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ADVICE Goddess: Playing with mismatches
Thursday, 19 February 2015 00:38

Q: — I like this woman I’ve been seeing, but she’s really in love with me. I’ve been clear that I’m not ready to get more serious and that I’m really never going to be up for that with her. She’s chosen to stick around, but her best friend called me crying, saying I’m breaking her heart. (Yikes!) Is it wrong to stay with somebody whose feelings are much stronger than yours? 

— Troubled

She sees the two of you getting old together. 

You see the two of you getting together for sex on Friday.

The French make this sort of mismatch sound sexy and fabulous, calling what she’s feeling “la douleur exquise” -- the “exquisite pain” of wanting somebody you can’t have. 

But look under the hood and you’ll see an ugly stew of hormones and the psychological gotchas called cognitive biases — unconscious errors in reasoning — leading to an acute case of adult-onset puppy love.

Some would argue that this woman is worshipping at your altar of her own free will (laying if not crops and a goat at your feet, then undying love, Doritos, and beer).

The truth is, a cognitive bias called the “sunk cost fallacy” probably has a good bit to do with her sticking around. This describes our tendency to be irrational “investors” — deciding whether we’ll continue putting time, energy, and/or money into something based on what we’ve already put in.

This is dumb, because our initial investment is gone, and throwing in more whatever won’t change that. The rational approach would be basing our decision on what kind of payoff we’re likely to see down the road.

Unfortunately, though we humans have a reasoning department built into our brain, cognitive biases can keep it a plastic-wrapped no-go zone, much like my late grandma’s living room couch.

Love is not always 50/50, but it also shouldn’t be, oh, 90/10.

Eventually, if you have a conscience, taking advantage of her futile hopes will prey on you (if it hasn’t already).

And sooner or later, she’s likely to resent and maybe even hate you for sticking around to never give her what she wants — instead providing the dating version of “Hey, we don’t sell what you need at this store, but please hang out here till we go out of business.” 


Leave of absinthe

I drank too much mystery punch at an office party last week and confessed my unrequited crush to a co-worker. He thanked me and said he was “flattered.” I was mortified and now feel really uncomfortable at the office. How can I fix this?

— Embarrassed


My boyfriend, whose favorite self-help book is “The Godfather,” had this helpful suggestion: “Hire a hit man and have the guy clipped.”

Unfortunately, this advice violates my rule of not solving people’s problems by giving them bigger problems, like a first-degree murder charge.

Instead, inject a little perspective. Okay, you spewed at the party, but now, back at the office, your thoughts aren’t running across your forehead, CNN news-ticker-style: “I’m in love with you. You’re so hot. I love your tie. Marry me.”

To make yesterday’s drunken blurtation today’s “I said no such thing,” align how you act with the message you want to send.

This starts with realigning your head. Reframe what happened. Tell yourself that it was gutsy to put yourself out there. Next, tell yourself that you accept that he’s not interested. Repeat until these notions sink in.

If you use these thoughts to avoid acting uncomfortable around him — no look of sweaty shame, no tight smile at the copier — he’ll have no reason to be uncomfortable around you. It’s like giving yourself a reset — that is, until you drink too much at lunch and he finds your Post-it on his computer: “I still wanna have your babies. Don’t forget!” You know you’ll feel bad when you check his Facebook and Twitter, yet you keep doing it.

This is the social media version of being the busty friend character in the horror movie — the one who says, “I hear creepy reptilian hissing coming from the cellar. I’m sure it’s nothing, but I’ll just rub my large breasts with raw hamburger and go down there with this flickering flashlight to check.”

Unless intelligence tests have revealed you to have an IQ rivaling that of Jell-O, you’re repeating this misery-making behavior because you, like the rest of us, are prone to fall into automatic strings of behavior we call habits. 

