The Advice Goddess

The Advice Goddess


Cheat exhaustion         


My girlfriend and I are mostly happy together, but we have this ongoing fight where she accuses me of wanting to cheat whenever I so much as glance at a woman she perceives to be my “type” (any woman roughly her age and ethnicity). Even flipping through a magazine that shows a woman in an ad is enough to set her off. She says I need to eliminate all contact with other women, or I’m being unfaithful. But I don’t see how I can stop doing things like talking to the checker at the supermarket or looking at someone crossing the street.   

— Blamed

It’s normal for a girlfriend to expect her boyfriend to “keep it in his pants.” Only yours wants your eyeballs in there, too, as she considers crossing the street with your eyes open a form of cheating.


When you love somebody, it isn’t exactly outrageous to fear losing them. And the suspicion that a partner is cheating can often be an instinctive response to subtle signs that they are. But such signs include flimsy excuses for working late or ducking into the hall closet to take phone calls — not merely daring to open a magazine that includes pictures of females who lack beaks, paws, and tails.

There’s a good chance your girlfriend behaves this way because she has a giant crater where her self-worth is supposed to be. As for her paranoia, to be human is to have a tendency toward ridiculous, overblown fears, but we also have the capacity — gone unused in your girlfriend — to follow them up with a chaser of reason. The sad thing is, you might have compelled her to work on changing if only you’d told her “enough is enough” instead of just wagging your tail while she tightened your choke collar.

Thanks to your enabling, there are now 300 of you in the relationship — you, your girlfriend, and her 298 fears. If you’d like to change that, wait for a moment when you aren’t being prosecuted for something and ask to talk about the relationship. Explain that you love her and want to be with her but that she’s increasingly pushing you away with her irrational (and, frankly, insulting) accusations and behavior. Tell her that she’ll need to see a therapist and show meaningful improvement if she wants to keep you around. (Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people use reason to solve emotional problems, is probably the best bet.)

Give yourself a deadline, and reassess — maybe at the three-month mark — so you don’t keep getting used to crazy little by little until crazy becomes the new normal. That’s how a guy ends up being the one apologizing when he comes home to a bonfire of his clothes, computer, and Xbox after his girlfriend catches him in the act — smiling and thanking the supermarket checkout lady instead of staring at his shoes and wordlessly extending his palm for his change. 


Fling theory          

I’ve been casually seeing a woman for a year. Early on, I told her I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend. I think she was disappointed, but we continued seeing each other nonexclusively. She never pressures me for more commitment, but I suspect she’s getting more attached. I’d like to keep seeing her, but is it on me to break this off? Maybe she should be trying to find a real relationship with another guy.    

— Informal

Maybe she hopes you’ll eventually come around — at least to the point where you’re standing beside her at the altar, sliding her wedding ring on, and saying, “Hey, don’t read too much into this.” Still, even if she does want more from you, she might prefer having less to having nothing at all. Also, if she is looking for something “real,” this thing with you can help her avoid coming off hungry and desperate, much like snacking before grocery shopping can help you avoid waking up next to a bunch of empty doughnut boxes.

Let her know you’re still up for less, simply by saying you want to make sure she’s still OK with how you want to keep things casual. If it’s too painful or unrewarding for her to continue, it’s on her to break it off. The thing is, though “serious” relationships are supposedly the only “real” relationships, there are people out there — women, too — who are most comfortable with a less intense form of togetherness. This kind of slimmed-down relationship can end up lasting for years — even decades. In other words, 50 years from now, when you’re reserving side-by-side burial plots, you could find yourself whispering to the cemetery guy, “Wouldja do me a favor and bury me a few extra feet from her? I don’t wanna give her the wrong idea.” 

© 2014, 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:

Get 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


Tales from the Cryptic       

My boyfriend of two years got an early birthday present from his sister and her husband: a really expensive, second-row ticket for a major sporting event next year. The trouble is, it falls on my 30th birthday (a Saturday). He knows I usually don’t care about my birthday, and I confess that I also judge people who care about theirs. Still, I can’t help but feel that my 30th is a bit of a milestone, and I wanted to spend my birthday weekend together somewhere with my boyfriend. I understand that he doesn’t want to seem ungrateful for his sister’s gift, and he’s courteously told me about this conflict well in advance. Do I need to just get over myself? Or should I raise my concerns?


— Neglected

As a child, I was not one to turn down birthday loot, but around age 8, I developed a sort of jadedness about birthdays that continues to this day. The way I see it, if you are over 12 and not a cancer patient, do we really need to throw you a party and give you prizes for surviving another year?

