The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess

 

Gone with the Windex

I’m a woman sharing a house with several roommates. We’re all in our mid-20s. This one male roommate and I sometimes cook meals together, and we share a bathroom (since we’re both cleaner than the other roommates) and deep-clean the kitchen together. I’ve always been attracted to him, but he spends three nights a week with a girl he calls his “booty call.” Last week, we were home alone together, had some wine … and ended up having sex. We haven’t spoken much since, and he’s still seeing this same woman just as much. He’s moving out next week and relocating out of state for work in two months, but I can’t help wondering whether a relationship is possible. Should I just say goodbye and avoid embarrassing myself or take a more active approach? I can’t tell whether my feelings are sincere or whether I’m just sad because the other roommates are not as clean or as interested in cooking.

 

— Confused

 
It’s so rare to find a roommate who cleans the kitchen, I can understand why you wanted to sleep with him.

Don’t read too much into finally getting it on with Mr. Clean. There’s a reason a guy seizes the opportunity to have sex with a woman, and it’s typically the one British mountain climber George Mallory reportedly gave when asked why he wanted to tackle Everest: “Because it’s there.”

Sometimes sex can kick-start a relationship, but in this case, it merely seems to have kick-continued the sex he’s been having three times a week with somebody else. Also, a guy who is interested in a relationship with you acts the part — asks you out (or at least lingers expectantly, fidgeting with cleaning products); he doesn’t ask for his security deposit back so he can move to another state.

Taking “a more active approach” will not change this. In fact, for a woman, it’s often a very counterproductive approach. Forget the idea that you “should” be able to pursue a man the same way a man would pursue you. As I explain with some frequency, men evolved to pursue women and tend to devalue women who chase them. This is a deep-seated thing, embedded in our psychology and driving our behavior over millions of years of human history, down to our bitsiest bits. (The sperm chase the egg. The egg does not chase the sperm.)

In other words, you found a lost cause, hopped aboard, and are now riding it like a pony. You are not alone in this. We humans have a powerful aversion to loss. When it starts to look like we’ve made a bad bet, we engage in the “sunk cost fallacy” — continuing to invest (and even stepping up our investment) based on how much time, energy, resources or emotion we’ve already invested. Of course, the rational approach would be basing any further investment on whether it’s likely to pay off in the future. Acknowledging this will free you up to meet a guy who does want you — perhaps some lonely cleaning products heir scouring the world for a woman who’ll put a sparkle in his eye while he puts a sparkle in her glassware. As for you and your scrub-buddy roommate, it’s like that scene with Rick and Ilsa at the end of Casablanca: “We’ll always have Clorox.” 

 

Plenty of Fishy   

I’m a single woman who’s just started online dating after ending a five-year relationship. I’m wondering when to mention that I only want casual dating/friends with benefits — nothing serious. I don’t want guys thinking I’m seeking one-night stands (I’m definitely not), but I also don’t want to lead on guys who want something long-term.

 

— Newbie

A woman seeking regular commitment-free sex is a bit like a man just looking for somebody to join him for scrapbooking and a cuddle. Each might be telling the truth, but their target audience will find it hard to believe. In other words, it’s best to avoid putting “not looking for anything serious” in your online dating profile. Some men will take it at face value, but many will see it as either a red flag (fake profile, a trap, etc.) or a “go for it!” flag to send their best penis selfie.

Also, your profile is just supposed to be a thumbnail of you. You don’t owe anyone your five-year plan. You could, however, ask to have a phone conversation before meeting and casually mention your recent relationship history. On the phone, you become a person a guy can ask questions of rather than just a picture with a profile. You can clarify what you’re looking for and, assuming you don’t come off sketchy or psycho on the phone, quell a guy’s fear that “nothing serious” really means “I need a fling because the recently paroled felon I’m cheating on my husband with is boring.”


© 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 (www.advicegoddess.com)

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 — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 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

 

Watching paint die

I’ve been dating a girl I really like for six weeks. She pays her rent with a 9-to-5 job but studied painting at art school and wants to make it her career. Unfortunately, I don’t like her paintings at all. They are abstract and don’t look like they take much craft, and they just don’t aesthetically appeal to me. (Maybe I’m missing something … who knows.) I haven’t told her my real feelings. But as we get more serious and as she talks about her aspirations, I’m finding it more and more uncomfortable to keep playing along. I worry that we won’t have a future because of this.

 

— Philistine

 
There are questions you long to ask her about her work, such as, “What did you do in art school, spend four years playing Angry Birds on your phone?”

Abstract art is an easy target for ridicule. The thing is, somebody who went to art school most likely had to learn formal principles and show they could draw figuratively before they could venture into abstraction. But to the untrained eye, an abstract work can look like somebody made a big mess with some paint and then stuck a mythical title on it —  “Androcles And The Lion, No. 4.” You can’t help but wonder, “Sorry, but is that the lion’s paw on the left, or did somebody at the gallery opening trip and let their appetizer go flying?”

