Category: Understanding men

  • Women’s Top 7 Dating Challenges in 2017: Survey Results

    Hey there, ladies! Your reactions to the “Bad Boys & Addictions” article was swift and enthusiastic. Turns out that almost every woman has had some kind of experience with bad boys, not all of them healthy. Most gratifying were the responses from some of you saying, “Omigod, this is happening to me right now! Thanks for opening my eyes. Time to take out the trash!”

    Here’s one from Theresa:

    This post really hit me. I’m in a similar situation; however, I believe he’s the first man I’ve ever truly loved. He has commitment issues and will never really settle down with me. I’ve come to realize that he is not good for me and have left twice but he has come back every time without promising me a future.

    Your advice is apt. I am addicted and need to figure out what I want and move on. Thank you. I’ve told myself I can do this.

    And here’s one from Susan, who had a similar experience but is in a much better spot now:

    What a classic post, Dr. Ali! And I’m so glad you’re back. Everything you wrote is so true. Ladies: definitely follow Dr. Ali’s excellent advice.

    I spent 9 months with a “bad boy,” who managed to break up with me 4 times in just 9 months. After the 4th time I finally smartened up and focused on moving on. I’ve now been dating a really great guy for over 2.5 years.

    In the beginning I was still hung up on Bad Boy, but distraction and detox (no contact with Bad Boy) really worked. When Bad Boy reached out to me 16 months later, the addiction was genuinely dead, and I could authentically say f*** off.

    So ladies, read Dr. A’s excellent advice, detox from your Bad Boy, and if you can, find something or someone that can pull you forward into the present or the future — rather than some wistful past that you’ve idealized.

    As I work on my current project, Happiness Engineering, I’m reminded over and over again how our relationships form our experience of life. You could even go so far as to say our relationships are our life. As such, your choice of life partner is the most important decision you make. Nothing else comes close. Make it a good one.

    Which brings us to the results of the survey I did last week. Some of you were kind enough to answer my 60-second survey question:

    What is the single biggest challenge you’re dealing with in dating and relationships these days?

    If you wanted to answer but didn’t get around to it, you can do it now here. I’d be thrilled to hear your thoughts, since it will not only help me create better material for you, but also get to know you better.

    As a gesture of thanks for participating in the survey, I’ve put The Tao of Dating ebook on sale for 67% off in all territories for the next 72 hours only (sale ends at midnight Sunday Sept 24). So in the US, that’s $2.99 (regular price $9.97).

    To put that in perspective, a mocha or latte at Starbucks costs $4.15, and an hour of parking in San Francisco or New York City costs $6. And they are both gone in an hour. On the other hand, you get to keep this book (which, incidentally, has helped tens of thousands of women) forever for under 3 beans. If you already have the book, thank you thank you thank you and please tell a friend.

    In the meantime, here are the preliminary results of the survey.

    1. Meeting quality men.

    By far, the biggest challenge the respondents encountered was meeting quality men. How do you find a guy who’s compatible, age-appropriate, and interested in a long-term committed relationship? The phrase “finding a man who wants to be a grown-up” came up several times. This response summarized the challenge nicely:

    “Meeting a man who I feel compatible with, feeling attracted to that same man AND having him treat me well.”

    This is what all the online dating methods call the matching problem, and what I cover in The Tao of Dating as the Find phase. It turns out to be a source of considerable concern for a lot of ladies, as this poignant response shows:

    “Where is he? He really likes me. We are best friends. We have immersive conversations. We care about each other’s experiences in life. We have a deep and abiding connection. He understands I am a product of (more…)

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  • “Does he like me?”: Five principles for telling if a guy is into you

    Dear Dr Ali – There’s a guy I like who’s in my social circle. He’s my friend’s boyfriend’s best friend, so we spend a lot of time around each other. He’s always attentive to me, and has even given me shoulder rubs a few times – something I have not seen him do for other women. We’ve even spent one-on-one time together lying down on a blanket watching stars. But he has yet to make a move. Why hasn’t he kissed me yet? Does he even like me? What should I do? Should I even bother? – Perplexed in Paris

    Well there’s a perennial question if there ever was one. How do you know if a guy likes you? I mean, yeah, he does like you, as in he clearly wouldn’t let you get run over by a bus. But does he like like you? As in smooches and snuggles?

