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The Advice Goddess: February 2017
Thursday, 02 February 2017 17:08

Get off my yawn!

Q: I’m a 61-year-old guy who’s been married four times. I love the security and acceptance of marriage, but after several years, either my wife du jour or I will get bored, and we’ll agree to move on. Clearly, I like being a husband, but I do a poor job of remaining one. Can I change that? 
— Chairman of the Bored


A: So, you just want the security of marriage with all the excitement of dating somebody new — which is kind of like wanting a latex hood and ball gag that are also a comfy old pair of slippers.

Though, no, you can’t have it all, you might manage to have a good bit of it all — the security and the excitement — by bringing in the neurochemistry of the chase when you’re in the cuddly-wuddly long-term attachment stage.

This probably sounds complicated, but it’s basically the brain version of how your freezer can serve as both an ice cube manufacturing area and a makeshift morgue for Squeaky the hamster, until you can give him a proper burial. 

It turns out that the goo-goo-eyed “Granny and I are still so in luvvv!” and the bug-eyed “Wowee, that’s new and exciting!” can have some brain parts and neurochemicals in common.

Social psychologist Arthur Aron and his colleagues did a brain imaging study of couples who were still passionately in love after being married for 10 to 29 years. Surprisingly, the results looked a lot like their previous results on couples who’d just fallen madly in love, with intense activity in regions of the brain “associated with reward and motivation.” 

The neurotransmitter dopamine is a central player in this reward circuitry. Though dopamine is still widely known by its outdated nickname, the “pleasure chemical,” current research by neuroscientist Kent Berridge suggests that it doesn’t actually give you a buzz (as opioids in the brain do). It instead motivates you to do things that might — like eating cake, smoking a doob, and making moves on that girl with the hypno-hooters. 

Dopamine-secreting neurons are especially on the alert for what researchers call “novel rewards” — any yummy, sexy, feel-good stuff you haven’t tried before. Neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz finds that “unpredictable rewards” may be even three or four times as exciting to us as those we’re used to. 

The problem is, when there’s nothing new on the horizon, there’s no reason for your dopamine to get out of bed. In other words, there’s a neurochemical explanation for why your marriages often go dullsville. 

But, there’s also good news: Aron and his colleagues note that “if partners experience excitement” from, say, “novel and challenging activities” that they do together, “this shared experience can reignite relationship passion by associating the excitement with the relationship.” 

Obviously, these should be unanticipated good experiences — like alternating who plans date night and surprising each other with the week’s event — not having your spouse find you in bed with the cleaning lady. You might also try to delight your spouse with small unexpected gestures every day. 

Ultimately, you should find bringing in surprise much more fun than simply hoping the relationship won’t die — kind of like a paramedic just staring down at a heart attack victim: “Not lookin’ good, dude! Hope you didn’t have any big weekend plans!” 


Wishful sinking

The girl I'm in love with has a boyfriend. She and I have already fooled around, but she can’t bring herself to break up with this guy. She insists she doesn't want to lose me and promises we’ll date eventually. I’m confused. Do you think she’s playing me?
— Lost


It’s nice to hope for the best about people — but still put a note, “tofu-kelp casserole,” on that foil-wrapped plate of brownies you stuck in the break room refrigerator.

However, especially when our ego is involved, we’re prone to believe the best about people, because of what psychologists call “optimism bias.”

This is a form of selecto-vision that leads us to overestimate that things will turn out wonderfully for us and underestimate the likelihood of our experiencing bad stuff, like being in a flaming car wreck or a flaming car wreck of a relationship. In short, we believe that bad things happen to other people. 

For example, that cheater we’re in love with is only cheating because the other dude’s such a fuckbuckle, not because she has the ethics of a dust mite.

Because optimism bias is ego-protecting, understanding that we’re susceptible to it typically isn’t enough to dig ourselves out. 

What might help you, however, is telling yourself your story, but about some other girl and guy. Then advise that guy on his prospects.

For example: Yes, here’s a woman you can trust completely to be faithful — whenever she’s trapped, totally alone, 2,300 feet below ground in a Chilean coal mine.


Flee Willy

I’m a 27-year-old woman, dating again after a six-year relationship. I slept with a guy on the third date and was dismayed when he didn’t spend the night. It didn’t feel like just a hookup, and it wasn’t a work night. Is this just how people date now -- going home immediately after sex -- or does this mean he’s not serious? 
— Confused


There are two ways to solve this problem. One is to say, “Hey, I’d really like you to stay the night.” The other is to hide his shoes and keys.