Because your girlfriend’s artwork is more than a weekend hobby, your disliking it probably is a big deal. A painting is basically a striptease of the artist’s self on a piece of canvas, reflecting who they are, what they see and feel, and what they want to say. Also, it’s hard enough to try to earn a living as an artist without sharing a bed with one of your detractors. (Imagine Edvard Munch’s girlfriend seeing “The Scream” and nagging him, “Come on, Eddie, ‘The Smile’ would be so much nicer.”) And even if you can hide your true feelings for a while, there’s a good chance they’ll poke their little heads out during an argument, a la “Wanna vastly improve your work? Incorporate gasoline and a lit match.”

For a relationship to work, it isn’t enough to have the hotsies for somebody. You need to have a crush on them as a human being. Fortunately, you may be able to get to this, even if her paintings don’t speak to you (save for saying “I’m ugly”). Admit that you don’t know much about art, and ask her to tell you about her work: the thinking behind it, her painting process (color, form, why she includes certain elements), and what she’s trying to say or evoke. You might find that you respect where she’s coming from and believe in her on that level, which could mean that the two of you can make a go of it. If so, keep in mind all the ways she’s just like any other girlfriend, and be prepared to fake a seizure when she asks the artist’s version of that classic lose-lose question: “Do I look untalented while painting in this dress that makes me look fat?” 

 

Don Emoticon   

Last month, I hit it off with a girl on an online dating site. The problem is, my written banter is much better than what I can achieve on a first date. I do poorly when just staring across a table at somebody. I’m worried she’ll be disappointed when she sees how bad I am at being witty on the spot, so I’ve been reluctant to ask her out.

 

— Stalling

Maybe as a preliminary step, you could make plans to go to the same Starbucks but hide behind your laptops and email each other. We need to start calling online dating sites “online meeting sites” so people will stop thinking they can get to know somebody while spending a month sitting miles away and staring deep into their computer screens. They typically end up filling in the blanks with who they want the person to be and believe they’re getting attached to them when maybe what they’re most attached to is how witty they feel while leaning on a thesaurus the size of Rhode Island. Sure, it’s tough sitting across a table from a near stranger with “SAY SOMETHING ALREADY!” ringing in your head. So don’t sit on the first date. Do something. Go somewhere you can pluck subjects of conversation out of the atmosphere: a street fair, a flea market. Play pool; go bowling. And lighten up on feeling that you need to be funny. You’ll ultimately be funnier and more likely to get a second date if you approach the first date as if your goal is getting to know a woman instead of getting her to book you for your own Comedy Central special.


© 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 (www.advicegoddess.com)

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 — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 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

 
 

Six-month lay away

For my New Year’s resolution, I committed to not having sex for the first six months of the year and then another six months from whenever I start dating someone. I’ve never been good at waiting. In fact, the longest I have ever waited is a month and the shortest (and perhaps more typically) is a few hours. In early January, I met a guy, and I’ve been seeing him weekly, though I think I’m being friend-zoned. He is attracted to my polar opposite (short blondes) and has shown no sexual interest in me. Yet, we continue meeting up, and he even buys me dinner and drinks from time to time. Am I wasting my time, or is this how long-lasting, meaningful relationships start — as friends first?

 

— Reformed But Confused

You could tell guys you require a lot of foreplay. Like from winter to the end of spring.

The third-date rule for having sex isn’t set in stone, but most guys won’t go for the 30-date rule, which means good men you want may take themselves out of the running. You also shouldn’t strain your arm patting yourself on the back for sticking to your sexual famine edict thus far, considering that you’ve succeeded in not having sex with a guy who shows no interest in having sex with you. Chances are, this guy is just running low on the type he is into — short blondes — and realized he could treat you to meals or go alone and spend the evening making witty remarks to his dinner roll.

There actually are good reasons not to have sex right away, even for those of us who don’t come from a culture where virgins get traded for a bolt of cloth and herd of goats. Research by anthropologist John Marshall Townsend suggests that even women with no interest in a relationship that lasts beyond sunup are often surprised to wake up finding themselves pining for more. This is possibly due to the effect of oxytocin, a hormone associated with emotional bonding that’s released in men and women through hugs, cuddling, kissing, and especially orgasm. In males, however, sexual activity boosts testosterone, which plays the part of riot cop, refusing to let oxytocin up to its receptor. There’s a dearth of studies on these hormones’ effect on post-sex bonding, but experience should tell you that men who have sex before they have any emotional attachment tend to make like the Roadrunner shortly afterward (though usually without the “meep-meep!” and the Acme anvil falling on your head).

The answer isn’t putting an arbitrary time lock on your ladygarden. Instead, try something new — the grownup-wanting-a-relationship strategy: prioritizing long-term goals over short-term romps and assessing whether a man is right for you with the organ equipped with brain cells. You need to come up with standards for what you want in a partner and take time getting to know a man so you can see whether he meets the essential ones. You should also inventory all of his less-than-ideal qualities and see whether you can live with them. Do your homework figuring out who a man is and you’ll find that you just know when it’s the right time to have sex with him — even without anybody holding Senate hearings on whether to restore visitor access to your vagina.