    That shouldn’t be hard to figure out. But additional challenges present themselves when you see a guy frequently as part of your social circle, whether at work or in a group of friends. How do you broach the subject of “Do you like me?” when the negative response means having to hang out with someone who snubbed you? Or, even worse, what if you hook up and it doesn’t work out? Now you have willingly planted an ex in the midst of formerly friendly territory. Surely there is a way to finesse this tricky social situation.

    The best way is to take me along to a party to hang out with both of you. And by turning on the super-sensitive Dr Ali-dar and observing your interactions, I will give you a read of the situation.

    But, alas, the best way is often not the most practical way, and I’m usually far away (greetings from Barcelona and Lisbon!) and would probably end up eating all your hors d’oeuvres (unless they’re supermarket crudité platters – who likes that stuff?).

    So I don’t get to observe whether he looks directly into your eyes and how often, how often and where he touches you, how he talks to you, how he reacts to the other women around you, and a zillion other things.

    All I get to see is your world through this tiny keyhole of an email. From that I must deduce your character, the nature and intensity of his interest, and your suitability as a match. Piece o’ cake!

    What might be wiser, however, is to give you some general principles for spotting interest from another party, so you can apply those to your own situation and figure out what’s going on.

    1. Active vs passive interest.

    When trying to gauge interest, this is the overarching theme. Is he actively pursuing your company, or just settling for casual bump-ins and group events? The more deliberate effort a man puts into spending time with you, the more interested he is. Doing something that risks rejection, such as asking you out on a date, raises the stakes and is an even stronger sign of romantic interest.

    Now I heartily recommend that folks initially get to know people through group events. They’re far less threatening settings than one-on-one dates which are contrived situations that fail to bring out the best in us (unless your best happens to be anxiety, self-consciousness and phoniness). But if a guy only invites you to group things, he’s either not that interested, or too much of a wuss to step up and ask for your company solo. Either way, that’s not someone you should be signing up for.

    2. How is he looking at you? 

    A few years ago I was sitting at this deathly boring talk at a conference in Los Angeles when I spotted this dazzlingly beautiful woman across the room. Before the talk was over, I must have involuntarily turned to look at her 50 times. Why? Because we tend to seek out more information about things we’re interested in. That’s kinda the definition of interest. And lord knows I made a beeline to talk to her afterwards.

    The quality and quantity of a guy’s gaze says a lot about the degree and nature of his interest. Does he keep looking at you even when you’re not looking at him? Interested. Does he look at your face when he’s talking to you? Interested. Straight into your eyes, seriously trying to plumb its depths of mystery and passion? Seriously interested.

    The pro-level tip here is that you want to arrange the environment such that you’re a) getting useful information and b) letting him be at his best. For example, if you’re with him on a date at a topless beach, chances are his eyes will not be glued to you the whole time no matter how interested he is. Same goes for sitting in a restaurant: if he’s facing the crowd and bustle of the outside world, his eyes will wander, and you’ll get inaccurate data. Do yourself a favor and you take the banquette seat so he’s looking at just you and the wall.

    3. Touch.

    Most Western societies are pretty touch-free, so if a guy touches you, that’s a big deal and a sign of major interest.

    Or is it? Touching behavior varies culturally, which changes the salience of the act. A classic study done by Sidney Jourard showed that during an hourlong conversation between friends, in England they touched each other zero times. In the US, twice, during bursts of enthusiasm. In France, 110 times, and in Puerto Rico, 180 times! Watching people here in Barcelona I’d say they would touch 200 times at least. So this means that a touch from a shy English guy counts for a lot more than one from the gregarious Spaniard.

    The second level information is the quality of the touch. Is he giving you a high-five or a shoulder rub? The more prolonged and deliberate the touch, the greater the interest.

    In Love Signals: A Practical Field Guide to the Body Language of Courtship, Prof David Givens enumerates five phases of courtship: attention, recognition, speech, touch, and lovemaking. Touch is the final phase before getting in the sack. So if he’s touching you, it’s safe to say his interest is not entirely platonic. That’s a nice start, but there’s an essential bit of meta-information that you need to know, too.