It seems you communicated some similar thinking to your boyfriend. Bizarrely, he believed you. Yet, apparently out of love and consideration (and perhaps the suspicion men have that all women are at least a little nuts), he let you know a year in advance that hockey or auto racing or whatever’s special day coincides with your usually-not-so-special day. What more was he supposed to do — well, other than travel back in time and ask your mom, “Hey, can you hold the baby in one more week? There’ll be a scheduling conflict in 30 years.”

Wait … were you expecting him to turn down the ticket? If so, what’s that really about? Maybe a recent public service announcement from your ovaries? “Hi, we’re also turning 30, as in, it won’t be long before we retire, move to the countryside, and take up scrapbooking.” You may also be looking for what evolutionary psychologists call a “costly signal” — some show of commitment requiring such a big outlay of money, effort or forgone opportunity that it’s likely to be sincere. (In the absence of a proposal and a diamond, maybe it seems the least he could do is light that ticket on fire.)

If you do want more from the relationship, you may be able to get it, but expecting a man to read your thoughts is like expecting your dog to understand algebra. Tell your boyfriend you’re feeling sensitive about your birthday, your future, or whatever else, and you’ll at least find out where you stand. Assuming you get the reassurance you need, maybe you can do the loving thing and put your partner’s interests up there in importance with your own, perhaps by celebrating your birthday the weekend before the actual day. You might also try to get in the habit of using spoken-word communication — fun as it can be to surprise a man with a game of naked charades, aka “Guess what I’m thinking when I weep inconsolably during sex!”  

Clairol and Present Danger          

After reading a magazine article about movie stars with “pixie cuts,” my girlfriend got her hair cut really short, and I absolutely hate it. She’s very pretty, and short hair doesn’t change that, but I love how she looks with long hair. Is it controlling to ask her to grow it back?


— Worried

The good thing about bad haircuts is that they are fixable with time. (You can’t tell your girlfriend, “Hey, I’m not a big fan of your personality; can you grow it out a little?”)

When you first saw her new do, you probably squeezed out something positive like “Looks great!” — while thinking, “Did your stylist go blind in the middle of cutting your hair or pretty much right when she started?” It’s good to be kind, but because staying happy with somebody takes staying attracted to them, it’s best for your relationship to be kind in a verging-on-honest way. Wait a few weeks and say, “You know, you’d be beautiful even if you shaved your head, but I love your hair long. Would you grow your hair out for me?” (You aren’t asking her to bolt on a new set of boobs; you’re just requesting more of what’s already on her head.)

And yes, you do have to tell her what you need, because if you don’t, there’s a good chance you’ll get resentful and act like a jerk about things that aren’t really the thing. It might even lead to a breakup. The bottom line: You’re all for her having movie-star hair — as long as the movie star it’s modeled on isn’t Chuck Norris.

© 2014, 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:

Get 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


Pierre pressure       

I’m an 18-year-old woman, recently asked out by a handsome, charming 34-year-old guy from France. He took me out to a nice restaurant, and everything was wonderful until he admitted that he has a girlfriend, though he explained that they always fight and break up. He said he isn’t ready to leave or cheat on her, but he is very attracted to me and wants to keep seeing me platonically to see where our “relationship” goes. I believe him but feel like some second option. After dinner, we ended up making out in his car. Things were going WAY too far, so I had him take me home. I really like him, but I don’t want to waste my time wanting someone who already has someone, even if he is “confused” about her.   

— Disturbed

Some men take their monogamy very seriously: “I’m not ready to cheat on my girlfriend. But I might be ready after dessert.”

Yes, the guy reeled you in like a dazed trout, but you shouldn’t feel too bad about that. In addition to his being an experienced 34 to your inexperienced 18, he’s also French. If there’s a French national sport, it’s probably seduction. (Note that nobody calls making out “North Korean kissing.”) French seducers are particularly good at romantic spin, like how this guy told you he wants to “keep seeing you platonically,” which, it seems, is French for “grope you behind the restaurant in a car.”

The French also tend to be more relaxed about the boundaries of monogamy. In a Pew Research Center poll, when asked whether an affair is “morally unacceptable,” only 47 percent of French people said it is, compared with 87 percent of Americans. Former French President Francois Mitterrand’s wife even invited his mistress to his funeral, where they stood together over his coffin. Still, even in France, there are lines you just don’t cross. In the words of actor Yves Montand: “I think a man can have two, maybe three affairs while he is married. But three is the absolute maximum. After that, you are cheating.”

