The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess


His back to the wallet

My girlfriend of a year is enormously wealthy and very generous. Despite my protestations, she loves buying me nice clothes and other gifts, and appears to expect little or nothing in return except my love. I have a professional job but much more modest means. There’s no way I can return her generosity in any material sense. How might I be able to give a visible and meaningful sign of my commitment to her? She wears rings on both hands with huge diamonds, and anything I might be able to afford would seem trivial by comparison.  

— Underfunded

It’s a losing battle, giving jewelry to a woman who prompts thoughts like “Is that a diamond on your finger or have they discovered a new planet and given it to you to wear?”

You’re actually lucky you can’t take the spendy way out. It makes it too easy to drag a duffel bag of cash to the obvious places: the jewelry store, the cashmere store, the handbags that cost more than some compact cars store. These items aren’t exactly horrible gifts, but a better choice is “the gift that keeps on giving,” which, I know, sounds like something you get from drinking the water in Mexico. It actually describes a feeling you give another person — the feeling that she’s loved — through showing her that it means a lot to you to make her happy, and not just on Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and days you’re trying to say you’re sorry for doing something you shouldn’t have.

By truly listening when a woman talks and then using the intel you get to make her life happier, easier and more fun, you tell her a very loving thing: “I’m paying attention to who you are.” You can say this by going out of your way to pick her up a latte or her favorite snack; by making a $50 book with your photos and captions about all the things you love about her (,; by sending sweet, funny, 30-second videos you shoot of yourself on your phone; and by fixing things she didn’t realize were unwieldy, uncomfortable, or broken until you made them better. In other words, any guy with a spare $100,000 lying around can buy a woman a ginormous diamond. It takes a really special guy to give her a bag of pinecones (assuming he’s trying to remind her of happy times she spent at her family’s cabin as a kid, and not just getting rid of tree litter he cleaned out of the bed of his pickup).


Fifty Shades of Gay

My girlfriend and I are lesbians in our mid 30s and totally committed. She’s pretty and more feminine than I am and likes getting male attention, and she gets it — in restaurants, bars, pretty much anyplace public. Last night at dinner, some cute waiter dude was flirting with her, and she flirted back (nothing crazy, just teasing him, etc.). I got really upset. She apologized and reassured me that she’s just playing, and that it was harmless because she wasn’t flirting with a cute girl. Besides not getting why she’s into this, I find myself resenting guys for not respecting our relationship, or worse, not even noticing it.

— The Girlfriend

The next time a guy comes up and says, “Hi, I’m Jeremy. I’m your waiter,” you could just grab your girlfriend’s boob and say, “Hi, we’re Samantha and Karen, and we’re life partners.” Otherwise, it’s mostly a big straight world out there, so people won’t always get that you’re together — assuming you aren’t dating Rachel Maddow or sporting matching crew cuts, grandpa cardigans, and combat boots.

As for why your girlfriend flirts, flirting is a form of play — and a ploy. People, gay and straight, flirt their way to free drinks or a better deal at the tire shop, to get confirmation that they’ve still “got it,” or to flex their charm to make themselves and other people feel good. (No, when the supermarket cashier teasingly cards the 9,000-year-old lady, it isn’t because he’s looking to get busy with her in the back seat of his car.)

If there’s no reason to suspect your girlfriend is cheating on you, or would, and if she’s only bantering briefly, not making you feel ignored, consider whether it’s really her flirting you’re upset about. (Maybe there are underlying insecurities or problems that need addressing?) It’s generally a bad idea to cramp your partner’s style, and especially when you know that her “relationship” with the waiter will end with her leaving him a tip — the monetary kind, not an idea of what it might take for him to slide her around on the Kinsey Scale.

(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


Unlucky in shove

My husband was a heavy-drinking, drug-taking skirt-chaser who worked only sporadically, so I divorced him three years ago. He quit drinking and drugs, renounced skirt chasing, and was constantly professing his love for me, so I took him back on the condition that he contributes financially. He soon started behaving badly. He does no housework, misuses my tools and appliances, and never buys anything or replaces things he breaks, including major appliances. When I bring up an issue, he talks loudly and nonsensically over me. I now say nothing until things get outrageous — like when he inspects my dinner plate to make sure I don’t have more food than he does. (If he feels shortchanged, he’ll reach into my food and help himself!) One Sunday, he disappeared, later claiming he was with a female coworker and, supposedly, her husband. Yesterday, he retreated to my closet to talk to another woman on the phone while I prepared dinner. Upon emerging, he complained his food was cold. He sees nothing wrong with his behavior, and I’m not supposed to question any of it. Is this relationship worth trying to save?

— Upset

In love, it’s the little things that count, like keeping your boyfriend’s food warm while he’s in your closet talking to another woman.

