|By Amy Alkon|
Eat, Pray, Barf And A Ruse By Any Other Name
Wednesday, Jan. 8 — Q: My girlfriend and I just got back from vacationing in India, where we lived in an ashram (essentially a yoga camp) and she studied yoga and meditation for a month. Since we've been back, she’s been wearing a sari everywhere, which stands out completely here, and she greets everyone by bowing and saying “namaste” (an Indian greeting). She talks constantly to people about spirituality and energy and, to be honest, comes off as totally pretentious. This is all starting to wear on me. Is it shallow of me to be bothered by her new look and attitude when she's feeling so enlightened?
A: When your girlfriend bows and says “namaste” to the bag guy at the supermarket, you have to wonder, are there two yogis in India fist-bumping and greeting each other, “Wassup, home slice?” and “Nuthin, dawg. What’s crackalackin with you?”
It’s understandable that you feel guilty about being annoyed that your girlfriend has gone Suddenly Swami. If she’d come back from Paris and started marching around in a beret and an Hermes scarf and speaking French to the grocery bagger, you’d probably deem her an obnoxious phony and suspect she has a superiority complex (a shrink term for covering up feelings of inferiority by acting superior). The problem is, we’re told we have to “respect” people’s spiritual beliefs and practices. We should respect their right to have them, providing they don’t involve baby eating or witch burnings, but there’s been what British philosopher Simon Blackburn calls “respect creep,” the expectation of “more substantial respect” — admiration, approval, and deference. Well, these things are earned; they can’t be expected or demanded, and it’s no more wrong to have critical thoughts about somebody’s spiritual beliefs and expression than about their politics or choice of pizza toppings. So, getting back to your girlfriend, no, she isn’t exempt from being considered a pretentious jerk when she signs her credit card slip in Sanskrit.
It also isn’t “shallow” to feel that the new her doesn’t work for the relatively unchanged you. (As a flamboyant bigmouth, I can tell you that flamboyant bigmouth girls aren’t for just any guy.) But you might give this some time. This might just be the yoga ’n’ meditation version of somebody excited about losing weight on a new diet and wanting to spread the word, and she may become less affected, preachy, and annoying in a month or two. To help speed the process, you could gently ask her to consider whether her clothes and talk might be creating distance between her and other people. A person shows their spiritual growth and attracts others to their path through how they act and treat people. (The saying is “Be the change you want to see in the world,” not “Dress as the change.”) Sure, Buddha dressed like an Asian monk, but it isn’t the monk suit that made the man. (If Buddha were from Milwaukee, he’d be sitting cross-legged in Levi’s and a trucker hat.)
Q: I am 23 and like this really cute guy who lives in my building. I think he likes me, too, because he flirts back a bit when I flirt with him, so I’ve been trying to send stronger signals that I want him to ask me out. I friended him on Facebook and started posting cute photos of myself, and if I’m at the store, I’ll buy him something and knock on his door and say, “Hey, I got an extra box of cookies; thought you could use them.” I'm thinking of throwing a party and inviting him, but I'll feel dumb if he doesn't come and I threw the party for nothing.
A: Unfortunately, men are more complicated than cats. You can’t just tie a beer and a bag of Doritos to the end of a string. A guy takes note of your existence because your legs give him whiplash, not because you deliver snacks or slip a coupon under his door for a free carwash with every date. You should flirt to let a guy know you’re open to being asked out — and stop at that. What makes you attractive, in addition to the physical stuff, is your being a little out of reach, not inserting yourself into his life at every possible social or social media opportunity. The ploys you’ve been engaging in may not be so overt and aggressive as asking a guy out, but especially in combination, they cross over from indicating interest to screaming desperation. Because a guy can’t unhear that scream, your best bet is forgetting this guy, chalking this up to a learning experience, and moving on. And no, that doesn’t mean moving on to the plan of covering a big pit with leaves and luring him over to it with some Fig Newtons.
Advice Goddess Radio: Dr. Matthew Lieberman on how our social selves drive life satisfaction and even self-esteem.