Unfortunately, you missed your cue to activate the ejection seat — the point at which the guy mentioned having a girlfriend. A guy with a girlfriend is a guy who is not available. Not even if he says they’re on-and-off and suggests sampling you as a way of deciding whether they should be off-and-off. The problem is, there’s a time when this sort of clarity comes more easily, and it isn’t when you’re in the heat of the moment, having your culottes charmed off by Jean-Claude the Seducer.

You need to go into a date with a set of standards — standards you come up with ahead of time for what you will and won’t accept. If, for example, one of these is “Never become somebody’s backup sex,” it won’t matter that the man in question is very attracted to you and says so with a French accent. As France’s big gift to the United States, the Statue of Liberty, says on its base: “Give me your tired,” not your “tired of their girlfriends.”


You may now miss the bride         

My ex-girlfriend and I broke up two years ago, and she’s about to marry another guy. I admit that I’m not quite over her, and she knows this, so I’m not invited to the wedding. But we loved each other for many years, so it seems wrong to let such a big life event of hers pass without mention. Do I send a card? A gift? Put in a phone call?    

— Former Boyfriend

When the woman you love is marrying someone else, it’s natural to be of two minds — one that says “Call and congratulate her!” and the other whispering, “Call in a bomb threat to the church on their wedding day!”
Taking the classier approach will actually have benefits for you — even beyond avoiding a lengthy trial and prison time. A growing body of research finds that “walking the walk” — acting the way you’d like to feel — is one of the fastest, most effective ways to change how you do feel. Basically, by acting as if you’re over her, you’ll help move yourself along to that point. So, yes, write out a congratulatory card. (A gift is unnecessary, and a call might be uncomfortable, especially if you and she end up playing phone tag and her fiancé notices 26 messages from her ex.) In the card, you can simply say something like, “Wishing you guys all the best on your wedding day and many years of happiness!” Just avoid getting into specifics on the happiness thing, like how you’ll always be there for her: “If your husband ever finds you in bed with another man, I’d like it to be me.”

© 2014, 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:

Get 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


Is this deceit taken?      

I’m a 54-year-old single man. I’ve discovered a troubling and apparently rampant trend among people around my age doing online dating — women not being honest about their age. I think the women doing this include the woman I started seeing, whom I otherwise like a lot. She listed her age as 55 but recently got flustered recalling the year she graduated from high school. I got suspicious and looked her up on people finder sites, which list her age as 57. Should I tell her, “Hey, I’ve been doing a little detective work, and your numbers don’t add up”?

— Just Trying To Find An Honest Woman

After a certain point — the French tactfully call it “un certain age” — a woman’s birthday tends to come but once every two or three years. Sure, there are women who aren’t willing to compromise their ethics just to shave off a few years: my glamorous grandma, for example, who was 31 until the day she died — at 90.

I’m always a little surprised when anybody’s surprised that somebody they met on the Internet lied about something. In fact, as I advise in my new book, Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck, everyone on the Internet should be assumed to be lying about everything until proven otherwise. In other words, consider yourself lucky that she’s female. And a mammal.

I write often about our evolutionary imperatives, like how men evolved to lust after healthy, fertile women — all the better to help them pass on their genes. The features men consider beautiful — like youth, unwrinkled skin and an hourglass figure — are actually indicators of a woman’s fertility. And the older and further away a woman gets from peak fertility the more these features fade and the less desirable she becomes to men. Sure, a woman may grow wiser with age, and she may be a perfectly wonderful and kind person, but as I note in my book, “The penis is not a philanthropic organization and will not get hard because a woman bought a homeless guy a sandwich.”

You could tell this woman you’ve caught her in a lie — if your goal is embarrassing her into liking you more. But it isn’t like she said she was 30 and turned out to be bumping up against 60. By the way, it isn’t just women who engage in attractiveness-improving fibbery. In the male camp, the lies include flashy cars beyond one’s means, liberal interpretations of 6’1”, Rogaine and the poor man’s Rogaine, spray-on “hair.”

And the reality is, whenever you think you could get serious with a person, you need to look at her character over time — comparing what she says with what she does — to figure out whether she’s trustworthy. As you’re doing that with this woman, consider taking a counterintuitive approach — calling up a little compassion for where she’s coming from. Chances are, she only lied because she figured out where all the honest women are: home alone being 57 instead of having a man like you spirit them off for a romantic weekend at Club Med Guantanamo to waterboard them about their real birthdate.


Selfish allergy        

I have a friend I see about once a week, and all she ever does is vent about her various dating problems. The 10 percent of the time we actually discuss my life or anything else, she seems bored. I want to tell her I feel like she’s monopolizing our friendship with her love life, but I’m not sure how.


