Amy Alkon drags people, kicking, screaming, and laughing, out of their misery with her behavioral science-based advice column, which runs in about 100 newspapers.
Buy her science-based and bitingly funny new advice book, "Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck" (St. Martin's Press, June 3, 2014).
Got a problem? E-mail Amy at AdviceAmy@aol.com.
Boy Meeks Girl
Recently, you wrote about "female flirting moves recognized across cultures" — smiling, making eye contact and looking away, toying with hair or objects, and touching a guy's arm. I disagree about them being "recognized." Female employers have made eye contact and even smiled, but that didn't mean they wanted a romantic relationship. If a woman toys with an object, it usually means she's restless and will soon tell me she has somewhere else to be. As for arm-touching, once, when I was on the phone with an auto insurance agent, a receptionist tapped my hand to remind me to mention something. In contrast, when I met my former girlfriend, she grabbed me in such a way that she clearly let me know where I stood with her. Perhaps I'm the only guy missing these signals; then again, I don't like riddles. I'm too shy to pursue a woman, so unless she makes some big move, we end up going our separate ways.
A girl practically has to sexually assault you to tell you she's interested — or, as you put it, "grab" you in such a way that she "clearly" lets you know where you stand. Um... either she wants to be your girlfriend or your urologist?
These flirting moves are human universals, meaning women around the world do these things when they're attracted to a guy; it's not like women bang pots and pans together in China. They are typically subconscious signals for both the sender and receiver, and a woman will generally send more than one if her desire goes beyond helping you save a bundle on your car insurance.
While most men aren't keeping a running tally of a woman's flirting moves, humans who aren't on the autism spectrum have a capacity called "theory of mind." This is a sort of mind-reading — an ability to guess what's somebody's feeling by observing their body language. If some man's red-faced and flipping you off, you know he probably isn't longing to buy you a steak dinner. If a woman's "toying with an object" — say, frantically jiggling the locked doorknob of the supply closet you're both stuck in — it's safe to assume she wants to go out, but probably not on a romantic, candlelit date with you.
If you can't hear what a woman's body language is telling you, it's probably because the loudest sound in the room is your low opinion of yourself. So, you're shy. So are lots of guys. Ask one of them how he got a girlfriend, and you won't hear "I stayed home complaining bitterly to my cat about being dateless, then this beautiful sweet girl came to my door, asked if I felt shy and resentful, and if so, could she be my girlfriend?"
You are free to wait for that rare woman who will grab you like she cares — and wait and wait, because she'll probably be the lady who's paid to roll you over at The Home. The more you avoid what you're afraid of, the more you ingrain avoidance as your personal operating system and datelessness as your lot in life. If you really are signal-deaf, don't hit on women in your workplace, but hit on women everywhere else. There's no need to log hair-twirls; there's just finding a woman attractive and being man enough to chance 10 seconds of feeling foolish if she says no when you ask her out. Remember, dating's a numbers game. You could be the biggest worm ever to wriggle the planet, but if you try enough women, one of them will eventually be blind enough, drunk enough, or deluded enough to say yes.
Appease And Carats
My fiance broke off our engagement. The ring was his mother's. She's left messages, asking to talk — probably about the ring, which my ex accused me of "hijacking." That bothers me, as does knowing the ring was never really mine. Friends are telling me to keep it.
Think of the ring like the toilet in your apartment — something that's all yours, but not to take with you as a keepsake when you move on. Because it's jewelry, it seems like a gift, but it's really a symbol of the marriage to come. If nothing's to come, the ring should come off and find its way back to its original owner. Yeah, your fiance was a jerk. And it's tempting, when people are jerks, to jerk back — which means letting who you are be dictated by others instead of living by your own standards. If you're just looking to keep the thing, be honest about it. Otherwise, maybe be glad you're only removing a ring, not looking for a tattoo artist who does decent enough cat and mouse heads to turn "Tom and Kerry Forever" into "Tom and Jerry Forever."
©2009, 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)