    4. Is he interested in you specifically, or just women in general?

    You meet a guy. He’s utterly charming, listening to you with rapt attention, gazing deep into your eyes to plumb the mystery/passion, and touching you early and often. And you’re loving it.

    The question that most women don’t ask themselves: is he doing this because he’s into me, or because he’s into women in general? Because to an observer the two behaviors look exactly the same.

    Now, if you’re just looking for a RLD (relationship of limited duration), then – who cares! Run with it, girl. But if you’re looking for something lasting longer than a Scaramucci (i.e. a temporal unit equivalent to 10 days), you need to get more data.

    ‘Cause if he’s a shy guy who hardly approaches women, the nature of his attention is much more salient than if he’s a player who collects 20 phone numbers a week. The shy guy is putting everything on the line. The player, on the other hand, has this routine rehearsed so well that he can do it after 7 margaritas, in microgravity, while tied up in a burlap sack.

    The distinction between specific and nonspecific attraction is important because they’re mediated by different brain circuits and hormones. Nonspecific attraction (i.e. lust) is fueled by testosterone. The guy is just generally horny. Specific attraction runs on dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter of goal-directed activity. He is horny for you, and therefore seeks you out. This is the difference between RLD and long-term love.

    So take some time to find out what this guy’s really like. What’s his reputation? How does he behave around other women when you’re with him? Does he flirt shamelessly with the cute waitress, or does he focus his attention fully on you? What do his friends say about him? These are all important bits of information for establishing what kind of person you’re dealing with, and how to interpret his attention.

    5. Actions vs words.

    The most accurate information you can get about a guy is his long-term behavior – the stuff he actually does, over and over again. The least accurate information you can get about him are his words, especially when they are about himself.

    This isn’t necessarily because men brag or that all humans are evil liars. Rather, it illustrates a central principle of human behavior. Science shows that we have cognitive biases that blind us to our own shortcomings, and as a therapist I can tell you that people are horrendous at self-reportage. Like, totally inaccurate, all the time.

    Why? Because well over 99% of your brain’s functioning happens outside of your consciousness. This means that by definition, you don’t have conscious access to what’s really happening in your brain. It’s all about the unconscious.

    Oh, and then there are the guys who will say anything to get into your good graces – or your pants. But you already knew that.

    Now I’m going to overemphasize this point until it gets burned into your consciousness forever, because it is unbelievably important. In fact, the main reason I wrote The Tao of Dating was because I had a darling friend who believed the phrase “I promise I’ll never give you another black eye” more than the actual black eye the guy had given her. And who kept on taking him back and financially supporting him even though he continued to physically abuse her.

    Oh nononononono we can’t let that be you. So you will pay very close attention to what a guy does, and take anything he says with a boulder of salt. Look for actions, not words. Actions, not words. Actions, not words. A thousand times: actions, not words.

    So what are some actions that show he’s truly interested? Having been that interested guy often, here are some things that come to mind:

    1) He calls you and asks you out to spend real, grown-up time together. He’s risking rejection, which means he’s investing ego. He’s agreeing to spend money and time on you, which is more investment.

    2) He does what he says, when he says he’ll do it. Whether it’s to call you, have coffee with you, do you a favor or send you something, watch how he handles his promises. If he handles them poorly during courtship when he’s supposedly putting his best foot forward, he’ll be far worse when he’s in a relationship with you.

    3) He treats you as if your company is a worthy goal in itself, and not just a means to some other end. Guys will request your company for any number of reasons – avoid being lonely, try to get you in bed, or just to hang out. As we already discussed, the question to ask yourself: is he just asking for company, or my company specifically?

    In the early phases of courtship, it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. Generally speaking, the more planning and risk it involves for the guy, the more serious he is about you. It’s one thing when I ask a woman two weeks in advance to come with me to the sold-out SF Symphony Beethoven extravaganza. It’s another when I ask her if she can join me for a show tomorrow ‘cause I got two comp tickets.

