How Do I Talk to a Girl in 2016: The Internet Edition

This week, a girlfriend and I got a heartfelt, funny, sincere and personal message from the same guy, and we discovered it was the same message.

Sometimes my friends and readers ask me questions for that they think I might have fun answering, or that, god forbid, they actually want my answers to, so many thanks to my anonymous friend Zeke Shandy for this excellent question:

“After ten years of internet dating, I’m still, I guess, awful at it.  How do I break the ice with a woman online?”

There are as many different approaches to this as there are women in the world, but I’d like to offer some advice based on my own internet dating experiences.  Not showing off, but I’ve been single a lot.  Lots and lots.

OKCupid released a study last year claiming it’s a numbers game, and the best bet for men is to send as many messages as possible, and that blasting “Hey, how are you?” to five hundred women will get more first responses than spending the same time to actually try to connect with fifty women.  I find this lazy and ineffectual: the message of a person who is putting forth the absolute minimum effort annoys me.  This also includes “Hey.”  “Howdy.”  “What’s up.”  “How’s your weekend.” This approach employs the math of internet dating: trying to attract as many potential mates as possible so that you can sort through them later, but I am a proponent of an old fashioned idea that you might like someone because you found their personality attractive, and you don’t wish to go on 500 dates with people who just ask how your weekend was.

I also don’t like when a message seems cut-and-pasted- although again, statistically, this is not supposed to matter.   This week, a girlfriend and I got a heartfelt, funny, sincere and personal message from the same guy, and we discovered it was the same message.  Guys, I know the internet makes it feel like there are infinite numbers of single women to talk to, but there aren’t, and we talk to each other.   She called him on it and he said I’m sorry, I have to send too many messages to women, I can’t write them all individually.  Well, perhaps our bots can date?

Movie Romance — Lessons I Have Learned About Love from Films

So, you get to a point in life where you think, hey, I’ve been dating awhile and I just keep dating awful people who are bad for me, I wonder why? Then you start thinking about your favorite movies from childhood and the messages you’ve internalized!  It’s amazing what a little emotional distance can do!

Starting with:

Beauty and the Beast- a beautiful village girl enters a monster’s castle to plead with him to release her father, and submits to her own incarceration, putting up with his temper tantrums and violence as he tries to force his way into her room, and then breaks up his own furniture.  She eventually falls victim to Stockholm Syndrome and falls in love with her captor.   Once she proves her love is true, he is revealed to be a prince!  This teaches us that if you have patience and love a bad person enough, he will become a good person. This could also be why women still feel hopeful about corresponding with online dating profiles with no pictures.  Perhaps he’s a prince or a celebrity!  If he doesn’t have a picture up, the truth is that he’s either married, ugly, or both.  What are some lessons we can take from this?

  1. Don’t trust people who wear too much velvet.
  2. Don’t date guys who have kidnapped any member of your family. No, not even a cousin.
  3. Rich doesn’t mean nice. Some might argue that it never does.

Grease- Two young attractive people meet over Summer break, fall in love, and then when they get back to school they’re worried that if they date, their friends won’t think they’re cool anymore because she is a “soc” and he is a “greaser”.  They spend the WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR pining for each other, and at the end they put on different outfits in order to meet the expectations of the other person, and then they appear to die, as they get into a convertible and their car drives into the clouds.  Lessons:

  1. Date who you want.  It doesn’t matter if your friends don’t like their jacket.
  2. You don’t have to change to be loved.
  3. Don’t have unprotected sex with Kenickie, or anyone really.

Breakfast Club- Some really weird pairings here.  Athletic, motivated Emilio Estevez falls for emotional basketcase Ally Sheedy because she wears her Holly Hobby underwear on the outside and ties a sock in her hair.  She’s a compulsive thief and liar and he has daddy issues, and the greatest thing they have in common is their twin suicidal ideation.  Molly Ringwald’s character falls in love with Judd Nelson’s even though during the eight hours they’ve known each other, it’s clear that he’s an addict, he’s a pre-abuser (he’s been abused, he reacts with violence), he sexually assaults her under a library desk, and he’s a compulsive cheater (showing her photographs of women he doesn’t think are worth being faithful to).   At the end of the movie, Anthony Michael Hall is not partnered with anyone because he is a clean-cut nerd with the best prospects for college and a good life.  Lessons:

  1. Don’t respond to negging! Judd spends the whole movie either calling Molly a slut or shaming her for having rich parents or telling her she’s a jerk for putting her lipstick on without using her hands, and she just can’t keep from attacking him in a broom closet.
  1. If someone can’t get through an eight hour detention without getting high, maybe don’t date them. That’s someone who’s gonna drink the rubbing alcohol in your parent’s bathroom to get through Thanksgiving.

