Q: You wrote in your column, “Men, especially, are compelled to ditch what's chasing them and chase what's trying to ditch them.” It seems you’re advising that the simple desire to love a man must be approached without authenticity and personal integrity. Must a woman really scheme to get a man, using a painfully conscious strategy based on men’s psychological makeup, and wait and wait like Cinderella until he reaches out to her?
A: For a woman of character, honesty is the best policy — except when judicious honesty is a better policy, like on the second date, when you refrain from telling a guy that you and he should pick out side-by-side burial plots: “The moment I saw you, I just knew I wanted to decompose next to you!”
You think of employing restraint as “scheming.” Um, scheming is talking a guy into a $10 million insurance policy and then sending him skydiving with a busted parachute. The notion that it’s morally bankrupt to refrain from chasing a man is an idea out of some future gender-neutral utopia where everyone wears “Star Trek” uniforms, eats single little cubes of lunch, and grows babies in a Mason jar in their front room.
As I’ve written before, any sexual encounter had a hefty potential cost for a woman during the Stone Age — a particularly crappy time to be a single mother. Because of this, women evolved to be choosier about partners, and men coevolved to expect that of them. Times have changed, but our psychology really hasn’t. So, when a woman throws herself at a man like a big flopping flounder, he’s likely to duck — suspecting that she probably isn’t worth having (for anything beyond a quick romp) if she’s so easy to get. This is unfortunate, but whining endlessly about it is an ineffective strategy for getting what you want, unless what you want are polyps on your vocal cords.
What you’re really arguing for is, “Why shouldn’t I be able to throw all self-discipline out the window and have the man I want drop down my chimney like Santa?” In a similar vein, I often wonder why I’ve been unable to become incredibly wealthy by napping. (Welcome to real life. Please visit often in the future.)
The answer is neither throwing yourself at a man nor waiting for him to notice that you dropped your glass slipper. You flirt to indicate that you’d be interested in going out with him, if only he’d ask. Flirting takes patience and self-control, but it isn’t exactly a horrible chore. It’s playful and fun. Kind of like tag. You run a little, and if all goes well, the guy chases you. Men just love to chase things — women, animals, purse-snatchers. In the U.K., they even have a tradition of chasing a big wheel of cheese down a hill. Wait — don’t get ideas. You will need to flip your hair and make eye contact and teasing remarks. You can’t just throw yourself down a grassy incline.
Q: Thanks to recent medical issues, my husband of 10 years can no longer get an erection, and our sex life has dried up. Sitting side by side on the couch watching the Food Network is, no doubt, a marvelous way to spend an evening; it’s just that we thought those kinds of evenings were a bit further down the road for us. No offense, but writing you this has been the most romantic thing we’ve done as a couple in quite some time. Help!
— Prematurely Old
A: So, his penis refuses to stand up anymore: “Is that a piece of lasagna in your pocket…?” As devastating as this may seem, it’s no reason to have a funeral for your entire sex life. (If your stove broke, would you stop eating?) Chances are, your retirement from sex has less to do with recent penile developments than believing that the only “real” sex is the hot dog into the Lincoln Tunnel variety. Sex therapist Dr. Marty Klein points out in “Sexual Intelligence” that many people make the mistake of defining what sex is by how their bodies work at 18 or 25, and then, ridiculously, cling to that vision into their 30s, 40s, and beyond, when they have far different bodies. Because physical intimacy is pretty essential for maintaining emotional intimacy, thinking this way can be relationship-wrecking. Turn off the TV and start making out and doing the kajillion sex things that don’t require perfectly functioning hydraulics. Watching Paula Deen re-enact “Last Tango in Paris” with a pork chop has its merits, but exploring Klein’s advice — that “there isn’t any part of your body that can’t be erotically charged” — should prove far sexier and a lot less likely to give you diabetes.
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