just tired of hearing about how badly I drive or how long I take to order food. Yesterday I mispronounced “cumin” while reading a recipe, and he had a field day. What ultimately bugs me is that I’m most often made the brunt of a joke when others are around to witness his hilarity.

— Baffled

Just because a convenient subject for humor presents itself (or you happen to pick it up in your car and take it out to a restaurant) doesn’t mean you should seize the opportunity. If your current relationship were a movie, it would be Eat Prey, Love. Good-natured teasing can be a bonding thing, but publicly making fun of somebody sensitive is often an act of aggression. It’s possible that the behaviors your boyfriend “ribs” you about annoy him and his joking is scorn dressed up in clown shoes. Tell him that being the joke butt isn’t working for you and that he either needs to find another source of material or another girlfriend. If he loves you, he’ll take the mature, restrained approach to getting laughs and stand on a chair trying to light his farts on fire. 

(c)2011, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail (

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

It’s Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess Radio: Nerd your way to a better life through fascinating and fun discussions about love, dating sex and relationships with the top brains from psychology and science. Listen live every Sunday, 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET (, or download the podcast at the link (click “play in your default player”). Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code).

the advice goddess

the advice goddess

Shove thy neighbor

My commitment-phobic boyfriend of several years is also my neighbor. I resolved to make it work with him and then caught him on FriendFinder exchanging numerous messages with some woman in Tijuana. He claimed he was just being friendly. I asked if he’d correspond with a guy. He responded, “No. I’m not gay.” Humiliatingly, I’ve let him use me for things he can’t afford. (He’s been unemployed for two years.) He sometimes showers at his tiny apartment but basically uses it for storage. He refuses to move in with me so we could pay expenses with money his grandma gives him for his rent, but he spends all his time at my place (where I pay for everything). He partakes of my cable TV, Internet, food, and beer, and he even eats food I buy specially for my 9-year-old son. Well, he’s now my ex-boyfriend. As he’s been many times before. What’s with him? Is talking to some random woman on the Internet worth losing everything over?

— Fuming

Feminists have hammered into us girls that we aren’t supposed to sit around dreaming of being rescued by some prince. Somehow, I don’t think the alternative’s supposed to be opting for the mooch neighbor who eats your kid’s food while using your DSL to talk to some chiquita in Tijuana.

Reality, like angry little dogs, often bites. Every day, I wake up wishing for home-invasion housecleaners. But, as much as both Nature and I abhor a vacuum, at a certain point, I have to pull one out, lest my rugs provide shelter to a lot of little things with a lot of little legs. You, likewise, can pretend you’ve found Prince Charming, but that won’t transform your Parasite Charming (not even if you throw both hands into the air and say “Poof!” six or seven times, very energetically).

Why do you keep taking him back? You’re probably engaging in “future discounting,” an econ term explaining how we’re prone to forgo big benefits down the road for a small immediate reward. It helps to recognize that you’ll be tempted to go for the quick fix. You’ll be lonely some night and want a snuggle, rationalize all the reasons he isn’t so bad after all, and before you know it, there’ll be a familiar barnacle attaching itself to the beer tap on your hull.

To avoid backsliding, don’t rely on yourself to gin up self-control in the moment; use tricks like “precommitment” to your goal, a strategy originated by Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas Schelling and recommended by Dr. Roy Baumeister and John Tierney in their book, Willpower. Precommitment involves setting things up in advance so it’s hard to cheat. Research suggests that two of the most helpful measures are recruiting others to monitor your progress and establishing financial penalties for relapse — the higher, the better. It also helps to give yourself small rewards for daily good behavior. Maybe put aside $5 on each day you don’t call him and give yourself occasional lump-sum rewards (like at the two months loser-free mark). The website can help. (You can configure it to forfeit your money to a cause you hate if you fail.) Research from Baumeister’s lab also suggests that practicing daily self-discipline unrelated to your goal (say, making yourself a weird green health shake every morning) increases overall self-control. This should increase your self-respect. Which should increase your chances of having a man in your life who sings your praises — stuff like “your lips are like wine,” not “your Wi-Fi’s, like, free.”

Idle worship

I’ve been delighted and humbled by my interactions with this girl who goes to my favorite coffee shop. She is in a band and probably has lots of dates and fans, but I keep picturing us together, and not just sexually — making dinner, going on hikes, doing little couple-y things. I’m not sure why she’d want to go out with me, but I can’t stop thinking about her.  

— Baffled

It’s the teenage fangirl approach to being a man. (Are your bedroom walls plastered with photos of her that you took while pretending to check your phone?) Here you are imagining this woman running slow-motion through a field of daisies into your arms. The reality: She’s walking out of the coffee shop, probably without giving you a second thought. Yes, she might be out of your league. There’s a way to know for sure in seconds, and it’s by asking her out. Pining over a woman transforms her from a person to an unapproachable ideal. The more you grow your fantasy girl the more impossible it’ll be for you to speak to the real deal. If you want an imaginary something in your life, have an imaginary goldfish. Should things go badly, you could make it die an imaginary death and flush it down your imaginary toilet. 

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

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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