There’s apparently a thin line between contempt and hate. The way another man would gaze lovingly at the spray of his girlfriend’s freckles, your boyfriend only has eyes for your dinner — lest you have .16 of an ounce more mashed potatoes than he does. When he grabs a handful off your plate, you may finally squeak out a word or two in protest. He’ll of course do the gentlemanly thing — plug his ears and start mooing at the top of his lungs.

You only mention emotional abuse, but like a woman who’s always “falling down the stairs” and giving herself a black eye, you’ve probably been living for scraps — the declarations of love between the abuse, or the declarations you used to get. This has you asking the entirely wrong question, “Is this relationship worth trying to save?” The essential question (about this or any relationship) is “Does this person make me feel happy — and loved?” And in this case, the answer to that question is another question: “Hey, anybody know anybody who delivers moving boxes 24/7?”

As you’ve seen, denying reality doesn’t make it go away; it allows ugly behavior to become “the new normal” — until you find yourself wondering whether to get a second phone line and an outlet for a hotplate installed in the closet. You point yourself toward happier times by being honest about the relationship you have instead of pretending it’s the relationship you want. This takes accepting that being human means being prone to emotionally-driven errors in judgment — in this case, maybe because you are longing for love, are loath to admit to another failed romantic investment, and dread being alone. Of course, as I’ve written before, there’s nothing lonelier than feeling alone while in a relationship with somebody else — especially somebody who claims to love you and then shows it by bringing absolutely nothing to the table but a finely-calibrated scale.


Background checks and balances

Say you’re engaged and mutually decide to end the relationship. What’s the socially-acceptable amount of time you should wait before dating again? In this age of social networking and constant sharing of photos and events, we’re almost back to a small-town model where people are privy to all our business. It’s likely a guy would see that I’d only been out of an engagement a short time and get worried.

— Three Months Single

The Internet can make a lot of first-date conversation seem irrelevant. Before you even sit down at the restaurant, there’s a good chance your date’s hacked into your Facebook page, dug up your parole officer’s home phone number, Google-Earthed your house from space and then zoomed in to see how you look weeding in a bikini. But what he can’t know from Web searches are the nuances, like whether you might be somebody who was out of her relationship in her head long before she could, for example, figure out how to divide the dog. If that’s the case, just be open with the guys you date about your circumstances. Some guys may rule you out before you get a chance to explain. But remember the stuff you probably complain about with your girlfriends, like how a hot woman can cause the male IQ to plunge to that of a jelly sandwich. If a guy’s into you, he’ll probably go out with you first and worry later about minor details — like, say, how your last five boyfriends all appear to have committed suicide by shooting themselves in the back.

(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).

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess


The son almost never rises

Two years ago, after dating a wonderful lady for a year, I married her and moved in with her. The problem is her 23-year-old son. He lives with us, has never held a job, doesn’t go to school, and does nothing but eat, sleep and poop. I’ve worked since I was 14, my wife and I both work hard now, and it’s grating to have such laziness always in my face. My wife knows this and says he’s been trying to get a job for more than two years. (He shows no signs he’s looking.) I’m starting to feel played by my wife. How long should I put up with this?

— Thinning Patience

Of course it grates on you, providing free room and board to an adult man whose main source of income is birthday cards from grandma.

And yes, you’ve been played — not by your wife, but by what economists call “optimism bias.” This is the human predisposition to believe things will work out for the best and to gloss over worrisome details, like how your wife’s layabout son would suddenly become industrious at something besides being a role model for moss.

Your wife has confused coddling with love — maybe for 23 years or maybe since feeling guilty about getting a divorce. After years of go-right-ahead mommying, it’s no small task to inspire your step-slug to expand his life goals beyond napping more, watching more interesting porn, and trying all the varieties of Doritos. (The guy standing in the traffic median holding a sign asking for spare change shows more autonomy and dignity. At least he wrote a message on a piece of cardboard and is ambulatory.)

Give your wife props for trying to be a good mother, but explain that by supporting the kid as she has been, she’s actually holding him back. He may not get his ideal job (video game tester or human slipcover), but he’ll get on the road to self-sufficiency by flipping burgers or bagging groceries if it’s either that or sleeping in a doorway. Propose that she gives him 30 days to get a roommate situation and tells him she’ll pay two months of his rent while he job-hunts and gets working, and then he’s on his own. Propose that she also acts like she means it, but be prepared for him to test her and for her to cave. Ultimately, you need to decide whether you’d rather live with La-Z-Boy than without your wife. If push comes to nap, it may come to that — assuming you’re unsuccessful with various passive-aggressive measures, like installing a coin slot on the bathroom, refrigerator, and cable TV.

Foreplaying hard to get

I’m a woman just back in the dating game. I’d like to hold off on first date sex and get to know a guy before I sleep with him. But what are some deflector lines? “Not tonight, I have a headache”? “Sorry, but I’m storming the beaches of Normandy tomorrow”? I suppose a good line should come to mind, but I really can’t think of anything to say beyond “Hey, what am I, your booty call?”