    Mind you, we’re not saying spontaneity is bad; heck, it’s something sorely lacking from most overplanned modern lives. However, if all you’re getting from a guy is spontaneity, that’s a pattern worth noting. You need to figure out if he’s really interested but bad at planning, or just casually interested.

    Once again, the quality of attention during the date tends to be a good indicator of his interest level. If he’s focused on you the whole time, he’s into you. If he’s flirting with the waitress and getting other women’s numbers, he’s probably just there for a good time.

    You are not a potted plant: tiger power vs. flower power

    Now we get to the fun part: the things you can do to get accurate information about where you stand.

    First, I’d like to make a distinction between flower power and tiger power. Flowers don’t have a lot of power. Sometimes they have fancy colors and aromas to attract pollinators, but for the most part they just sit there and look pretty.

    Tigers, on the other hand, are the apex land predators. They roam the range of their vast territory and go for whatever they want, without apology or hesitation.

    Both flower and tiger power are effective in their own way, and everyone has both kinds of power. You just want to make sure that you’re using the right kind of power to get the result that you want.

    Now, if there’s one overarching principle to the Tao of Dating, it’s that you are not a potted plant. Women run families, corporations, states and entire countries. So it does not make sense to be a passive bystander to your own love life. Right now is always a great time to take control.

    But here’s the thing: too much tiger power tends to scare off men. And guys like to hunt, so you must let them be the hunter. They’re just not used to being chased.

    So you will get a little clever. Asking a question like “So why haven’t you kissed me yet?” is tiger power, because you’re taking action. At the same time, you’re stepping back and allowing him to step into his own tiger power.

    Perhaps even more important than asking the question to make sure you get the frame right. So keep it light. If you get all serious on the boy and go “Umm, I’ve been pining for you since the dawn of time and don’t think I can breathe much longer without you” and proceed to faint, you may qualify for a job re-enacting romance novels, but you will scare off the boy. Permanently.

    On the other hand, if you do it all in the name of banter and fun, and you playfully ask him, “Are you shy or something? ‘Cause I know you’re into me, but you haven’t made a move yet. Or if you’re feeling feisty: “Dude, what the hell is wrong with you? You were lying down next to me on a blanket for two hours and didn’t even try to kiss me! Am I ugly? Are you secretly gay? I mean, it’s totally fine if you want to be my GBF, but I just need to know.”

    Why is this powerful? Humor opens up the conversational field, allowing all parties to share their feelings in a safer context. But even more important, you are subtly taking control of the situation instead of just waiting around. At the same time, you are passing the baton to him to take action.

    Create the environment that favors your outcome

    People’s behavior is context-dependent. So if the guy’s interested but shy, or on the fence for whatever reason, here are some ideas for creating an environment conducive to a more romantic interaction.

    How do I know these work? Because wily women have used them on me, that’s how. Pick one depending on your level of interest and boldness:

    • Propose to watch a movie at your place or his. Snuggling on the couch during a movie is completely natural, and a well-known way to not watch the movie at all. (Not that you asked, but the movie in question was L.A. Confidential, and I still haven’t seen it.)

    • Invite him over to your place for dinner. Most guys understand this as a sign of definite interest. If he accepts the invitation, you’re 95% of the way there. Wine helps.

    • Grab your shoulder or your back, and with a pained look on your face say, “I’ve got this terrible knot in my back – could you be kind enough to work on it for a minute?” You probably know what to do from there.

    • Invite him to the beach. Relaxing and frolicking in the sun with minimal clothing is one of the best ways of getting out of your heads and into your bodies. Playing in the water and applying sunscreen to one another are time-honored ways of getting physical.

    • Take a yoga class together. For a zillion reasons, exercising together is generally a good idea. But especially after a yoga class, everyone’s inside their bodies and super chilled out, making physical interaction much easier.

    • Take an acroyoga class together. Acroyoga has taken off all over the world, so you should be able to find a class where you are. It’s basically a full-body contact sport in which you periodically collapse into each other’s arms. It’s also fun. If this doesn’t work in getting romance going, you can safely give up, ’cause nothing will.

    What’s worked for you?