 

Taking her down a JPEG   

The girl I’m dating is pretty, funny, and exciting to hang out with, but I noticed that she always poses for photos EXACTLY the same way: left side to the camera, hand on hip, head slightly dipped, smiling slightly. On her Facebook page are dozens of photos like this, same smile, same pose. It seems to be incredibly shallow to need to stage every photo the same way. Should I see this as a red flag?

 

—  The Boyfriend
 

The reality is, inner beauty alone usually isn’t enough, which is why Estee Lauder got rich selling face cream and not books by Gandhi. Women, especially, are judged by their looks. Chances are, your girlfriend recognizes this, along with how indelible a photograph can be these days, in The Age of Uploading. The thing is, you can clean out your closet and burn shoeboxes of photos; it’s harder to clean the Internet’s closet of that shot that makes you look like you eat oats out of a bucket. In figuring out a photo face and sticking with it, your girlfriend has some company. (Google “people who make the same face in every picture.”) As for whether you have anything to worry about — from either shallowness or insecurity on her part — look at the big picture: whether she shows an active interest in you and your welfare or whether she’s too busy prepping a pose for the paparazzi waiting for her outside Pizza Hut.


© 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 (www.advicegoddess.com)

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 — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 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 Fastidious and
The Furious   

My boyfriend of nine years is extremely messy, while I prefer things tidy and clean. Cajoling, asking, and flat-out begging him for consideration and help on this hasn’t worked, nor have tactics like establishing certain areas for clutter. He contends I’m too picky about how he cleans. He says this started when we moved in together, eight years ago, and I rewashed dishes he’d washed. He says he then stopped trying to do much cleaning up and hoped I’d tire of doing everything myself and learn a lesson. I was shocked and hurt by this attitude, especially since he’s otherwise a good and loving man who does many sweet things for me. Neither of us wants kids, and I love him dearly, so I’m contemplating something you’ve written about, being in a relationship but living separately. Could this possibly work after living together for so long?

— Worried

 

You just have different styles of mess management. You can’t sleep if there’s an unwashed glass in the sink. He likes to let housecleaning wait until it’s a toss-up between tidying the place and trying to get away with arson.

Animals get it. The bunny does not shack up with the thing that tears small furry creatures apart with its teeth. And here we humans are, all top-of-the-food-chain snobby about our ability to reason. Yet no sooner do we fall in love than we start looking to sign a lease together, bright and optimistic about the dreamy home life the neat freak will have with the guy whose idea of housecleaning is picking up a 3-year-old magazine off the floor so he’ll have a “plate” for his pizza.

Because you happen to care about what we generally value — order over chaos — you made the assumption that a devotion to neatitude is The One True Path and should be as important to him as it is to you. It just isn’t. (Chances are, he doesn’t even notice the messes.) Your distress at his passive-aggressive withdrawing of effort is understandable — as is his feeling that if he can’t tidy up right, why bother tidying up at all? The thing is, people will often support their partner in goals they find meaningless or even dopey, but not when their ego is under attack — verbally or in the form of dish-rewashing. When a person realizes their partner doesn’t respect them, they tend to take one of two paths: chasing that person’s approval or retiring from seeking it.

Still, in the moments you aren’t running after your boyfriend with a wheelbarrow and a broom, you love the guy and he loves you, and you seem to have something together. You do need to repair the hard feelings between you, starting by admitting that you were both expecting the impossible in trying to live together. Next, pledge to discuss things that bother each of you instead of silently seething about them — for, oh, eight years. And yes, probably the best way for you to stay together is to live apart. After years of living together, it’s easy to see this as a failure. It’s actually anything but. You’re just making your relationship love-centered by removing all the subjects that cause perpetual disagreement — like why anyone would waste time cleaning until whatever’s growing on the coffee table starts hissing at you when you reach for the remote.

 

Better Sherlock Holmes and Gardens  

I had to leave town when prospective buyers were coming to see a used water pump I was selling. My wonderful wife cheerfully agreed to sell it for me. I showed her exactly the parts that went with it. A guy bought the pump, but I saw that an extra box of parts, worth about $100, was also gone. Do I ask my wife where it went? Can I forgive her without an apology?

—  Annoyed

Prepare to get laughed out of marriage counseling after you grumble to the therapist that what’s missing from your marriage is $100 worth of junk from the garage. Tempting as it must be to spend the weekend waterboarding your wife for answers, a wiser approach when somebody tries to do something nice for you is to reward their intentions, even when the outcome is less than ideal. Your wife’s intention — to help you by standing in for you — tells you she’s a loving partner. The outcome — an extra box of parts apparently growing legs and sneaking off into the buyer’s car — tells you she may not be the shrewdest salesperson and maybe takes too kindly a view of human nature. Sadly, all relationships come with trade-offs. You have a decision to make — whether to settle for cheery wonderfulness or dump your wife for a woman who can help you open a used-car lot or get rich swindling the elderly by telephone.


© 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 (www.advicegoddess.com)

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 — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 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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