The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess


The Grating Outdoors  


This great girl I’ve been dating just invited me on a camping trip. Frankly, there is nothing I would like to do less. I hate camping, and I won’t know anyone but her. The trip is three days with 20 of her friends, including her ex-boyfriend, so I worry about asking her to go without me, especially since we aren’t “official” yet. Can I skip this without it being a big deal, or is it a mistake to let her go when we’re right at the monogamy crossroads?

— City Boy

The comforts of civilization abound. Even Walmart stocks a heated toilet seat — complete with a handy-dandy nightlight in the bowl — for a rather reasonable $119. Yet — go figure — there are all these people who think it would be super-cool to go out for a weekend and squat behind a bush.

In other words, I’m right there with you, City Boy. My idea of camping is waiting for our room to be ready in the lobby of a hotel with exposed wood. My favorite hiking safety tip? Avoid hiking. But I understand your problem. It’s a bad idea to stay home when it means she’ll be out there in nature with nothing to block the view of her ex-boyfriend. Unfortunately, you’re being asked on not just a camping trip but a vetting trip (even if she hasn’t put it that plainly to you or even herself). She’ll be looking at how well you fit in with her friends (which will tell her something about how well you’ll fit into her life) and, possibly, evaluating your camping prowess: whether you can start a fire with a single soggy match, put up a tent using only your teeth, and talk geopolitics with a raccoon.

But chances are, if she were some hardcore camper looking for the man to play Lewis to her Clark, she wouldn’t even consider dating a guy whose idea of a nature hike is probably cutting across the lawn to get the mail. I shared this thought with a mentally ill friend of mine (translation: one who camps on purpose), and she agreed. She also added that “camping with 20 people is not camping; it’s ‘camping.’ It’s getting drunk beside your car, tripping over your tent stake, and passing out next to your sleeping bag. Even a city boy can do that once.”

Let your girlfriend know that camping isn’t your thing but that you’re sure you’ll have a great time with her over the weekend. This sets her up not to expect much more of this outdoorsy business from you while setting you up as a good sport who’s willing to go out of his way to make her happy. If both you and your relationship survive the weekend, maybe you can show her a thing or two about the great indoors — like how, of all the current wonders of nature, one of the most wonderful is how you can sit in your house drinking martinis while watching them on Discovery Channel. And don’t forget my absolute favorite thing about nature — the whoosh it makes as you’re driving past it to get back to your hotel.


Friskies Sour

My best friend, “Rob,” is really into this girl he’s been dating. She is loud, talks constantly about vapid subjects, generally rubs everyone the wrong way, and — I’m not kidding — makes cat “meow” sounds. (For instance: “I’m hungry; let’s get pancakes! Meow.”) Recently, a mutual friend blurted out to Rob, “Dude, seriously, how do you put up with her?” Rob was upset, and I sympathized, but the reality is, we all think that. Shouldn’t he know the truth — that none of us wants to be around him when he’s around her?

— Biting Tongue

When you’re all out to dinner, you must live for those moments when she and some other woman excuse themselves to go talk about all you guys in the litter box. As hard as it must be for you to hold back, all this guy should know is that you’re his friend. People mistakenly believe that you can criticize somebody into changing. You can’t. What you typically end up doing is criticizing them into clinging even more tenaciously to whatever you were hoping to pry them away from. Because, in relationships, initially adorable idiosyncrasies can turn screechingly annoying, it’s possible your friend will eventually grow allergic to loud, vapid women who make cat sounds. Until then, well, that’s why there’s guys’ night out at the cigar bar. You might also try to curb your annoyance by feeling happy for him. For him to be blind to how irritating she is, she must do some really special things in the bedroom — you know, like marking the bed with urine and killing mice and leaving them on his pillow. 

© 2014, 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



After six years with a lazy and ambitionless boyfriend, I found a funny, loyal, caring boyfriend I love, with a solid career and a good work ethic. He pays his share of our bills and even does our laundry! The problem is, at 28, he is SO incredibly spoiled by his parents. They are well-off and pay for his car insurance, randomly deposit $200 in his bank account (about once monthly), and even bought him new snow tires! He has made headway on small issues I’ve brought up, like cooking more than bachelor-type foods and playing video games less, but he says, “I’m not calling my parents and demanding they stop paying for my insurance, if that’s something they want to do.” Well, I can’t feel we’re in a marriage-potential relationship while he isn’t fully self-sufficient. I worry that we’ll have kids and he’ll still be getting assistance from mommy and daddy. As an independent person who pays all her own bills, I want my man to do the same and to want to be independent from his parents, as well. 

— Mama’s Boy’s Girlfriend

I get where you’re coming from. When I was in my late teens, I was hot to be completely independent from my parents. Now that I’m in my late 40s, I wish my parents would get high on LSD and start paying my bills.

