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The Advice Goddess: October 2016
Sunday, 09 October 2016 12:30

Loaf, actually

Q: I’m a 35-year-old woman, and my boyfriend of a year is 43. Sadly, my friends and family don’t like him. They think he’s “not good enough” for me. Their argument: He doesn’t have a full-time job with benefits (like me), plus he smokes pot to relax; therefore, he is lazy and will live off me and my retirement money. (Sorry, but enjoying retirement alone isn’t my idea of a “secure future.”) He has a part-time job he likes, makes enough to pay his bills in a (small) house he owns, and saves for things he wants. He is loving, has my back to an unreasonable degree, and says he’s pretty sure he used up all his luck getting me. Unfortunately, all minds are made up; there’s no explaining what a deeply good man he is. I feel awkward bringing him to gatherings or even mentioning him. The worst, though, is my nagging question: Could they be right? 
— Torn 

A: There are people who chase their dreams, and there are those — like your boyfriend —who just chillax on the couch, smoking a doob, waiting for their dreams to be in the neighborhood and maybe knock on the door. 

He does sound like a good man — which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good man to make a life with (which is why everybody’s campaigning for you to ditch him).

Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, so he’s kind of a laid-back dude. It’s 2016; can’t the woman be the breadwinner?” Well, yes…but his lack of drive is likely to be a problem — at least eventually. 

Evolutionary developmental psychologist Bruce J. Ellis explains that there’s this notion by some social scientists — called the “structural powerlessness hypothesis” — that women only go for powerful men because they themselves lack power.

This, Ellis writes, is “directly contradicted” by research — on feminist leaders, for example — that finds that “high-power women (want) super-powerful men.” They aren’t all, “Well, I make plenty of money; I think I’ll marry Hot Julio, the pool boy.” 

As for why this is, Ellis explains (as I often do) that ancestral women who went for mover-and-shaker men were more likely to have children who survived and passed on their genes. “Over evolutionary time,” he writes, “evaluative mechanisms” were built into female psychology to push women “to detect and prefer males” with a “willingness and ability” to provide for them and their children.

A guy doesn’t necessarily have to be rich for you to get your “man with mate value!” box checked. What seems to matter is potential —that he is ambitious and has a reasonable shot at achieving what he’s going after.

Now, maybe you went for your sweet underachiever as a reaction to jerks in your recent past — or because it’s supposedly “shallow” to want a partner to be, say, at least a certain height or making some kind of mark in business. But, using the height example, if you really aren’t attracted to shorter guys, getting involved with one is basically benevolent cruelty. Sooner or later, your libido’s going to be all, “Okay, so you got drunk and went home with the garden gnome. But enough is enough.”

It is possible that you and Laid-Back Larry could live happily ever after. But ask yourself some questions: Where do you see yourself in five years? Could you count on him to put down the bong and go make money if you got sick? Will your friends and family come to accept him, or will you end up unhappily isolated? And finally, do you want kids? If so, consider that you can downscale your lifestyle but you can’t downscale your kid from needing dental care or hand him makeshift forceps to take the toy truck out of his nose. 

Sure, this guy would probably be the ideal stay-at-home dad. But consider — in line with what Ellis explains — that a number of studies find that women married to a Mr. Mom often end up resenting and losing respect for him, and those marriages are more likely to end in divorce.

You probably need some time to figure all of this out. Because people read the words in letters (instead of yelling over them), maybe write one to your family to ask them to be kind to him at family functions —for your sake. 

And finally, try not to be so dramatic about your options. You’re 35. The fertility train might be leaving the station pretty soon, but it’s not like this guy is your last chance before “Marriage is between a woman and her cat!” and “P.S. Snowball and I are registered at Bloomingdale’s and Petco.”


A mile in somebody else's choose 

I’m a woman who’s on the feminist dating app Bumble, where women have to make the first move. Men can only write back to women who message them. I thought this would be empowering, but even pursuing a guy in this small way feels unsexy and overly aggressive. Do I just need to get over my retrograde thinking? 
 — Uncomfortable


The gazelle doesn’t wake up one day, decide it’s time for a change, and give the sleeping cougar a kick with its hoof: “Run for your life, you big ugly feline!” The cougar turns around, confused: “What are you doing, man? Haven’t you ever seen National Geographic?”

Who does the chasing in dating also isn’t some arbitrary thing. It comes down to what evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, in 1972, called “parental investment.” His theory — borne out in research on humans, animals, and insects — is that the sex that has the highest cost from sexual activity (the female — in almost all species) will be choosier about whom they mate with than the sex that invests less (which is almost always the male). 

In humans, of course, women are the ones who get pregnant and stuck with the kids, and men can, as anthropologists quip, just “inseminate and run.” So — over thousands of generations — women being choosier and men being, uh, chase-ier got wired into human psychology. We can’t just shrug off the emotional mechanisms that drive this behavior even today — even if Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe deems it “heteronormative” hooey that women damage their desirability by chasing men.

