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Overkill Bill
I'm an attractive, fit, financially stable, 28-year-old guy who has no trouble getting dates. I just never make it past the first or second one. I pay for dinner, send flowers the following day, and try to say all the right things according to the "what a good boyfriend should be" handbook. Although I'm a serious-looking guy, I'm good at adapting my personality to fit a situation, and on dates, I'm all smiles. So, why, after more than 20 dates, am I still single?

-Baffled

If all goes well on the first date, the message you should be sending is "I'd like to get to know you better," not "I'll soon be contacting your father to see if he'd take a herd of goats and a couple camels for your hand in marriage."

Just because a lot of men go all out wining and dining a woman on the first date doesn't mean it's a good idea. Are you normally in the habit of rewarding near strangers with free dinner? You may as well yell to some random person you pass on the street, "Hey, dude, lemme take you out for a steak!"

You might get away with the dinner bribe if you didn't speed-dial 1-800-FLOWERS the very next day - expressing your "deep and abiding affection" for a woman you barely know. But, even without auto-flowering, your "Hi, I'm Johnny Anybody You Want Me To Be" habit of performing a personality-ectomy on yourself says it all: "I am a generic carrier of the Y chromosome, most noteworthy for my crushing desire to be loved by that special somebody … anybody." Mmmm, dreamy.

Be a rock, not a mudslide. Surely, you have a few opinions: Capital punishment, for or against? Birkenstocks? Comfortable shoes or clever form of birth control? You should also consider what you want in a woman (beyond a woman who wants you). "All the right things" to say are things that reflect what you think. The point of dating is discovering whether you connect with a woman based on that stuff, not convincing her you'll shell out the G.N.P. of Liechtenstein if only she'll see you again.

Wash the phony smile off your face, ditch the handbook, and be real. This doesn't mean delving into why you think mommy loved Billy better, or laying out a detailed mental health case history of your family tree. If you're a serious guy, be a serious guy. Not every woman wants Bozo the Clown. If you're rejected, take it as a sign that you should keep looking for a woman who prefers life without a laugh track, not work harder to erase all traces of yourself on your next date-cum-extreme fake-over.

At the supermarket, they entice you to buy by offering you a morsel of barbequed steak in a tiny paper cup; they don't chase you around the aisles with a side of beef. Likewise, the ideal first date should seem too short: a couple hours over drinks or coffee that leave a woman wanting more. If "more" seems in order, there's no need to spell it out in hydrangeas; a "had a great time/love to see you again" phone call should suffice.

"Saying it with flowers" isn't wrong - provided you're doing it because you feel sparks flying, not because you're desperate to feel sparks flying. Any gift you give should tell a woman "I get you!" not "Stick around for your free Juiceman on date three!" You want her to be with you because she goes for The Serious Guy, not because you're the next best thing to a knock on the door from Publishers Clearing House.

Oaf Wiedersehen
I'm in love with a guy who was a German foreign exchange student at my high school four years ago. He says he doesn't share my feelings, but may someday. He hopes to move here eventually, and wants to continue being friends and staying with me when he visits. Should I allow this, considering how hard it is on me emotionally?

-American Dreamer

John F. Kennedy was accused of standing on a podium in Berlin and proclaiming, "I am a jelly donut." What he said, "Ich bin ein Berliner," could be translated that way, but in context, the Germans got what he meant: "I am a Berliner." Your guy is telling you, "I want to be friends." In the absence of even the slightest show of concern for your emotional well-being, this can only be translated as "think of all the money I'll save if I can get her to let me crash on her couch." Be sure to return his "friendship" with a few equally friendly words of welcome: "So long, farewell, beat it, bug off, you're about as welcome as German measles, so repack your lederhosen and stuff your schnitzel because the Berlin Wall just went up again, and it's blocking the door to my guest room."

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail [email protected] (www.advicegoddess.com)

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