Some Kind Of Wonderful- In this film, Eric Stoltz plans a dream date for a woman he has barely spoken to and only loves for her appearance, and when at the end of the date, she turns down his gift of extremely expensive earrings, he feels that she is being a real a-hole.  In retrospect, if a man with whom you had exchanged few words offered you a gift he bought with his college fund, you’d also wonder what he thought he was giving to, or getting, from you.  It’s a super weird gift.

  1. If a guy has a best friend who’s a girl and they hang out all the time, that girl is already probably in love with him, even if she dresses like a demolition derby driver.
  2. If someone plans an elaborate first date to try to win your love, and isn’t happy just to meet and talk over coffee, it’s probably a desperate attempt to paper over their own insecurities and trap you into something!

Pretty Woman- ok, it’s a cute retelling of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, in which a street prostitute becomes a trophy wife, which is the same thing but in longer pants.  She gets an emotionally distant workaholic with no family ties, and becomes a kept woman- that’ll be fun in marriage counseling!  “Hey, I think our power dynamic is screwed up.” “Why is that, I wonder?”

  1. When a man buys a woman, it’s like buying a car- he’ll trade her in eventually.

Just remember that romantic movies are a fun fantasy, but many of the relationships depicted in them are a real nightmare!

Looking for Love on a Trail of Breadcrumbs

I had a really great first date with a curly-haired breadcrumber who kept in sporadic touch with me, which made me sad because I really had fun on our date and wanted to see him again.

There are lots of ways that technology has changed the way we interact with each other.   A few years ago, if you’d been dating someone and you didn’t want to anymore, you had to say “hey, thanks for dating me, but I don’t want to anymore.”  Now we ghost, fade, or breadcrumb our way out of hard situations.

Ghosting has been well documented: you’ve gone on a not-insignificant number of dates with someone, more than two or three, and then you Keyser Soze them like in Usual Suspects- you’re just in the wind.  No text, no call.  Everyone hates it, but everyone does it, because we feel that having been ghosted implicitly gives you permission to ghost, like being bitten by a werewolf makes you one yourself.

The first time I was ghosted, it really took me by surprise.  I assumed that the person I had been dating for nine months was in rehab or prison (either one would have been a pretty good idea), and when, after two weeks of silence, I saw him tagged in a photo of just hanging out in his favorite bar, I was pretty amazed.  I didn’t call it ghosting, I called it “being dumped by a sociopath”, which is in many ways more accurate.

Ghosting happens because it’s the easiest option, there’s no confrontation, and sometimes, ghosting happens because it never really closes the door- in the ghoster’s mind, they’ve never really broken it off with you, so there’s still a possibility of dating you in case what they’re pursuing also peters out, and also the thing after that, or if they someday reach the end of Tinder and it’s just a picture of a cat with a colander on its head.  Breadcrumbing is the same- they might not want to date you now, but they maybe want to later?  Or not?

You Want a Relationship: How to Avoid Those Who Don’t

Does your partner flip on you, very affectionate one day and cold the next?

Your friend gets engaged. Another friend gets engaged. Two friends move in together. Another friend is on vacation with a guy she met three months ago.

You check your phone.

You don’t have a response back from a text you sent last night.

What’s going on? Why does your boyfriend keep saying he’s busy and that you expect too much? Well, he’s not your boyfriend officially, but you’ve been dating for a couple of months, so at some point he’ll be your boyfriend, right?

Congratulations! You’re dating an attachment avoidant!

