|By Amy Alkon|
It's Scold In Here And Don't Just Mall A Woman
Q: Online dating isn’t going so well. I’m a 34-year-old professor seeking a relationship. I listed an age range of 18 to 35 on my profile, not because I particularly like 18-year-olds but simply to avoid limiting my options. I messaged a 24-year-old woman, noting that I loved that she “enjoys supporting people who have a purpose and a passion.” She wrote back: “You seem really cool, but the fact that you're considering dating women as young as 18 is a deal-breaker. 18-year-olds aren't people yet. You're a professor. You know that.” She then scolded me for failing to admire that she clearly has purpose and passion — she doesn’t just support those things — but considering my interest in 18-year-olds, purpose and passion probably don’t matter much to me anyway. Huh?! Should I really be faulted for being open-minded?
A: Online dating can be so efficient. It used to be that you’d have to wait to say hello to have your first argument.
Q: I’ve saved some money to get my girlfriend something special for her birthday. I know what she likes at REI, Pottery Barn, and Williams-Sonoma, but nothing feels special enough. Perhaps I’m an idiot for asking you, a stranger, what to get the woman I know and love, but maybe you can point me in the right direction.
A: Too bad the two of you aren’t cats, or you could just come by with a dead cricket between your teeth. But you are wise to think outside the cardboard box. Researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton write in “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending” that the purchases that ultimately make us the happiest are not material things but experiences. They cite research showing that new “stuff” soon stops giving us the same zing, while experiential purchases not only contribute to our sense of self and our connection with others but get more meaningful over time through the stories we tell about them. Also, they never need dusting.
So, instead of deciding between the espresso machine that’ll guess her weight and the one that gets basic cable, think about an experience she’d really love. It could be a Champagne balloon ride or driving a racecar around a track (nascarracingexperience.com). But fret not if these are too pricey. The research suggests that even when people spend just a few dollars, they get more lasting pleasure from an experience than a thing. And even when experiences go wrong, like a romantic picnic that ends in horrible poison oak, they tend to be viewed fondly in hindsight. Your girlfriend may not have asked for a series of hydrocortisone injections for her birthday, but years later, she’ll be laughing with you and friends about that and not the story of how you once got her a bowl from Pottery Barn.
Advice Goddess Radio: Dr. Elizabeth Dunn on how, with science-based spending, money really can buy you happiness.
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.