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The Advice Goddess: November 2016
Sunday, 06 November 2016 12:23
Q: -- My boyfriend and I have been together for a year and a half, and we really love each other. His parents adore me and are thrilled that he might not die alone. After his mom saw us being all cuddly in the supermarket, she warned him that we may be getting in people’s way or annoying them by “hanging all over each other.” (We aren’t doing anything dirty or gross -- just hand-holding, play wrestling, quick kisses.) She wondered whether we do this because one of us is insecure. I felt sort of offended. We’re just affectionate. Most people who see us smile. 
— Lovey-Dovey 

A: There’s being cuddly at the supermarket, and then there’s being cuddly in a way that says, “We usually do this with whipped cream.”

Even if what you’re publicly displaying is affection, not foreplay, there are a number of reasons it may make onlookers uncomfortable: It’s them. (They were raised to think PDA is not okay.) It’s their relationship. (The more warm, cuddly, and adorbs you two are the more you remind them that their relationship temperature is about 3 degrees above “bitter divorce.”) It’s the wrong time and place. 

(They’re watching you do huggy headlocks at Granny’s funeral.) 

You’re actually onto something by being so physically demonstrative. Charles Darwin observed that expressing the physical side of an emotion — that is, “the outward signs,” like the yelling that goes with rage — amps up the emotion. Modern research finds that he was right.

For example, clinical psychologist Joan Kellerman and her colleagues had total strangers do something lovers do — gaze deeply into each other’s eyes. Subjects who did this for just two minutes “reported significantly more feelings of attraction, interest, warmth, etc. for each other” than subjects in the “control” condition (who spent the two minutes looking down at each other’s hands). Research on touch has found similar effects. The upshot? Act cuddly-wuddly and cuddly-wuddly feelings should follow.

Maybe you can science his mom into feeling better by explaining this. Consider that she may just be worried that you two are going to burn yourselves out. If you think that’s part of it, you might clue her in on what the greeting cards don’t tell you: Love is also a biochemical process, and a year and a half in, you’re surely out of the hormonal hurricane stage. 

You also might dial it down a little around her (not because you’re doing anything wrong but because it’s nice to avoid worrying Mumsy if you can). The reality is, we all sometimes get in other people’s way when we’re trying to find something at the supermarket — organic Broccolini…grape kombucha…precancerous polyp in the girlfriend’s throat.


Florist Gump

I love my girlfriend, but the other night on the phone, I said something that really hurt her feelings. I was out with my guy friends, and one said, “Get her flowers. Girls love that stuff.” I ran around in the middle of the night looking for them. Obviously, there were no florists open. I had to hit a slew of 7-Elevens. I came home with a rose and told her about my treasure hunt to find it. She loved it, and all was forgiven. For a flower? I don’t get it.
 — Temporary Jerk



It is a little crazy that when you love a woman, you’re supposed to express it with a handful of useless weeds — that is, “Say it with flowers” and not something nice and practical, a la “Say it with a repeating stapler.”

“A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” wrote Gertrude Stein. Sorry, Gertie. It’s actually not. A rose can also be a form of information — one that anthropologists call a “costly signal.” A costly signal is a message that’s more than just words — meaning it involves an investment of time, effort, risk, and/or money, which tells the recipient that it’s more likely to be sincere. 

So, the pointless extravagance of buying a woman flowers is exactly the point. To be willing to burn money on something so intrinsically useless suggests you’re either a natural-born idiot or so in love that it makes you droolingly dim.

But — as you might argue — you only spent a few bucks on that rose. Well, context counts. Research by evolutionary social psychologist Yohsuke Ohtsubo and his colleagues points out that buying just one flower will make you look cheap— but only when “a more costly option (is) available” (like if you’re at a florist). Otherwise, effort counts. In other words, if you only bring your woman a single rose, casually mention that you got it by crawling over broken glass to 7-Eleven while dodging gunfire from the Albanian mob. (Or that you at least tried Rite Aid, CVS, and 12 other 7-Elevens first.)