In “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg explains that “a habit is a choice we deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about, but continue doing.” Research finds that every habit has three components, which Duhigg calls the CUE (a feeling that triggers behavior), the ROUTINE (the behavior itself), and the REWARD (some sort of payoff that tells your brain, “Oh, yeah, let’s totally do that again”).

You’re probably picturing yourself at 80, with an elderly monkey on your back, still frantically checking Facebook for signs your ex-boyfriend’s shifted position in the last 30 seconds.

But Duhigg emphasizes that you can break a habit. You do this by swapping out the middle step, the routine (compulsively clicking into your ex’s social media accounts). To understand what to replace it with, check in with yourself at the moment the urge strikes and figure out the “why” — what reward you’re going after, what need you’re trying to fill. 

Maybe you’re lonely and longing to feel connected. Or maybe you’re going for a hit of intensity. Intense feelings are called “arousal” in psychology and can be positive or negative. Either leads to feeling stimulated and alive (though sometimes alive and pretty miserable).

Next, you need a plan — a substitute routine to slip in whenever the impulse to cyber-stalk him strikes. This replacement routine is especially important because a “negative goal” — not doing something — is way harder than doing something different.

So, if it’s connection you’re longing for, call a friend or go impede a co-worker’s productivity. If you’re an intensity junkie, watch a clip from a slasher movie or maybe rappel to your car instead of taking the elevator.

Be prepared for temptation to gnaw at you, especially if you’re tired or hungry (when willpower is at its wimpiest).

Make it harder for yourself to cheat by mailing your phone to a faraway friend and burying your modem in the backyard — or at least blocking the guy on social media and maybe installing a program on your computer like Freedom (, which prevents you from getting on the Internet. 

When the going gets tough, remind yourself that time heals most wounds, and it should do the job on yours —- as soon as you stop picking that 140-character scab every 10 minutes. 

Louvre, actually

I’m really into this beautiful, funny girl I’ve been dating for three weeks. I think she likes me, but my gut says she’s pulling away a little. If this fizzles, I’ll be heartbroken. She’s leaving on a 10-day business trip to Europe in two days. Should I get her a gift or a card to let her know I’m really into her (and to not fall in love with any European dudes while she’s away)?

— Worried

What kind of gift were you thinking of giving her — the duct tape you’d use to strap her to a chair in your den?

When somebody you’re interested in seems to be backing away, it’s natural to want to chase them. It’s also the most counterproductive thing you could do. (You look desperate, and they look for doorways to hide in.)

Your best bet is to remain present but be minimal about it, like by texting her on the morning she leaves, “Hey, have a safe trip and a great time.” While she’s away, keep seriously busy, both to stay okay in the head and so, when you do see her, you won’t come off like you spent 10 days in your bunk bed drawing sparkly hearts in a notebook with her name on the cover. 

Upon her return, wait at least a few days, and then ask her out. Give her the space to miss you and she just might do that, and you just might find yourself showing her the American version of “if the gondola’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’.”

(c.) 2015, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail

The Sock Hops: The lion roars tonight
Thursday, 19 February 2015 00:00
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FRANKLIN — The Sock Hops vocal group had the audience standing  to cheer and clap even before finishing its vintage doo-wop rendition of The Tokens’ 1961 No. 1 hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” during a two-hour concert Feb. 17 at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.

To this critic’s disappointment (and probably to at least some in the crowd), the group’s dynamite performance was only a slightly extended version of The Tokens’ several-minute song.

But the 700 or so in attendance won’t soon forget Scott Cruce — blind and in his 40s and, by far, the youngest of the Sock Hops — as he transformed the song into some kind of throbbing anthem, reaching deep into his soul to hit the right notes — all the while gesticulating with his arms like a reincarnation of the late Joe Cocker, and occasionally swinging his head around like the late Ray Charles.

In the middle of the song, Cruce went into an extended vocal jam, backed by the solid harmonies of the three other Sock Hops, to the delight of the mostly grey-haired crowd that applaused during the actual performance as well as giving sustained applause afterward.