Does this sound like your partner?
“My partner always seems to be comparing me unfavorably to some past, or ideal future partner”
“My partner flips on me, very affectionate one day and cold the next.”
“My partner seems to find it difficult to emotionally connect with or support me.”
“My partner gets uncomfortable when I get too close.”

Conversations with an avoidant:

A: “I’m surprised that you’re angry that I was seeing (other friend), I thought you knew I was seeing other people.”
B: “Of course I knew you were seeing other people, you kept giving me your address and asking how my weekend was over and over and re-introducing me to your cat, and sending non sequitur texts that you were also sending to other people, and going offline for long periods of time. What is it that you want?”

A: “Oh, I don’t like to stay in anything too long if it’s not working.”
B: “It seems like you planned for failure- I didn’t hear from you much, and we weren’t really building on any kind of intimacy, because you didn’t want it. Romantic attachment is not something that just happens to you, like winning a lottery or being hit by a bus. It’s something two compatible people who like each other build. If you’re just running through women looking for the ‘right’ one who will make you have emotions, that’s not going to work.”

It sometimes feels like everyone on the dating scene is an attachment avoidant. That’s just because avoidants are busy meeting new people, like Alice’s White Rabbit, they’re always late for another date! Although it’s hard to believe, they only represent 25% of the general population.
50% of adults have a “secure” dating style, they’re people with healthy boundaries who aren’t afraid to connect with the right person, and who are actively looking for that connection. 25% are “anxious”, people who are obsessed with connection and overly concerned about their partner’s love and fidelity, and 25% are “avoidants”, who are always looking to meet but never to connect.
It can feel like everyone on the internet is an Avoidant because:

Secure people tend to enter into healthy, balanced relationships, and they tend to stay in them for long periods of time. If you meet one, it’s because they’ve left a long relationship, not because they just “have been dating around” for a decade.

Avoidants tend to bounce out of relationships pretty quickly, and they don’t date other avoidants, because if two people are avoiding returning a text, that fizzles out pretty quickly.
Avoidants see most people as “crazy” or “anxious” or “clinger stage 5” because they see healthy interest in another person as something to be avoided.

What do I do to stop dating attachment avoidants?

First thing– let go of the idea that it is naïve or old-fashioned to want a relationship. Relationships make us live longer, happier, more fulfilled lives.

Second thing– They say that the only way to find a prince is to kiss a million frogs. Your path to meeting someone who actually wants to get to know you and have a relationship is through filtering avoidant partners. Call ‘em f*ckbois, call ‘em ghosters, call ‘em whatever you want, but stop calling ‘em:

If you meet someone who says “All my exes are crazy.”

Or “You want to know if we’re dating? I really don’t like labels.”
Or “I need a lot of space.”
Or “Work’s so busy, I don’t have time for anything serious.”
Or “Women are always trying to trap guys into relationships.”
Or “I’m not ready to commit” (even after dating for months or years)

Just stop interacting with them. You don’t owe them anything. Keep meeting new people. When you meet someone you like who’s clear about wanting to see you again, who makes plans and keeps them, who listens to you and shares intimate details with you, think about continuing to see that person.

I was talking with a friend, and she told me a story about “my boyfriend, but he isn’t really my boyfriend, he’s just a guy I’m sleeping with, you know. I mean, who has a boyfriend anymore?”

I told her that I had one.

She asked, “How did you do that?” She thought maybe I had some grandfather clause or a deal with the devil.

I told her, “I have a new rule I’m following, and it’s simple: I don’t have sex with people who don’t want to be with me.”

She stared at me wide-eyed.

I continued: “I know it sounds weird and unachievable, but it isn’t. I met someone who was secure and who cared about me, and who wanted to be in a relationship. Before that, I made out with a couple people, and kissed lots of people, but I didn’t have sex with anyone until I met someone who really wanted to be with me. I’m not missing anything but a series of disappointing partners, feelings of rejection, and being made to feel unreasonable for wanting something more.”

It’s totally OK to date casually, but it’s also OK to want something more. Don’t listen to people who tell you differently. Date to find the people worth keeping, and move on from partners who don’t want the same thing that you do!

Based on quotes from Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

Sisters Talk D*ck Pics from a Marriage & Family Therapist and Comedian POV

What would you recommend to indicate interest, other than sending a crotch shot?