Talk dirt-cheap to me

My husband of a year is very tight with cash. It’s always save, save, save. I recently traded in my car, and I needed $1,000 more for the new one, but he never offered to give it to me. My parents ended up paying it. I make my own money, but not a lot, and I’m wondering what kind of financial arrangement makes sense in a marriage.
 — Confused



Your husband comes into the living room, and there you are — sitting on the floor with a Starbucks cup and a cardboard sign that says, “Anything helps. God bless.”

Unfortunately, the passive-aggressiveness of the wife-as-panhandler approach is toxic in the long run. However, the theatrics would get your message across better than the nonverbal forms of communication you’ve probably been using — pouting and closing cabinet doors a little more forcefully than usual. 

Like a lot of women, you may assume that whatever subtle emotional cues you can read, men can also read. However, research by social psychologist Judith A. Hall finds that women are far better than men at spotting and decoding nonverbal signals in facial expressions and body language. Women’s having evolved greater aptitude for this makes sense, as newborn infants generally aren’t in the habit of expressing their needs with, “Hey, mom-lady…would you grab me a pack of smokes and a beer?” 

So, yes, if you want something from your husband, you do have to put that out there in spoken-word form. But beyond that, you two need to sit down and hammer out a fiscal policy for your relationship — where the lines get drawn on “yours”/“mine”/“ours” and “what if one of us has a financial crisis and needs an alternative to, oh, stealing a mule to get to work every day?”  

In coming up with this policy, it’s important to go beyond the cold dollars-and-cents view and discuss each other’s attitudes surrounding money, especially any issues and fears. Then, when there’s a conflict, each of you can maybe start with a little compassion for the other’s point of view. 

It also might help to understand that our views about money are influenced by genetics and what behavioral ecologists call our “life history strategy” — a term that relates to whether our upbringing was stable and “safe” or risky and unpredictable. Child development researcher Jay Belsky and his colleagues find that a stable childhood environment tends to lead to a more future-oriented approach (saving, for example), whereas, say, growing up ducking gunfire or just having divorced parents and getting moved around a lot tends to lead to a more now-oriented approach (spendorama!). 

Whatever your past, going off into the sunset being chased by creditors can be a marriage killer. Family studies researcher Jeffrey Dew finds that married couples with a bunch of “consumer debt” (owing on credit cards, loans for consumer goods, and past-due bills) fight more about everything — from sex to chores to in-laws. And research by sociologist Carolyn Vogler, among others, finds that couples who pool their money (like their money got married, too!) tend to be happier. I would guess that the spirit in this is important -- going all in financially…“us against the world!” instead of, “If you lose your job and can’t pay your share of the rent, don’t worry, baby. I’ll help you pitch your tent on the front lawn.”


 (c.) 2016, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ( 


‘Beehive’ buzzing with fun
Saturday, 05 November 2016 11:51
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FLAT RACK  — “Beehive: the ‘60s Musical,” a dance-happy tribute to the female singers of that iconic decade, sparkled with fun and talent during an Oct. 15 sold-out performance at its 506-seat mainstage.

The vibrant, high-energy trip down memory lane provided a dazzling showcase for its cast of six talented singers. At times, they provided near-celestial six-part harmony, as well as some terrific leads. Featuring parts or all of nearly 40 songs, the musical was performed Oct. 13-30.

The singers included Shaleah Adkisson, Galen Crawley, Danyel Fulton, Merrill Peiffer, Alexis Sims and Nicole Winter.

The show also dazzled with its top-notch choreography and costumes. The choreographer was Amy Jones and the costume designer, LeeAnne Lola Deaver. 

In addition, the six-piece orchestra, led on piano by music director Alex Shields, was stellar. The other band members included Daniel Iannucci, bass; Bill Altman, guitar; Paul Babelay, drums; Wes Parker, saxophone; and Chris Mhoff, trumpet.

