Downward Doghouse

There’s a woman in my yoga class I’d like to ask out. Though she’s friendly to me, I worry that this could lead to awkwardness in class if she rejects me or if we date but things go poorly. I have a two-year relationship with this class — much longer than my fantasy relationship with her. What should I do? Grow a spine and go for it regardless of the eventual consequences — or fish in a different pond?

— Stuck

Spines are not to be grown promiscuously.

In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to your question. Unlike 7-Elevens — pretty much the same in Boise as they are in Bumpass, Vermont — people vary wildly. Individuals have individual levels of “risk tolerance” (or what risk intelligence specialist Dylan Evans calls “risk appetite”): their ability to bear potential losses, should their initiative go toiletward. 

Take the question “Should you risk $5,000 on a seemingly profitable investment?” Well, that depends on who “you” are — emotionally and, in this case, financially. Because your risk tolerance will vary in different situations, answering that takes more questions — situation-specific questions. For example: Do you shrug off losses…or flog yourself bloody like the weird albino monk in “The Da Vinci Code”? Financially, would losing the 5K be a bummer or an enduring nightly bummer when the inability to pay your rent leads to your taking up residence in a walk-in ATM?

Apply this method to your dilemma, “Can I afford to ask out the hot lady from hot yoga?” Tempting as it is to overdramatize — rewrite what would likely be a somewhat uncomfortable situation into an epic disaster movie — drill down to the actual worst-case scenarios. For example, would getting a “Thanks, but I’m not ready to date” from the lady really trigger the giant zombie jellyfish apocalypse — or the rather mundane urge to temporarily relocate your mat to the other side of the room?

Consider that awkwardness between people — some big uncomfortable something hanging in the air — usually stems from somebody acting all weirded out. There’s a remedy for this should asking her out go badly: preplanning to keep your cool — to act like the guy you were before you hit on her. In practice, how hard might that be? You’re probably inviting her to join you for “a coffee” after class — which few of us immediately recognize as code for “a midmorning orgy in my sex dungeon.”

Save The Inundate

On dating apps, guys who message me always end up losing interest. My friend thinks my repeatedly replying before the guy writes back is the problem. I’ll reply to a guy’s first message and, while awaiting his response, have more to say and add messages (usually no more than four). I’m an enthusiastic person. What’s the problem with showing that honestly?

—Authentic Woman

Most of us bring an important understanding to our workplace: The fact that we have a feeling is not reason to let it give us marching orders. That’s why, when our idiot boss makes us stay late to complete a “super important assignment” (busywork no one will ever look at), we say, “Sure thing!” — and only picture ourselves attaching battery cables to his nipples at a CIA black site.

Admittedly, anger is an obvious target for emotional restraint. But enthusiasm, while praised on elementary school report cards, should not be flung around like birdseed. Chances are your storm of messages — a monologue in the space for a conversation — sends the wrong messages about you, such as: “desperate” and “has the social skills of a 5-year-old.”

Unfortunately, avoiding the impulse to act on our emotions is hard work. Psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky explain that emotions are “fast”: popping up immediately — automatically — and motivating us to act. Rational thought, however, is “slow” (and, frankly, lazy). We have to yank it out of bed and feed it a bunch of mental energy to make it do its job — for example, explore whether our emotions’ directives might have ruinous consequences. This feels, shall we say, unfun — and also depressing when all we can do is damage control after some off-leash emotion has blown up our life.

Consider that the “job” in online dating is not getting someone to like you but seeing whether you like them enough to take it beyond the small screen. As an experiment, you might put your impulse to reply on a strict diet: One message from a guy. One reply from you. Period. As a perhaps helpful model, try to come off like a rare vintage of fine wine — that is, hard to get — as opposed to red wine spilled across a white shag carpet (impossible to get rid of…save for a willingness to broaden one’s stain removal methods to include arson).

(c)2021, 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. @amyalkon on Twitter. Weekly podcast: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon

 Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Unf*ckology: A Field Guide to Living with Guts and Confidence,” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2018).