You couldn’t be a better friend to her, unless, of course, you could have yourself reincarnated as a giant ear.

This isn’t friendship; it’s therapy without the copay. The question is, has she always been this way? Even a true friend can go through periods of being needy, moody, selfish, or otherwise hard to be around. That friend probably just needs a heads-up, like, “I know you’ve been on edge about your whole dating situation, but I’ve been feeling kind of bad that you never seem interested in what’s going on with me.”

“I’m feeling bad” appeals to their sympathy, which, economist Adam Smith noted, motivates us to try to ease others’ discomfort or suffering. Tagging the problem to the “dating situation” suggests that they’re a little wrapped up in their problem rather than that they, personally, are the problem. If, however, a person is narcissistic — truly self-absorbed — and if that’s always been their orientation, there’s probably no transforming them from a talker into a listener (not without duct-taping them to a chair and gagging them with a pair of old tube socks).

© 2014, 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:

Get 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


Destitution wedding     



A friend asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding. It’s being held hours away, and the only hotel is pricey. With tux rental, attending will cost me over $500. I’ll also have to miss work. (I’m a waiter.) Is it OK to decline a wedding invitation because it’s too expensive to attend? 

— Not Richie Rich

Instead of just sending regrets, it’s tempting to passive-aggressively express your resentment: “Unfortunately, I have a conflict — in that I have to make my car payment.”

Some couples may only have friends who are big investment bankers who light their cigars ’90s-style, with $20 bills. But in this economy, at least a handful of a couple’s pals will probably RSVP with something like, “Dude, I really wanna be there, but I can’t find another waiter to cover my shift.” Also, people in their 20s and 30s, prime time for marrying, can be invited to several weddings in a single summer. Costs for hotels, flights, clothes and gifts can add up, and that’s really not fair. (Being there on even your most special friend’s special day shouldn’t mean you have to take the bus for a year.)

It’s up to the couple getting married to throw the sort of wedding their friends and relatives can afford to attend (or at least not get miffy that some invitees won’t be flush enough to come). That said, being fiscally inclusive seems the warm, hospitable thing to do, like making sure your vegetarian friends have something to eat — instead of just harrumphing, Marie Antoinette-style, “Let them eat steak!”

The truth is, it’s possible to throw even a fancier wedding without bleeding the invitees. “Black tie optional” allows groomsmen and others to wear a suit instead of renting a tux. And instead of basically telling bridesmaids “Go give Vera Wang $200,” you request something like, “Please wear fall colors.” Regarding location, a ceremony at a nearby lake pavilion or in Granny’s garden will be no less moving than one at the Maui Four Seasons, and people will cry just the same when the couple dance their first dance whether the band is Beyoncé or an MP3 mix.

Before you decline this invitation, consider your priorities. Even if your friends didn’t think to make attending their wedding affordable, they might resent you for not going into debt to come. In my mind, these aren’t real friends and they’re confusing a wedding with a telethon, but you may have reasons for wanting to keep them in your life.

As for how to decline, you could just be honest. Times are tough all around. (When I do buy clothing, it is “previously enjoyed” and arrives crammed into a recycled envelope by the eBay seller.) Another option is making up a story for why you can’t attend (Family obligation! Pre-existing work thing!) and then staying off Facebook so you don’t get tagged in a lie. If you do go, you might consider starting a new wedding tradition: Other people throw rice; you sweep it up afterward (so you can have something on your plate for the next month besides the little pattern around the rim).


Ed Driftwood       

This great guy I’ve started dating is doting and sweet but, careerwise, lacks ambition and seems comfortable floating by with minimal effort. Unlike him, I am extremely ambitious. Is it OK to date men who are still “figuring things out”?    

— Driven

It sounds like your boyfriend is really going places. Mainly to the fridge and then back to the couch.

A guy who appears to model his career trajectory on driftwood is unlikely to suddenly become ambitious. Sure, there are people who have a catastrophic accident and realize life is short and they’d better get cracking, but it isn’t like you can wait for him to get into (and then miraculously recover from) a motorcycle crash to become the man you’d respect and admire.

To avoid getting drawn into a relationship that’s ultimately wrong for you, come up with what I call “Man Minimums” — a list of essential traits a guy has to have to stay in the running to be your boyfriend. One of yours might be “shows potential and the drive to achieve it.” A guy like this will experience setbacks along the way but then turn his wrong moves into arrows toward the right ones. So, yes, as a person who seems to value ambition, it’s OK for you to date men who are still figuring things out — as long as what they’re figuring out isn’t that you can reach for the stars. With one hand. And then roll over and go back to sleep.

© 2014, 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:

Get 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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