Just because your boyfriend’s parents give him cash and snow tires (and don’t even make him do tricks like a seal for every penny) doesn’t mean he’s spoiled. Pediatrician Bruce J. McIntosh, who coined the term “spoiled child syndrome,” explains that what makes a kid “spoiled” —sets him on a path to becoming a nasty and irresponsible adult brat — is not parental indulgence but parental overindulgence, meaning parents’ failure to set clear limits and expectations. McIntosh writes in the journal Pediatrics that overindulgent parents attempt “to meet the child’s complex developmental needs with material gifts and uncritical acceptance while failing to provide essential guidelines for acceptable behavior.” Their spoiled kids grow up into spoiled adults — self-absorbed manipulators who lack consideration for others, have difficulty delaying gratification, and throw tantrums to get their way — not the guy you describe: loyal, loving, and laundry-doing, with a good work ethic, and now compliantly expanding his culinary horizons beyond frozen pizza, Hot Pockets, and pasta that comes with a packet of crack-like powdered “cheese.”

The fact that his parents pay for his car insurance is unlikely to cause a good guy, apparently raised with appropriate boundaries, to snap — to start banging his boss over the head with his G.I. Joe to try to get a better parking space. What his parents are doing actually seems smart: giving him his inheritance while they’re still around to see him enjoying it. Your asking him to demand they stop is like asking him to walk past a $20 bill he spots on the sidewalk just because he didn’t earn it. Also, because kids and unforeseen expenses go together like peanut butter and anaphylactic shock, consider that having generous in-laws wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. (Kids say the darndest things: “Mommy, I might need the doctor to find my Lego again” and “I wanna go to grad school!”)

You might also consider why you’re so determined to swat the money fairy with a rolled-up newspaper. Unfortunately, we humans have a self-image-protecting need to justify our thinking as right, so once we’ve decided The Way Things Are, we tend to lock up our minds and refuse to let in any opposing viewpoints to argue their case. One possible way to remedy this is to start from the premise that you’re human and therefore fallible. It also helps to consider whether your reasoning on a particular issue would more accurately be described as “emotioning.” For example, could you be acting out of envy that your boyfriend has had advantages you haven’t? Is it possible you have a fear hangover from your relationship with the slacker who started every day by getting a head start on napping?

Ultimately, the fairest, most sensible way to assess whether you have anything to worry about is to coolly examine the evidence. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Action is character.” Look at the kind of guy your boyfriend has shown himself to be, and then project that guy into scenarios in your future together. If you can just crank down the dimmer switch on your emotions, I suspect you’ll find your way to a conclusion along these lines: that this loyal, loving, hardworking guy will continue to be all of those things and that you can rest assured that his plan for paying the kiddies’ private-school tuition won’t involve a truckload of lottery scratchers or a ski mask and a shotgun.

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


A good time was jihad by all  

I’m good friends with the woman next door, but she and her husband fight constantly in front of me and others. Recently, we were all in their car. She was driving, and he repeatedly told her everything she was doing wrong. Then he called to order a pizza, and she laid into him, saying he was ordering wrong. He yelled, “Why do you always complicate things?!” It was really unpleasant. Then, last week, they came to a dinner party at my house and started fighting right at the table! Is there any way to stop the tension and this rude behavior?



— Uncomfortable


It’s so sweet when you look at a couple and realize that their relationship reminds you of a classic romantic comedy — like Apocalypse Now

There are social conventions we all just know to adhere to, like that you don’t get to use other people’s ears as hampers for your relationship’s dirty laundry. Unfortunately, this couple seems to have reached the “winning is everything” point — the point at which social conventions get crumpled up and thrown out the car window and you and your guests are dismayed to find your dinner party doubling as a jury trial: She Never Listens v. He Orders Pizza Wrong.

Well-meaning people will advise you to take the woman aside (embarrassing and uncomfortable!) or chirp “Yoo-hoo, I’m right here!” when they go from zero to “I hate you” right in front of you. But there’s a good chance these suggestions won’t work, thanks to our body’s sloppy and imprecise “fight or flight” system, which is seriously in need of an upgrade. It turns out that the adrenaline rush that would get triggered to help our ancestors escape a hungry tiger’s attack can also be triggered by a verbal attack by a wife when her husband fails to meet certain apparently essential takeout-ordering standards. Psychologist Daniel Goleman calls this an “emotional hijacking” because the brain’s reasoning center gets bypassed. He explains in his book Emotional Intelligence that the surge of adrenaline and other crisis hormones make a person’s emotions “so intense, their perspective so narrow, and their thinking so confused that there is no hope of taking the other’s viewpoint or settling things in a reasonable way.”

In other words, the behavior you should have the best success modifying is your own. And no, the modification shouldn’t involve riding in the trunk when you go places with them or having the garden hose close at hand at your dinner parties so you can break up any snarling dogs or married couples. A couple whose party manners fall off faster than pants on a nude beach doesn’t deserve your company — much as they might like to have a witness in case one of them needs to claim “self-defense.” You may want to see the wife alone, but you should decline all future opportunities to be in the presence of this duo. Of course, on occasion, it may be worth it to you to make an exception, like when you want to see a big boxing match but can’t afford pay-per-view: “Hi … I’m having a party next Saturday. Wanna come over so I can take bets on which one of you will end up biting off a piece of the other’s ear?”

