Amy Alkon drags people, kicking, screaming, and laughing, out of their misery with her behavioral science-based advice column, which runs in about 100 newspapers.
Buy her science-based and bitingly funny new advice book, "Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck" (St. Martin's Press, June 3, 2014).
Got a problem? E-mail Amy at AdviceAmy@aol.com.
You printed a letter from a guy who doesn't want to be a father and wanted to know how to be sure his girlfriend is on birth control. You said, "The single worst form of birth control is trusting that a woman
longing for a baby" is taking hers (with whether she's ethical being a "mitigating factor"). But you forgot to tell him the magic word — abstinence! In addition to preventing pregnancy, it also guarantees that you won't get STDs or suffer the physically or psychologically damaging effects of premarital sex. Also, where'd you get the idea that women are conniving to get a bun in the oven without informing their partner? Right, we're all baby-hungry, unethical hopeful breeders.
— Saved Myself
I like to offer "Don't have sex!" as a form of practical advice — usually just as I'm getting into my flying car.
Yes, abstaining from sex will help a person avoid producing offspring, getting STDs, or breaking a leg after somebody cheaps out on the home dungeon installation. But there's a reason they call it a sex drive, not a sex parked in the garage. Also, the advice "Just don't have sex!" is especially impractical for guys in their hornitoadinous early 20s like the guy who wrote that letter. Sure, he'll just sit his 800-pound libido down for a little chat and then politely decline any opportunity to have sex as if he'd just been offered some questionable hors doeuvre.
As for where I got the idea about (some) women "conniving to get a bun in the oven without informing their partner," well, in email I've received from dismayed men paying child support to these women and from research by therapist Dr. Melinda Spohn. Spohn found that more than a third of the 400 women she surveyed at two community colleges had risked pregnancy — surreptitiously going without birth control or sporadically using it when they had sex with men with desirable qualities (like an apparent willingness to commit and good financial prospects).
On a positive note, it isn't only men who are appalled by this behavior. A female reader who wanted a second child but whose husband wasn't up for it wrote, "I can't even remember how many people heard this and said 'well, accidents happen,' followed by a wink wink. Seriously, it's disgusting! Even our family doctor said this! I've always been sure to make those people feel about two inches tall by saying that I would NEVER do that to my husband (and honestly, who wants a child this way?!)."
This woman's ethics are the single best guarantee a man has that birth control will be used instead of dropped behind the bed. Meanwhile, many people will tell you they value ethics and then just cross their fingers and hope their partner has them. The thing to do is to make ethics a requirement, meaning looking for a partner to be OMG ethical!!! the way you look for them to be OMG hot!!! In other words, yes, a man who doesn't want a child should practice abstinence — the practical, doable kind: abstaining from getting into bed with any woman until he's observed that he has reason to trust her. (If he wants something loud, sticky, and expensive in his life, he can buy a Ferrari and drive it over chewed gum.)
Leica Woman Scorned
My girlfriend bought me a digital camera for my birthday. Unfortunately, the one she got me lacked some features I wanted, so I returned it to the store, got the camera I wanted, and paid the difference. When I told her this, I think she was offended. Did I screw up?
When people say about gift-giving "it's the thought that counts," they don't mean the recipient's thought, "Did you find this in the trash?"
Yes, you screwed up — not by ultimately getting the camera you need but by making the one she gave you disappear like a witness about to testify against a drug lord. Turning the gift your partner gave you into the gift you want should be a three-step process. First, there's the effusing — no matter how uneffusive you feel: "Wow, bat excrement!" Then there's the waiting. One day, maybe two days. And finally "I just love my camera, honey. But there's another one that has this feature I really need — this camera-nerd thing you couldn't have known about. Would you come with me to check it out?" By keeping her involved, the camera you upgrade to becomes, essentially, Son of Camera that she gave you. By the way, that's how you should start talking about your new camera, and fast, before you find yourself using it to take a series of forlorn all-by-myselfies to post on your soon-to-be-live Tinder profile.
It's Amy Alkon's Advice Goddess Radio — "Nerd your way to a better life!" with the best brains in science solving your love, dating sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/ — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or listen or download at the link, at iTunes, or on Stitcher.
NOTE: I've started an every-other-week radio show, a half-hour love/sex/dating/relationships advice-oriented chat with animal behaviorist Dr. Jennifer Verdolin. My regular shows on the best behavioral science books will continue on alternating weeks.
Advice Goddess Radio: Dr. Michelle Skeen on how to stop letting your fears sabotage your relationships.
(c)2014, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon
Order Amy Alkon's new book, "Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck" (St. Martin's Press, June 3, 2014).