    Awright then! That should give you a few tools for figuring out if a guy has romantic interest in you. Now here’s the thing: I’m just one guy here, but there are thousands of you reading this. And you have the advantage of being actual women! So do you have a tool or technique that you have used successfully to suss out a guy’s interest in you? Then please share it in the comments ASAP! Let’s make this as useful a resource for other women as possible.

    One more thing: I have a little favor to ask you. Are you on Goodreads? If so, could you be kind enough to put The Tao of Dating on your bookshelf and give it a rating once it’s there? For those who aren’t on Goodreads, it’s a fantastic site for book lovers, where you can discover new books and share libraries, reading lists and reviews with friends. It’s also a great tool for authors to reach their audience. It’s particularly important for a book to be on readers’ shelves, because that’s how Goodreads determines whether a book can get promoted on there. This is how I pay the bills, so I would be immensely grateful for your help. Let’s see if we can put the book on a few thousand shelves!

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  • 9 Reasons why men lose interest — and what you can do about it

    Here’s a most excellent letter about a question that every woman has asked at some point in her life:

    “Why is it that a guy fiercely pursues a woman at first, and then when he finds out she is actually interested he is not so sure if he is interested anymore? And then his interest wanes and he starts treating her like an option instead of a priority? When can you let a guy know you are interested! At what stage? Is dating just one big game? How do you get a guy to treat you like priority instead of an option? For background, I’m 29, live in Australia, and I’ve been on 5 dates with this guy so far but we haven’t kissed yet.” — Sheila

    Well well. An excellent question that has been posed by women since time immemorial. There he was, totally interested, looking dapper in his buffalo skin while nonchalantly swinging his club at the cave entrance, offering you some freshly killed mastodon meat. There he was, showing up outside your castle window every day in his mostly shiny but frankly also a little rusty armor, strumming his lute and warbling his troubadour songs. There he was at the opera house, his head low and eyes up giving him that simultaneously worshipful and conspiratorial look, passing you a note saying, “Meet me at the fountain when the clock tower strikes nine.” There he was, texting you right back when you texted him, even asking you out on actual grown-up dates to actual grown-up places like concerts and lectures, and then… poof.

    What is up with that?! Why do men lose interest? What, if anything, could you have done differently? (more…)

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  • “How Will I Ever Trust a Man Again?” + A Good Day for America

    First of all, a massive congratulations to all Americans today for the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all fifty states. Such a breakthrough would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago.

    Unfortunately, discrimination against homosexuals has been around for much longer than that. Fortunately, as Martin Luther King Jr put it so eloquently, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” In the past hundred years, we’ve gotten the vote for women and racial minorities, improved access to higher education for women and minorities, reduced violence significantly (The Better Angels of Our Nature: How Violence Has Decreased Over Time is a fantastic read on this), criminalized torture, stopped burning witches at the stake, nearly eradicated slavery, and seen democracy progressively displace hereditary tyranny all over the world.

    Although I’d like to think that, “Geez, isn’t this the way things should have been all along?,” the fact is that for nearly all of human history, people have been pretty nasty to each other. So it is with a joyous heart that I say halleluuuujah, it’s about time, and I for one will not take this for granted. There will always be meanies, but the good guys eventually win. San Francisco’s already lit up in rainbow colors all over the place, but with this announcement, the whole town’s going to go certified bonkers.

    In the meantime, we’ve had some interesting letters in the past week. Let’s see what the e-mailman brung: (more…)

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  • Clooney’s Curse, Online Lying & the Dilemma of the Great Man

    Letter of the day:

    Dr Ali, love your work…thank you so much. I realize you probably get hundreds of emails, but I hope you can reply to me. Question: Met a great guy online — a gentleman, courteous, considerate. Except he obviously lied about his height by 5 or 6 inches. Is this a red flag? Thank you, Tracy

    Tracy – Thanks for the kind words! I actually don’t get hundreds of emails. I get hundreds of thousands of emails. Per hour.

    Many of them are trying to sell me walk-in tubs, which I hear are all the rage these days. There’s the occasional well-meaning gentleman from Nigeria who wants to deposit a few million dollars in my bank account out of the goodness of his heart, Canadian pharmacies that are very concerned about my love life, and a lot of ladies with Russian-sounding names who somehow know that I’m a cat person and want to show me their kitten – on a webcam, no less!