— Speechless

First date sex doesn’t just happen, like, one minute you’re looking for a little dish for the olive pit from your appetizer, and the next, you’re in the guy’s bed staring at the water stain on his ceiling. Intermediate steps include inviting your date up for a nightcap (which, to many men, loosely translates to “Would you like to come in and remove your pants?”).

Resolve beforehand how far you’ll go, and if the goodnight kiss at your door starts to turn into a goodnight grope, say something like “Hey, I’d rather take things a little slower.” Although this remark lacks wit and historical references, it also lacks ambiguity and it’ll get the job done far better than the strident “Hey, what am I, your booty call?” — assuming your goal isn’t making a man long to never call you again.

If you’re among the weak-willed, it’s a good idea to wear protection, like 4,000 pounds of steel, rubber, and glass around you in the form of the car you drive to meet the guy for drinks. It’s also wise to have something to do afterward so you only stay for an hour or two. Of course, meeting for a late-afternoon coffee may be wisest if drinking alcohol tends to correlate with your bra and panties flying off. Ideally, on the first date, if you find yourself sputtering “Really, I never do this …” it should be because the guy’s overheard you asking the barista to violate your latte with two pumps of pumpkin.

(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


The happiest place on girth

I started taking medication that makes me fat — about 80 pounds overweight, which is a lot on a 5’7” female frame. Cutting calories and exercising will not change this, and I cannot stop taking this drug. It alleviates a serious mental health problem, allowing me to function normally, which is pretty much a miracle. Still, thanks to my weight gain, I am getting super-depressed. I think people must look at me like I’m some undisciplined pig. My cute clothes no longer fit, so I bought clothes that hide the weight. I’d love to date, but I’m so uncomfortable looking at myself naked that I can’t imagine letting anyone else do it.

— Ballooned

It isn’t fair. It’s not like you spent the year locked in a room with Ben & Jerry and Colonel Sanders, yet here you are thinking people must look at your butt and wonder whether you beep when you back up.

Although you say cutting calories doesn’t help, you should ask your doctor whether cutting carbs might. There’s evidence that a low-carb diet (with adequate fat intake) is the best way for most people to lose and keep off weight. It also seems to alleviate or even beat down some diseases — for example, eliminating diabetes symptoms in Dr. Jay Wortman and very possibly being responsible for the reversal in progressive multiple sclerosis symptoms in Dr. Terry Wahls. (See and, and read Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes, for the dietary evidence based on his vetting of thousands of studies.)

But, let’s say there’s no way for you to lose the weight. Well-meaning friends will tell you things like “sexy is a state of mind,” which will seem like the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard in light of how you probably feel you resemble the state of Texas. Actually, there are decades of studies showing that “walking the walk” — acting the way you’d like to feel — is one of the most effective ways to change how you feel.

For example, experimental social psychologist Dr. Dana R. Carney had people assume power-broker poses like sitting with their hands behind their head and their feet up on a desk. Subjects only assumed two different poses for a total of two minutes, but this led to measurable psychological, biochemical and behavioral changes. Those who were assigned the power poses had their levels of the dominance hormone testosterone shoot up. They reported feeling significantly more powerful and “in charge,” and their willingness to take risks in a subsequent gambling test suggests that they meaningfully increased their confidence.

Findings like Carney’s make the “just walk the walk” advice I found in the book Stop Calling Him Honey sound a lot more hopeful than hokey. The co-authors, Maggie Arana and Julienne Davis, advise body-loathing women (of all sizes) who want to feel sexy to strut naked, in high heels, in front of their mirror. They tell you to watch yourself running your hands up and down your bare skin, tell yourself, “I’m sexy,” and really mean it, feel it — and to keep at it until it eventually starts to ring true.

If that still sounds like a fool’s errand (even with the help of Jose Cuervo and James Brown), it might help to have a role model. Look up YouTube videos of 200-plus-pound indie rocker Beth Ditto, who struts around in body-hugging dresses, corsets and fishnets like she invented sexy. Beth Ditto’s fatitude inspired Nikki, a friend of Arana and Davis, to start walking tall and wide in form-fitting, cleavage-baring clothes instead of dressing like she’s apologizing for not being built like a paper cut.

And sure, there are a lot of guys who won’t date above a size 8 or 10, but you don’t need to attract “a lot of guys” unless you’re opening a sports bar. There are men who prefer the larger ladies and those who don’t have a stringent requirement for any sort of body size, but what no guy wants is a woman who’s piled on the shame.

Work on adjusting both your head and your appearance. Spend money on your hair, makeup and a new wardrobe — no tentwear! — and go to one of those bra specialty stores where a little old Hungarian lady will yank you into a bra that fits. And keep in mind that in a world of people shoving their problems behind the furniture (especially stigmatized problems like mental health issues), you’re doing what it takes to be mentally healthy and functional. If you look at your weight from this angle, it seems you’ve got good reason to march through the world like you’re all that and 80 pounds more o’ that.

(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).








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