The group could have turned “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” into a symphony and extended it to 15 or 30 minutes, with some more thought given to the arrangement to keep it fresh throughout. The crowd surely would have loved a longer version.

The song, originally named “Mbube,” but also known as “Wimba Way” or “Awimbawe” or “Wimoweh,” was written and recorded by Solomon Linda originally with the Evening Birds for the South African Gallo Record Company in 1939. It has been covered by many artists ever since, including folk musician Pete Seeger, and was featured in the 1994 Disney film, “The Lion King.”

In additon, Cruce, a rich tenor, entertained the crowd with his own falsetto interpretation of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Sherry” and “Oh, What a Night.” 

Another highlight of the Sock Hops concert was an emotionally stirring rendition of The Righteous Brothers’ 1965 No. 4 hit, “Unchained Melody,” which showcased the vocal pyrotechnics of Courney Oliver, the group’s long-time lead singer. (Rounding out the group are baritone Ward Hiss and bass singer extraordinaire Jim Mitchell.)

The Sock Hops, based in Marietta, Ga., were founded in 1996, specializing in four-part harmony to songs — mostly — from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, sounded celestial and certainly connected with the audience in this, the group’s sixth performance at the SMCPA.

The group performed two 55-minute sets, as well as two encore songs: a patriotic medley that began with “Dixie” and a gospel favorite, “Amazing Grace.”

However, an obvious flaw in the show, which likely was due to economic factors, was that The Sock Hops performed against a backdrop of recorded music, rather than with a live band. That made this reviewer wonder, at various times, if even the vocals on some songs were being sung — or lip-synched over prerecorded vocals.

Also, while all group members but Cruce appeared to be in their 70s, much improvement could have been made to professionalize the choreography. This group, performing lively music, needs to move a lot more on stage — and preferably in unison.

The group, introduced as “the fabulous Sock Hops,” began the concert with a blasting renditon of The Velvets’ 1961 doo-wop hit “Tonight (Could Be the Night).” The Sock Hops noted that The Velvets were “one-hit wonders,” but that their hit turned out to be a true classic.

The show continued in a similar vein with The Diamonds’ “Little Darlin’” — and then transitioned into the rock era with a catchy rendition of Keith’s 1967 hit “98.6.”

 From there, the group unleashed the aforementioned showstopper, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” The Socks Hops then noted that it would jump “all the way to 1971” — and then uncorked a hot version of “Brandi You’re a Fine Girl” by Looking Glass.

Among other notable performances in the first set was a rather smashing version of The Bee Gees’ 1977 No. 1 hit “How Deep Is Your Love,” with Cruce — unbelievably, almost — replicating the unwordly, high-pitched falsetto of Barry Gibbs. It was surreal and the audience appeared mesmerized. Also enjoyable were heart-rending renditions of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” and The Vogues’ lush “Turn Around, Look at Me.”

As recorded songs of the ‘50s and early ‘60s blared during the intermission, Gordie Valliant of Hendersonville and Sandy Blackwell of Asheville were the sole couple to engage in an impromptu and eye-catching East Coast Swing dance routine in the front-row aisle, drawing — to their apparent surprise — appreciative applause and cheering from the audience.

The second set began with a bang with The Earls’ 1962 hit “Remember Then,” followed by The Temptations’ “My Girl” and The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk.” Also memorable in the second set were renditions of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” and Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted,”

Surprisingly, The Sock Hops also did — admirably — two songs by The Beatles — “All My Loving” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”

For this reviewer, it was the ultimate irony to see a group of mostly 70-plus-year-old men enthusiastically singing the lyrics:

 “Well, she was just 17

“You know what I mean

“And the way she looked was way beyond compare

“So how could I dance with another (Ooh)

“When I saw her standing there....”

Afterward, Valliant, a swing and shag enthusiast, told the Daily Planet that the concert was “just like being at the 1963 senior prom.”



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