    The crazy thing is, they’re all total stangers! And yet, so generous. The outpouring of love online is just (more…)

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  • Mailbag: Can you make a messy guy tidy up?

    I’ve got some interesting letters that I’d like to share with you. First, a quick announcement: the next Tao LIVE will be happening in San Francisco on Tuesday, 10 June, 7-9pm. Format is 30-40min talk followed by Q&A. Topic of the day is The Tao of Bliss: How to Feel Great in Your Body All the Time. Click here to get tickets on Eventbrite. Come on down if you’re in town. I’ve only got room for 30 people in my living room, so get your ticket quick. Wine and chocolate included in the ticket price — I will happily bribe you if that’s what it takes for you to show up.

    And now, to the letters. First one is about a lady finding herself in the apartment of a great guy — except that the place is an unholy mess. How can she convey her discomfort without alienating him? (more…)

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  • The shy one, the hottie, and the picky one: NYC women talk about love and dating

    Recently I paid a visit to New York City and got together with some of my readers at the Hudson Hotel for a little chat. A fundraiser by mayoral candidate Bill DeBlasio had taken over the main bar, so we found a bench in the Hudson Common eating area and got down to discussing love, happiness, and guys.

    I like these get-togethers because of how much I learn from hearing the stories of real, live readers. A book by its nature is a one-size-hopes-to-fit-all device. But in person you, my readers, are all different shapes, ages and races, with diverging concerns. Here’s a sampling of what I heard.

    Marci, the shy one

    Take Marci, for example. She said that her issue was that she always ended up being one of the guys. How could she make things take a more romantic turn when she didn’t want to be just friends with a guy?

    At the same time, Clara sitting right next to her had the exact opposite problem. Guys just wanted to hook up with her, and she just couldn’t sort out the good guys from the players.

    And now that I could see them and hear them, I had more information with which to diagnose what the hey was going on.

    Marci’s about 30. By her own admission, she’s shy. She’s wearing an elegant and conservative outfit that covers everything up. She’s tall and big-framed, with an open and friendly smile, so you wouldn’t peg her as being shy. As she speaks, you get a sense that her preferred mode of discourse is friendly formality.

    So why does Marci consistently fall into the friend zone? Because when you’re friendly and formal with people, you’re going to be formal friends with them, not a romantic interest.

    So how do you get out of the friend zone and into the romance zone? Simple: get flirty.

    Up to now, everything about Marci has been proper, linear, safe. The problem is that proper, linear and safe has inspired no man to declare his undying love for a woman. What you need is a little more of the flirty, curvy and dangerous. The idea is to provoke emotion and thought in the man’s body and mind. Every woman has the means to do that.

    In the case of Marci, there are some potential fixes:

    1) Engage in “curvy” conversation. Everyone knows where linear conversation goes: “How’s the weather? How was work? Is your pet better?” Linear = booooring. Ain’t gonna get you anywhere.

    On the other hand, nobody knows where curvy conversation goes. “So, you seeing anyone? Why not, is something wrong with you?” If you deliver that with a smile, a guy will have no idea what you’re up to. Are you giving him a hard time? Are you interested in him? Do you want to set him up with someone? Are you just entertaining yourself?

    Suddenly, conversation with you has become more interesting, because he’s not quite sure what you’re going to come up with next. And because he’s not sure of your intentions, now he’s thinking about you when you’re not around.

    Here’s a secret: when a guy thinks about you when you’re not around, this encodes in his brain as “I must like this girl.” In one smooth move, you have taken residence in the romantic quarter of his brain – or at least romantic-adjacent. Friend zone begone.

    The essence of flirting is a little bit of unpredictability and danger. Curvy conversation accomplishes that.

    2) Show a little more skin. If you want to get out of the friend zone, you want to do things that evoke an emotional response in a guy. One thing that does that is to put to use what your mama gave you and show some skin.

    How much skin is the right amount? Somewhere between Sexy Pirate Nurse Slut Ho Halloween outfit and a burqa, there is a balance. And I read somewhere that that balance is 40%, so we’re going to call this the 40% rule henceforth.