A trip to the Panamanian wetlands would show her she’s wrong — that what drives which sex does the chasing and which does the choosing really is about who gets stuck with the child care. Yes, in most species, that’s the female. But check out the role reversal in the wattled jacana, a long-legged South American wading bird.

Zoologist Stephen Emlen and his team found that it’s the male jacana, not the female, that sits incubating the eggs in the nest and cares for the chickies after they hatch. And right in line with Trivers’ parental investment theory, female jacanas are the ones who do the chasing, competing for the males, and some even have “harems” of up to five boy birds. 

And it gets worse. The Emlen team found that as male jacanas sit tending their egg brood, they’re sometimes forced to watch while their girlfriend bird gets it on right in front of them with the other boy birds in her harem. 

Getting back to Bumble, where the app goes wrong is in removing the filtering that comes from a man needing to lay his ego on the line and expend effort to pursue a woman. The notion that it’s “empowering” for women to do the chasing ignores that it’s in men’s genetic interest to not turn down a mating opportunity — even with a woman they aren’t that interested in. 

Also, because men evolved to expect choosier women, even subtle forms of chasing like your contacting a man first may send a message that you’re not all that. 



When push comes to love 

I’ve been dating a 55-year-old guy for a year. I have two teenage boys; he has no kids. He initially mentioned marriage but now doesn’t want to “rush” moving in with me and my boys. As a first step, he’s moving closer. He just signed a lease on an apartment near me. I love him, but I’m overwhelmed handling two teenagers alone. Should I tell him he needs to speed up the pace? 
 — Questioning His Commitment


If a relationship leads to an outpouring of feelings, a man tends to prefer “You’re the love of my life!” to “Buzz off! You’re not my real dad!”

Perhaps because you’re seeing this through “I need a break!”-colored glasses, you confuse being careful with not caring. 

But zoologist Amotz Zahavi has some good news for you. His research finds that when a message involves some expense to the sender, it’s more likely to be for real. 

For example, anyone can claim they’re committed, but as the saying goes, talk is cheap. Moving, however, is not. It’s costly. Stressful. Horrible. Especially if you are older than 21 and own more than a sleeping bag, a Nintendo and a couple of bongs.

Your boyfriend may ultimately decide that the package here isn’t for him, but pressuring him is unlikely to help. In fact, it’s likely to pressure him right out of your life. 

There’s a reason he doesn’t have kids, and it probably isn’t that he was too put off by the possibility of life imprisonment to kidnap a few at the mall. 


The son also plagiarizes

I met this woman who’d dated my ex. In talking, we realized that he used the same romantic lines on both of us. Granted, these made me feel good at the time, but I feel angry and stupid for falling for them. How do you know when a guy is sincere?
— Scammed 

Understandably, you want a man’s lovey-dovey talk to come from the heart, not from a Word doc he saved on his hard drive. 

However, a guy whose heartfelt remarks turn out to be a renewable resource isn’t necessarily some sneaky recycler. 

Consider how personality plays into this. Personality is a pattern over time of thoughts, feelings, and desires that shape how you behave. 

Research by social psychologist Nathan W. Hudson suggests that you may be able to change aspects of your personality through behavioral change — like by repeatedly acting more conscientiously. Still, Hudson — along with about 10 truckloads of other social psychologists — sees a good deal of evidence that personality is “relatively stable.” 

In other words, even a sweet, sincere guy is likely to use some of the same romantic wordery with any woman he’s dating. What tells you whether he’s a good guy or he just talks a good game is time — reserving judgment on what you have together until enough time passes for you to hold up the sweet things he says to what he actually does. 

Wanting to see any discrepancies is really the best way to protect yourself from serial romancers — or worse. (“I bet you say that to all the girls you put in your freezer!”)


Casualties of war paint 

I dragged my boyfriend into the makeup store Sephora, and he said, “Save your money! You don’t need any of this stuff. I like you better without makeup.” Huh? Why is there a huge makeup industry when so many men say they don’t even like makeup? 
— Pretty Confused


A friend of mine, bioethicist Alice Dreger, tweeted, “True story: I was on Oprah for a show about how appearance doesn’t matter and there was a whole guy tasked with doing just her eyelashes.”

A whole lot of us are in some denial about makeup. And sure, there are men who really do like women better without a drop of the stuff. And then there are those who just think they do -- like the men on Reddit who posted all of these supposed “no makeup!” photos of female celebs. I particularly loved one of Jenna Jameson that a guy captioned “before all the surgeries and without makeup.” Meanwhile, tiny type below the photo lists the makeup and hair goo she actually has on. My other favorite was one of Rihanna, who also very clearly was not sans maquillage. 

Guys, sorry, but cat-eye liquid eyeliner does not appear naturally on the female eye in the wild.