The “half-night stand” — avoiding the early-morning walk of shame, often via middle-of-the-night Uber — is being proclaimed the new one-night stand. The truth is, the just-post-sex adios isn’t exactly a new phenomenon; it’s probably just more prevalent, thanks to how easy smartphones make it to swipe office supplies, Thai food, and sex partners right to your door.

As for why this guy left, it’s hard to say. Maybe he’s gone for good, or maybe he just wasn’t sure you wanted him to stay. Maybe he sleepwalks, sleep-carjacks, or can’t fall asleep in a strange bed. Or maybe he’s got some early-morning thing -- seeing his parole officer, walking the goat, or (more likely) making the bathroom smell like 12 dead goats. 

Your fretting about what the deal is suggests you might not be as comfortable as you think about having sex before there’s a relationship in place. 

You may unconsciously be succumbing to a form of peer pressure — peer pressure that mainly exists in your own mind — called “pluralistic ignorance.” This is social psychologists’ term for when many people in a group are personally uncomfortable with some belief or behavior but go along with it anyway — incorrectly concluding that most people are A-Okay with it and thinking they should be, too. (Basically, “monkey assume/monkey do.”) 

Consider how the millennial generation is supposedly “Generation Hookup.” Looking at survey data from Americans ages 20 to 24, psychologist Jean Twenge actually found that people born from 1990 to 1994 (millennials) were “significantly more likely” than those born from 1965 to 1969 (Gen Xers) to say they’d had ZERO sex partners since the age of 18. (Fifteen percent of millennials went sexless, versus 6 percent of Gen Xers.)

And if millennials were clued in on pluralistic ignorance, the number in the “no sex for now” column might be even higher. 

For example, biological anthropologist Chris Reiber finds that women seriously overestimate other women’s comfort level with “hookup behaviors” (from “sexual touching above the waist” to sex) in situations “where a more traditional romantic relationship is NOT an explicit condition of the encounter.” 

Figure out what actually works for you emotionally — whether you can just say ”whatevs!” if a guy goes all nail-’n’-turn-tail or whether you might want to wait to have sex till you’ve got a relationship going.

That’s when it becomes easier to broach uncomfortable subjects — so you won’t have to wonder, say, why he’s running out at 2:27 a.m.

You will know: It’s not you; it’s his sleep apnea and how he likes to go home to his CPAP machine rather than die in your bed.

(c.) 2017, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail

Big Band Weekend swings
Thursday, 02 February 2017 13:01
2 big bands perform favorites that keep
ballroom dancers on their feet at Grove Park Inn

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Big Band and Swing Weekend swung and swayed  as a nostalgic, elegant and dance-driven gala on Jan. 13-14 at the swanky Omni Grove Park Inn.

The event was attended by 325 people on the first night and 375 people on the last night.“Friday night, we welcome a new band each year to keep the event fresh,” Tracey Johnston-Crum said in a Jan. 24 email to the Daily Planet. (She is the director of public relations and community outreach for the Omni GPI.)  This year’s first-night band was the Andrew Thielen Big Band.

She added, “Saturday evening is reserved for classic, tried-and-true bands, such as The Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and this year’s headliner, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.“Each year we welcome back hundreds of dancers, with some returning for over 20 years.

“And each year we see new couples join us who have either just discovered a love of dance or rekindled their old skill-set and want to get out on the floor with a live band.

“All of our guests come here with one purpose, to dance to the beat of a live big band. There’s really nothing like it!,” Johnston-Crum noted.

In addition, ballroom dance instruction was offered during the day on Jan. 14, followed that afternoon by a tea dance featuring music by the Charleston, S.C.-based Thielen band.

Following the ballroom dance mantra that “the lady is the picture and the gentleman is the frame,” some men wore dark tuxedoes, or mostly dark coats and ties, while the women were — for the most part — arrayed in a potpourri of dazzling and colorful gowns.

The Thielen band’s two-set show, split by an intermission, started with “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and ended with Donna Summer’s disco-era hit, “Last Dance.”

On the final night, the the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra performed — in three sets — such classics at “Fly Me to the Moon,” “In the Mood,” “It Had to Be You,” “Sentimental Journey,” and “Moonlight Serenade.” Especially memorable was the band’s rendition of “Sing-Sing,” showing off its drummer’s skills.

Dancing styles included foxtrot, waltz and east coast swing, with a few cha-cha numbers added for a Latin flair.



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