    How do you get to 40%? Simple: use the Rule of Nines, one of the things I remember from medical school:

    • Head: 9% of body surface area
    • Front of torso: 18%
    • Back of torso: 18%
    • Each leg: 18%
    • Each arm: 9%
    • Crotch: 1%
    • Total body surface area = 9 + 18 + 18 + 36 + 18 + 1 = 100%

    So if you expose half of your legs below the knees (18%) and all of your arms (18%), with your face (4%) you’re showing 40% skin. If you’re wearing a backless floor-length dress (18%) with bare arms, that’s also about 40%. To project less sexual energy, show less than 40%. To go on the warpath, go over 40%.

    Clara gets too much attention from the wrong guys

    So Marci needed to get out of her comfort zone and be a little more flirty. Clara, on the other hand, had no issues with the flirty part. She’s 23, short, petite, and wearing a slinky black dress which shows a distracting amount of décolletage (also known as “cleavage”). It’s easy to understand how a lot of guys would be interested in hooking up with her.

    From the outside, this may seem like a high-quality problem: “Oh, boohoo, poor thing, she’s got sooo many guys who are into her.” But a high-quality problem is still a problem. And I’m guessing there’s something not entirely savory about every guy you meet trying to get into your pants. It will probably make you feel objectified and distrustful of men, perhaps shutting you down to their advances. No wonder there are so many really attractive women who remain perennially single.

    Luckily, there is a solution. The way men respond to you has a lot to do with the way you present yourself (see Marci’s case above). Here are some things Clara can do.

    1) Dress more conservatively. I understand that women like to look hot, so they get all decked out in 7-inch Jimmy Choo stiletto murder heels, super-slinky dress and blood-red lipstick, ready to slay all oncomers.

    Well, let me tell you this: it’s not fun being slain. And if you look too hot (there is such a thing), the primary emotion that most men feel around you is FEAR. That’s right: adrenaline kicks in, and what we feel is flight-or-fight. And we become too scared to approach you.

    But there is a subset of guys who are not scared off: players. They see you as a prize, as a challenge, as a contest to be won. And they will approach you. And all the nice guys will stay away.

    In one move, you managed to attract all the jerks and alienate all the nice guys. Nice work. And you wonder why all the guys you meet just want to hook up with you.

    So if you’re already a smoking hottie-pie, tone it down a little. Wear something less provocative, more conservative. Don’t let the floodlight of your sexiness blind the men to all the great qualities of character that you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. That way, something like your soul has a chance to come through. Which brings us to…

    2) Talk to him. If you want to sort for the good guys, you must talk to him. This is how you find out how intelligent he is, how empathetic he is, and what his true intentions are. Drink alcohol only sparingly and gather in a place where you can hear him speak, because this is when you’re gathering critical information about this stranger who might become the father of your children. Liberally ask the magic question, “What’s important to you about that?”, and listen closely as he shares the innermost contents of his soul with you.

    This is also a chance for you to show him that you’ve got a great mind to go with the hot legs. Conversation is the broadband communication system of the human brain, so use it to your advantage to glean and convey important information about your suitability for one another.

    3) Give him a chance. Clara happened to be there with her 21-year old sister, Sara, also single. Both being so young, good-looking, smart and sweet, I wonder if there was something going on invisible to the naked eye that was keeping them from finding a good love match.

    There was: Clara and Sara were both vetoing each other’s dates: “Oh, he’s just not good enough for you.” Well, guess what: if you’re her sister and have known her your whole life and will lay your life down for her, in your book there is no man alive who is good enough for her. Get over it and unless the guys are unemployed and torture baby hamsters for fun, give the poor suckers a chance. And your sister, too. You do want to be an auntie someday, right?

    We are super-susceptible to the opinions of our intimate friends. If one of them says, “Oh, she’s not so pretty” about a woman I like, I can feel my interest instantly dropping a few notches. So it behooves Clara and Sara to refrain from saying mean things about their respective suitors and to stop sabotaging each other’s love lives.