Laura Ryan is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a practice in Austin, Texas.

Virginia Jones is a comedian and writer in Los Angeles with no formal licensing that she can recall.

We are sisters, and we are talking about d*ck pics.

1) What entices a man to send a woman an unsolicited ‘crotch shot?’

Laura: I see this as a similar line of thinking as your uncle giving you a Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits CD for your birthday.  That’s what he likes, so he assumes that you will like it too.  I believe that men would LOVE it if women would take photos of their genitals and send them out.  Men are visually stimulated and perhaps believe that women are stimulated this way, too.

Virginia:  I can see the logic, but I assure you- we don’t like you for your d*ck.  If we like you, we like your d*ck.  If we aren’t interested in you, I don’t think your d*ck is gonna turn the tide.  On their own- they’re just not that photogenic.   I’ve never gotten a pic and thought “You know, I’ve gotta give this guy another shot!”  Each of them is unique, but there’s not as huge a variation as you’d think.  Almost all of them are fine.

2) Psychologically speaking, what about an anonymous environment provokes men to engage in risky behaviors?

Laura: I think it is exciting to feel like I can send out a d*ck pic and a woman will be sexually aroused.  I think that maybe the ideas about women that are perpetuated by the pornography industry feed into this belief that all women would enjoy this kind of attention.

Virginia: It’s interesting to think about people like Anthony Weiner, who has literally lost everything- his career, his marriage- to his impulse to send pictures of his weiner to different people.   For his sake, I hope it’s a really great weiner!

Laura: It sure must be!

3) Do you think there is a misinterpretation when it comes to women’s sexual interest?

Laura: There is definitely a misinterpretation of women’s sexual interests in our society. The pornography industry caters to men’s interests and a man’s perspective. I believe that online pornography is the main education that young men are receiving about sexuality today.  In this format, women are ready to have sex at any time, require very little emotional engagement, are visually stimulated and don’t expect or need anything more than the briefest of foreplay before engaging in penetration.

Virginia: But in porn’s defense, the women are usually paying for a pizza, and then they get to have pizza.  And d*ck.

I, Sexbot

The next generation of interactive sex robot will be available starting next year. New tech includes warm skin and warm sex organs, the ability to have simple conversations and to have simulated orgasms, something that is hardwired as sexy and desirable for men. And it’s scaring the crap out of us.

Sexy female robot bite lips portrait artificial intelligenceWe’re so worried about it that there’s already a website about the campaign against sex robots, ( There’s also an international meeting taking place in London in December promoting and exploring the problems and benefits of sex and love with robots.

We’re so worried that over and over articles go up saying “Holy crap sexbots!”

What is it that we are we afraid of?

We’re afraid of men becoming accustomed to, or preferring, asymmetrical relationships with a robot, who is never in a bad mood or busy or tired, and who never rejects them. A sex robot is always up for anything. How will this affect men’s relationships with real women? We’re afraid that sex robot use will make men forget about consent– a sex robot has no boundaries and doesn’t say no.

And the proposed user is universally male- just as the existing sex doll market is aimed at straight men. There are male dolls for gay male customers, but the sex doll market is not a big one for straight women, just as there isn’t a huge market for straight male prostitutes.

We’re afraid that sex with a perfect, endlessly pleasing, endlessly servile, endlessly sexy robot will replace sex between humans, eventually reducing our birth rate.

We’re afraid about our expensive sex robots getting out of date- imagine how embarrassing it’ll be when your friend’s new-fangled robot can speak in four languages and flutter her eyelashes and your robot can only moan and point at stuff!

We’re afraid of the end of human intimacy, that men will fall in love with sex robots. We’re afraid that men will become addicted, never leaving their house, ordering all of their groceries online and filling their days and nights with computer games and dirty robots. We’ll be a world of single people, men at home with their sex robots, and women making and sharing increasingly intricate Pinterest pages and Etsy crafts.

Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

Q: Can you be friends with your ex?

There are two schools of thought on this.

One is of course you can! You’re two mature people who care about each other and your lives are richer for having the other person in them, and the time you shared together in the past is a precious touchstone that you want to share!