The Deadliest Kvetch  

My buddy’s wife never sets me up with her friends, and I’m starting to get offended. The guy she does set up is a total player who just sleeps with girls a few times and then dumps them. Clearly, he’s getting preferential matchmaker treatment because he’s better-looking. I’d like a chance with these girls before he burns through them. Should I bring this up to my buddy or his wife or just grin and bear it?

— Annoyed

Apparently, the telepathic messages you’ve been sending her were stopped by their neighbors’ chimney. (Just a guess, but do you also do poorly trying to tidy up your house by moving objects around with your mind?)

Unbunch your panties. There’s a good chance that wifey’s true motivation isn’t fixing this guy up but fixing him. While many men enjoy taking apart and reassembling cars, many women enjoy taking apart and reassembling men. They like to believe that if they just find a bad boy the “right” woman, he’ll become the right man — settle down, get married, and go so daddy-track that he stops just short of personally lactating. What you need to do (after you have that huge chip on your shoulder removed) is ask your buddy’s wife to make you her project — like a pound puppy in need of a good home. Before you know it, one of her girlfriends should be dressing you up in a bee costume and posting the photos to Instagram. (Sorry … was that not what you meant when you were thinking “doggie-style”?)

The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess


Cower Rangers  

I read your recent columns about guys who are too shy to ask women out. You seem to think it’s OK for women to make quick judgments about a shy man’s worth because his shyness is their first impression. Well, a man shouldn’t have to be loud, obnoxious, and “in your face.” These women, with their snap judgments, don’t consider that there might be something really good under the surface of a shy guy and could miss out on a nice relationship. For instance, when I was younger and really shy, I had a huge crush on a girl but figured she was way out of my league. One day, we crossed paths unexpectedly and talked for a few minutes. I decided right then that I had to know “yes” or “no” and get it behind me. I mustered everything I had and asked her out as confidently as I could. She said yes, and we dated for over two years. Had she dismissed me just because I was shy, we both would have missed out.


— Formerly Shy Guy

A guy doesn’t have to be loud, obnoxious, and “in your face” to succeed with women, but he can’t be “in a fetal position behind furniture.”

Typically, you get what you want in life by asking for it. I don’t think this is “OK” or not OK; it’s just how life works. When a guy sees a woman he wants, that’s his moment to hit on her, meaning do his best to chat her up and then follow through and ask her out. He might wish he could just sit there silently while she looks for “something really good under the surface” — getting his credit report and references from his neighbors, his grandmother, and his third-grade teacher, Mrs. DeMattia — but that’s not going to happen. And think about it; would you recommend that getting a job should work in the same way? No need to send in a résumé or cover letter or sell anybody on your merits in an interview. You would just hide under your bed, and the employers would sense what a great person you are and send out a search party.

Hilariously, you follow up your complaint about how life “should” work for shy guys with a great example of how it can work — once they stop waiting for a woman to club them like a baby seal and drag them home. As you showed, a guy doesn’t have to be fearless to ask a woman out. He just needs to decide not to give in to his fears in the moment and then get to work fixing what’s broken in himself. (In a shy guy, this is self-esteem that’s really “what other people think of me”-esteem and the paralyzing fear of rejection that ensues.) The cool thing is, a guy doesn’t have to become some Mr. Smooth to get the girl. He can even be kind of awkward. People admire courage, even when it maybe stammers a little. Of course, a guy won’t always get the girl just because he tries, but trying and striking out will only leave him with a temporary boo-boo on his ego instead of the internal injuries he’d get from tucking his tail between his legs so fast that he bruises his spleen.

Callused In Wonderland

I live in a warm climate, and the girl I’m dating walks around barefoot everywhere and her soles are really black and callused. I’ve jokingly dropped hints like “Jeez, it looks like you just stamped out a fire!” but she just laughs. She’s a really great girl, but when I glance at her feet, my attraction takes a serious nosedive.

— Defeeted

On the bright side, if you ever lose her in a mall, finding her should just be a matter of following the trail of black paw prints. Sympathetic friends will offer helpful suggestions, like that you should get her a pedicure (which will solve absolutely nothing) or do something “sexy” like washing her feet for her before bedtime — an activity that’s got to be about as libido-boosting as power-washing bird poop off your roof. You’re likelier tto get what you want (periodic daily footbaths? feet encased in Saran wrap?) if you make a sweet, direct request instead of just dashing off jokes about it. But while asking might sway a partner to curb an icky habit like absentminded nose-picking, chances are your girlfriend isn’t randomly going barefoot; she’s probably into it. Ultimately, you’ll probably need to figure out where you (and your libido) draw the line. Sure, it’s a shame to break up over this, but the reality is, one man’s “OK, whatever” is another’s “Yick. Lemme outta here.” If you’re thinking dirty thoughts in bed, it shouldn’t mean fantasizing that your girlfriend’s ankles would come with mudflaps.

© 2014, 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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