    There’s something slightly sinister about this, too: unconsciously, the sisters are aware that if the other one finds a guy, that means less time spent with her. So yes, it’s very likely that a friend of yours – the one you’re closest to and has the most to lose – has actively sabotaged your interest in a guy in the name of “protecting” you. And she will do it again.

    So if you’re serious about having a relationship with a guy, you need to tell her to knock it off. If a unified chorus of friends tells you a guy is toxic, fine – you should listen. But if it’s one friend who’s consistently pulling you away or poisoning things early on, there just may be ulterior motives at work here.

    Polish girl seeks Indian guy – but why?

    Then there was Patricia, the fiercely intelligent, driven Polish transplant. Her question was about intercultural relationships. Specifically, she found herself attracted to Indian and Pakistani men. However, she wasn’t quite sure how to deal with their traditional mindsets, especially when the parents insisted on a bride within their own ethnicity.

    I’m all for intercultural relationships, but the Polish-Indian axis didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I mean, her true fulfillment depended on just that particular 1% sliver of the population? So I had to ask her: “What’s in it for you, Patricia?” After a while I got a sense that Agatha thrives on challenge: moving to the US; solving difficult problems; taking up a difficult dance style (tango, in this case); and maybe choosing boyfriends with difficult families who wouldn’t let her marry him.

    Remember that fulfillment is not a person, but a set of feelings. Was breaking through the challenge of swaying an Indian guy to marry her over the objections of his parents Patricia’s real fulfillment, or just another habit? Was she in it for the prize or for the joy? I wasn’t familiar with the full back story, but as far as I can tell, there are plenty of guys from all ethnicities out there who could catalyze Patricia’s growth and fulfillment. Especially in a place like New York City, where there are literally millions of interesting folks from all over the world. Perhaps it was time for her to focus on the substance of real companionship and emotional connection rather than an insistence on a particular symbol, of which ethnicity is one.

    Thanks for the ladies who braved the wilds of Manhattan and managed to find me at the Hudson that night. Now that I know how much fun live events are, I’ll be having more of them here in San Francisco and also when I travel. In the comments below, let me know where you abide, and if you can put together a group of 20 or more women, I’ll see what I can do to come visit.

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  • Nine ways smart women sabotage their own love lives

    Since I moved to San Francisco, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of great women who are still single. On the one hand, it’s good for business, so I can’t complain too much. On the other hand, it saddens me because many of these women are so fantastic – smart, funny, beautiful – and really don’t want to be single. Not forever, at least.

    It’s probably true the guys you date are partly to blame here. However, every relationship you’ve been in has one thing in common: YOU. So maybe it’s time to take an honest inventory and see if you’ve been engaging in any of the following self-sabotaging behaviors I’ve observed that inadvertently drive off the good guys who already like you (NB: most of these are applicable to men, too, so listen up, gentlemen):

    1. You don’t show up.

    Let’s face it: dates are weird. And it’s perfectly normal to feel some trepidation at the prospect of spending time with a stranger. Especially if that stranger is (more…)

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  • How to be taken seriously by a guy you just slept with

    Quick announcement: My excellent friend and colleague, Dr Katherine Woodward Thomas, the author of Calling in the One, which I consider to be one of the best dating books ever written for women, is having a free class on Aug 26 entitled “How To Release Your Hidden Barriers To Love & Become Magnetic To Your Soulmate.” She’s really great. I’ll be telling you more about it in the coming days. In the meantime, you can sign up for it here.

    Now, on to the reader’s letter:

    Hi Dr. Ali — I slept with this guy that I felt strong chemistry with on our second date. How can I “redeem” myself so that he can look at me seriously? What approach to I take to help him see me as g/f or wife material? I am currently reading your book “Tao of Dating” and assume that applying the ideas of masculating your man, giving grace, praise, etc. will help direct his thinking…Thanks, Jacqueline

    Jacqueline —
    Oh my! I didn’t know that you needed to be redeemed for freely following your own desire and sharing a great time with a man. Instead, may I suggest that:

    1) You have done nothing wrong. So you don’t need any redemption. Can I get a “hallelujah”?
    2) Be the buyer instead of being the seller. Right now, the frame that you’re using is (more…)

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