The second is of course you can’t, because men only want to be your friend in case they can sleep with you again, and that women only want to be your friend in case they need a backup plan for their current relationship, or need someone to make a new guy jealous, or to take to a wedding. This is the one that has a dimmer view of human nature. However, this is the one that seems to be more consistently true.

My experience was, when I got married, I lost all of my male friends. Either they backed off out of a desire to be respectful of my spouse and my marriage, or else they were a bunch of dudes who were hanging out in case I wanted to have sex with them at some point. Sometimes, “let’s be friends” is code for “Let’s see if I can get in your good graces through funtimes and beers.”
This is sad and unpleasant to think about. Are people of the opposite sex only worthwhile as romantic partners? Am I not fun to hang out with in public? Are women friends inferior to guy friends?

It might come down to, it’s a busy world. We’re all working, we’re pursuing our dreams, and we have limited free time for the friends we already have, so am I really going to make time to grab lunch with a sysadmin with a foot fetish that I didn’t click with? I’d rather spend that time with old friends or with potential new partners. If you’re not the right one for me, then let’s both move on.
When I’m friends with exes: I find that they have way more time for me if they’re single, and if they’re not single, I wind up being better friends with their girlfriends or wives, and they kind of recede into the background.

I think there are mitigating factors like, how long did you date? If you went on three tinder dates with someone, “Let’s be friends” is my favorite code for “Let’s never see each other again!”

Q: Can you be friends with your ex when you’re seeing someone else?

That depends. Is your ex a mature person?

If they’re not, they might be jealous or weird around your new guy.

Alternately, if you are committed to a new relationship, it might be better not to keep an ex around. Try to take a breath and look at your motivations. Are you still interested in your ex? Are you putting your best foot forward with your current? Keeping a string of old guys around smacks of commitment problems. Again, if your ex is from high school and you’ve known him almost as long as your siblings, that’s different- but if you’re getting brats and beers with your last serious relationship, it might give your current guy pause.  In the past, I always pursued friendships with my exes because I thought that was a mark of adulthood- but it might be even more grown up to let them move on with their lives.

Q: Can your friend be friends with your ex?

This is even subtler. If we’re assuming that friendship is code for “maybe bang”, I’d rather not. Friends dating our exes can be more hurtful than the breakup was in the first place. If you’d like to stay friends with a good girlfriend’s ex, proceed with caution and ask her beforehand. She might have important information that you weren’t privy to, that the guy in question was abusive, was a drunk, or was untrustworthy. Talking to her could save both of you a lot of trouble.

If you’re wondering, “Am I good enough friends with this woman that it should keep me from hanging out with Chad?” just ask yourself “would I be comfortable if she never spoke to me again?” If you are, it’s fine to be friends with her ex!

Is Cheating Ever OK?

Would you tell your friend if you saw their significant other on a dinner date with another?

Q: Is cheating ever OK?

At the very least, cheating means you don’t value the relationship you’re in. If you cheat once, think about what this means about your relationship with your partner- you have taken a risk that they could get hurt, they could get an STD, they could be embarrassed- so that you could have a short-term positive experience. If you continue cheating, consider ending your relationship, because you are clearly not committed or fulfilled.  Instead of taking that as an excuse to cheat, be honest with your partner and stop seeing them.

If you think you’re “just the cheating kind”, consider not having relationships.

If your partner has cheated on you, it will hurt, but you should ask if they’re interested in staying with you or if they’re shopping for other partners. Try to be honest about what you expect from them. Almost everyone cheats during their lifetime- it doesn’t have to be the end of a relationship but it must be addressed.

If you accept a partner’s continued cheating even though it hurts you- this lets the partner know that you don’t value yourself and that anything goes. This is not a good place to be for your emotional health.

Cheating hurts people in a very deep, sometimes irrational way.  Think about a relationship of yours that ended without infidelity, and about one that ended with it.  Do you feel differently about them?  Put yourself in your partner’s shoes.  If you are cheating “on your way out” of a relationship- consider ending your relationship first. You and your partner will have a better experience and nicer memories of each other if infidelity doesn’t color the end of your time together.