Biological anthropologist Douglas Jones finds that men are attracted to women with somewhat “neotenous” features — meaning somewhat babylike ones like big eyes, full lips, a small jaw and chin, and clear skin — which correlate with health and fertility. So, basically, what we call “beauty” is evolution’s version of a street-corner sign spinner: “Genes passed on here!!! Best babies in town!!!” 

In other words, makeup is fake-up — a woman’s way of making herself out to have more neotenous features and thus a higher mate value than she actually does. (The male version of this is leasing a top-of-the-line Tesla while living in a tent in Grandma’s backyard.) 

So, a man will think he has an aversion to makeup, but it’s really an aversion to being deceived by it. 

This doesn’t mean you have to stop wearing it. Just keep in mind that — except for special occasions and those special dudes who are into your looking like your office is a pole — men generally prefer the “natural look.” 

Of course, the reality is, this sort of “natural” is about an hour and a dozen products away from being “au naturel.” 

What ultimately matters is that you don’t look so dramatically different in makeup that when your boyfriend bumps into the barefaced you at the fridge in the wee hours, he puts his hands up and yells, “Take whatever you want; just let me live!”


Buddy surfing

This guy and I have been friends with benefits for six months. We were casual friends for two years prior to hooking up, but we have gotten much closer since. So, can FWB things ever turn into real relationships, or did we blow our chance?
— Hoping


Friends-with-benefits arrangements are, to some degree, replacing dating. Unfortunately, trying to turn an FWB thing into a relationship can be like trying to return a shirt. One you’ve worn. For a while. You march straight up to the counter and lay the thing out. The guy at the register frowns: “Ma’am, Macy’s closed six years ago. This is Chipotle now.”

It’s helpful to understand what anthropologist Helen Fisher and her colleagues have discovered -- that lust, love and attachment aren’t just emotions; they are motivational systems (ultimately for the purpose of reproduction and child rearing). 

Lust eventually wanes (which makes sense, because “Ohhh, baby” needs to give way to feeding the baby). 

The neurochemistry behind lust “can trigger expressions of attachment,” Fisher explains. However, in men, high testosterone — in general or from having sex — “can reduce attachment.” This is probably more likely if a man has a “high baseline level of testosterone,” which is typically reflected in a strong jaw and chin, a muscular body, and dominant behavior. 

Because you two were friends first and seem to care about each other, maybe you can be more than sex friends. Tell him you really enjoy hanging with him, and ask whether he’d be up for more than FWB. But take the low-pressure approach: You don’t want an answer on the spot; you’d just like him to think about it. 

This should make you seem less desperate and possibly let him feel like having more was his idea. If he wants less, you should probably stop seeing him — at least naked — for a while. He may end up missing you, which could energize his interest in you in a way FWB tends not to do. (They call it “the thrill of the chase,” not the thrill of “you can text any day at 2 a.m. and she’ll let you come over.”)

(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 ( 

‘Fashion from the Classics’ coming to Biltmore Estate
Sunday, 09 October 2016 11:54

From Staff Reports

A collection of classic literary works and the popular movies that brought them to life will be celebrated in “Designed for Drama: Fashion From the Classics,” Biltmore’s newest exhibition of award-winning costumes and objects from the Biltmore collection.

Set for Feb. 10 through July 4, 2017, the exhibition is inspired by favorite stories in George Vanderbilt’s 22,000-volume library. More than 40 elaborate costumes from recent films will be displayed in Biltmore House, including a costume worn by Robert Downey Jr. in “Sherlock Holmes,” and Nicole Kidman’s Isabel Archer costume from “The Portrait of a Lady.”

 The film fashions will be displayed along with the original books from Vanderbilt’s library that served as cinematic inspiration. The clothing reveals the attention to detail involved in period costume design.

 Vanderbilt began to read at a very young age, and years later he was once dubbed by New York media as “one of the best-read men in the country.” At age 12, he started keeping a record of books read, numbered consecutively, including the title and author of each work completed.  These journals log 38 years and 3,159 books, and will be on display during this exhibition.

 The exhibition will also give insight into the eclectic and varied interests that led Vanderbilt to collect more than 22,000 volumes before his death.

The exhibition features elaborate costumes from recent films that bring literary characters to life, including “Sherlock Holmes,” “Finding Neverland,” “Anna Karenina” and “Pride and Prejudice.”

Costumes from 13 movies are dramatically staged in the magnificent rooms of Biltmore House. The fashions on display reveal the attention to detail involved in period costume design, and represent the work of costume designers at the highest level of their profession.

 Admission to “Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics,” is included in the general admission ticket price.  For more information, visit

The most recent exhibit at Biltmore was “Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns in Film,” featuring 41 wedding gowns and groom’s attire from major motion pictures. That exhibit, held at The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village, ran Feb. 12 through July 4.



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