Advice Goddess 

Meating people

I recently ended a relationship, and over the past few weekends I've hit the singles bars. Typically, I do OK with women just not in this scene. Each time, I managed to get a few numbers, but any woman I call never calls back. Why do women give me their number if they don't want me to call? 28 and Frustrated

Going out to a singles bar and asking a bunch of women for their phone numbers should prove a very productive experience if you're a movie star or a budding telemarketer: "Hey ... how about a date Friday night, or if that doesn't work for you, can I interest you in an adjustable rate mortgage or a solar-powered grapefruit knife?"

Except maybe for Lamaze class or a family reunion, all the times and places you're supposed to pick up women Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at hot bars and clubs are the worst times and places to do it. There's no such thing as casual conversation, no pretending you just happened by to pick up a USB cable for Granny's computer. Women know exactly why you're there, and even though most of them are there to meet men, they're very much on guard leading men, especially inebriated men on the make, to come at them with all the subtlety of big-game hunting. In fact, you might as well go in in a safari jacket and pith helmet and try to spear one from behind.

As for the women who gave you their number but never called back, you're probably wondering why they didn't just blow you off on the spot: "Sorry, but I'm married, I'm gay and I don't have a phone." Yes, that would've been easier easier for you. Women generally try to avoid confrontation, so they'll give you a phone number, only it's the number of the city dump. Or maybe they've had six gin and tonics, and they're too drunk to come up with a fake number, so they give you their real one, and deal with it later: "I'll change my number, I'll move ... or maybe just turn off the lights and lie on the floor."

These same women might've picked up the phone had they met you at a newsstand, the motor vehicles bureau, or in some other less competitive environment. Sure, there might be another single guy or two around, but most of the patrons will be there for a newspaper or a new license, not because they haven't had sex since the first George Bush was president. It turns out there's such a thing as too much choice, and the bar/club scene is rife with it. Studies show that when people have lots of options, they tend to choose poorly and regret their choice afterward. Or maybe they don't choose at all, thanks to "anticipated regret," which psych professor Barry Schwartz writes in The Paradox of Choice produces "not just dissatisfaction but paralysis." So, some girl you chatted up is sitting there pondering, "Should I or shouldn't I?" And maybe the easiest answer is just not to answer the phone.

Now, bars aren't totally off-limits for meeting women. Just go on off-nights like Monday or Tuesday, right after work, when you have plausible deniability (you're just there to unwind, really you are). The vibe's relaxed, there's no shouting over loud music, and you can strike up a casual conversation and actually connect with a woman showing her what a great guy you are without holding her hair back while she throws up in the alley.

The kissyface of death

My boyfriend's affectionate, but hates PDA (public displays of affection). Well, back when we were just friends, he engaged in plenty of it. Now he won't even give me a cheek peck in public, and claims if I ever saw him kiss anyone, he was drunk or they "made" him do it. Pretty Darn Annoyed

It isn't that Americans are totally uncomfortable with PDA. Really, we're fine with it, as long as the 300-pound man smacking the other 300-pound man on the butt is wearing football pants and just broke five of some other 300-pound man's ribs.

It's possible your boyfriend is just an all-American prude, but until now was too big a weenie to take a stand against public cheek pecks. The worst-case scenario: He's ashamed by you, or he's shopping for your replacement and doesn't want to look taken. If it seems likely he's just audience-shy, can you accept that he loves you without making him prove it by doing something he hates? Pressuring your partner into some sex thing he's uncomfortable with isn't going to end well whether it's being dressed in diapers or being fully dressed and in line at the drugstore and getting a cheek peck like Auntie Fern used to give.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail adviceamy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).

  • Bars aren't totally off-limits for meeting women; just go on off nights.


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