The plot involves the coming-of-age of a teenage woman in the 1960s (played by Adkisson), stretching from the innocent songs of Lesley Gore and others, transitioning to the tumult of the civil rights movement, to the shock of John Kennedy’s assassination to the televised carnage of the Vietnam War. Many of the popular songs of those years darkly reflect unease and protest.

“We start in 1960 and go straight through to 1969, hitting all the great girl bands along the way,” said director Lisa K. Bryant. “It’s a really entertaining two hours.”

Written and compiled by Larry Gallagher, the musical revue featured big hits of the past like “It’s My Party,” “Proud Mary,” “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Where the Boys Are” and “Respect.” 

Among the show’s features were salutes to Tina Turner, Connie Francis, The Shirelles, Leslie Gore, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes and Janis Joplin. Another highlight was the sight of the knee-high, white go-go boots and the mini-skirts — worn by deadly serious young women singing a stirring rendition of “The Beat Goes On.”

“Beehive” started with a brief-but-rousing overture by the orchestra, beginning with “Where the Boys Are” and rather whimsically connecting other key songs that would be performed later with vocals.

After a rendition of “Let’s Rock,” “Beehive,” with its vocalists front and center, immediately went for audience participation, asking various show attendees to sing a few lyrics from the 1964 hit “The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis. The effect energized, loosened up and greatly amused the audience.

Adkisson noted that their “tale” (“Beehive”) began in 1960, when “everyone was doing The Twist” and rock ‘n’ roll idol Elvis Presley was released from the U.S. Army to return to singing and playing guitar. However, Askisson added that “the women of rock ‘n’ roll were my favorites.”

The show then featured amusingly innocent renditions of several early to mid-1960s hits performed by The Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back” (1963); The Chiffons’ “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” 1966) and “One Fine Day” (1963); and, funniest of all, “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” (1963) by Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles. FRP’s Labelle part was sung admirably by Fulton.

Then, the loveliest rendition of the first act was performed — “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” — in classic Carole King heart-felt style.

Later, the three African-American vocalists of the cast appeared as Diana Ross & The Supremes, performing songs such as “Where Did Our Love Go?” “Come See About Me” and “I Hear a Symphony.”

Other first-act highlights included renditions of “It’s My Party,” “I’m Sorry,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “You Don’t Own Me” and “Where the Boys Are.”

The second set took a decided turn toward the serious, with a driving rendition of Sonny & Cher’s 1967 classic “The Beat Goes On.” The trio — in miniskirts and white knee-high go-go boots — included Adkisson, Sims and Fulton.

In mentioning Martin Luther King Jr.’s march in Birmingham, Adkisson asked, rhetorically, “How can people object so much to people’s basic civil rights?”

Adkisson then raised the issue of the British Invasion (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Hollies and many others), noting that many women had a favorite member of the Beatles — and her crush was on Paul McCartney.

“After that, no one cared about the girl groups,” she asserted. But she then added that Great Britain had terrific female singers in that era, including Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark and Lulu.

British Invasion songs that followed were “Downtown,” “To Sir With Love,” “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and “Don’t Sleep in the Subway.”

Then came the show’s highlight, several renditions of Tina Turner songs (without her then-husband Ike), including “River Deep, Mountain High” and “Proud Mary,” sung terrifically by Fulton.

Next, Aretha Franklin was saluted with inspiring renditions of her hits, “Respect” and “Natural Woman,” performed by Fulton.

The show then plunged into the psychedlic era, featuring rock-blues singer Janis Joplin (played by Winter), in tie-dyed, hippie styling, singing “Try (Just a Little Bit Hard,” “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Ball and Chain.”

The show ended by countering its more serious second act, though, with a Mama Cass Elliot feel-good hit, “Make Your Own Kind of Music.”



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