Q: Would you tell your friend if you saw their significant other on a dinner date with another?

I would not. I would tell my friend if their significant other was sending out pictures of his dick to other people. Even then, it doesn’t change anything. Usually, it just makes my friend upset.  It’s very difficult to give someone information that they don’t want, even if months later they recognize it was probably true.

Q: How do you feel about infidelity in celebrity relationships, like the rumors about Brad, Marion Cotillard, and Angelina?

If we assume that the thing that ended Brangelina was, in fact, cheating: I think that a mature relationship could have survived infidelity- so I suspect that this is not the first time, but the last that Angelina could deal with.

When infidelity is public, I think that changes things. It’s one thing to work on issues at home, see a therapist, try to communicate- it’s another when everyone on the street and everyone you see knows that your partner betrayed you and hurt you. Think about being at Ralph’s (or, let’s face it, Whole Foods or Gelson’s) and seeing people’s faces full of pity for you, when all you wanted was an organic wheatgrass juice.

That being said- I don’t think a marriage is a failure just because it ends. Because our society has changed to value the individual over the couple- everything is stacked against long marriages. You can learn a lot from marriage and grow as a person, even though that union didn’t last until death did you part.

All in all, the reason we call it cheating is that it’s a betrayal of what you have agreed on in your relationship.  If you don’t want to be monogamous, don’t be.  Cheating on your current partner as a trial for a potential relationship is a poor use of everyone’s trust.  If all of your relationships end in infidelity, consider doing the brave thing and ending the relationship before stepping out.

The Real Love Drug

“Oh oh catch that buzz

Love is the drug I’m thinking of

Oh oh can’t you see

Love is the drug for me”

– Roxy Music (Brian Eno/Andy Mackay)

Head and Brain Gears in Progress.think about loveWe’ve known for a long time that people who have just fallen in love feel like they’re on drugs – their systems flood with the feel-good hormone oxytocin, they don’t feel as great a need for food or sleep, and they can feel like they’re floating on air.  In cartoons, their hearts beat out of their chest and they hear Klaxon horns when they look at the object of their affection.  Sometimes their eyes bulge out until they fall out of their heads and are revealed to be light bulbs, which would be challenging to most people, but it doesn’t seem to bother them at all.

We also know that sometimes, people take drugs like MDMA or ecstasy to feel like they’re in love – which floods their brains with serotonin so that they develop deep emotional connections with strangers in a sand-filled tent at Burning Man.

This week, researchers at the Imperial College London may have discovered a real love drug that stimulates not just sexual but romantic feeling – Kisspeptin.

This hormone has a couple of important functions related to sex and reproduction– it triggers puberty, but it also turns a young man’s fancy to thoughts of love and romance, based on a study of 29 young men and their fancies.  Men were shown sexual images, nonsexual couple-bonding images, and neutral images, and their brains were scanned to determine their stimulation – those who were injected with kisspeptin did not just experience increased physical arousal, they also saw increased desires for couple-bonding and affection.  Their brains lit up in the areas associated with love and sex.  They also found neutral-to-negative images to be less negative when they were on the hormone, just as a person in love finds their mood elevated.

I’m Taking Valentine’s Back: A Curable Romantic

I have had an awful superstition about Valentine’s day. You?

Growing up, I loved Valentine’s day.  I really did.  I loved writing little cards for my friends, doling out the extra big cards to the kids I REALLY was nuts about, making little candy bags, decorating a shoebox mailbox to within an inch of its life.

I loved it as an adult, getting dressed up and going out with someone special.  I would make handmade cards for my friends at work and was generally a Valentine’s weirdo.  I loved Valentine’s day for both platonic and romantic love.  I loved having an excuse for telling people I cared about them.

One year, I got up at five in the morning and drove to a white-tiled tunnel in Portland.  It would get grimy from car exhaust and you could write in it.  I wrote KENNY BE MINE with a yellow sponge mop, knowing that the same Kenny would drive past it on the way to work and wonder if it was for him.  As it turns out, most of his office knew and teased him mercilessly.  But I loved doing it.

A few years later, I got asked out on a first date on Valentine’s day.  It was such a preposterously bad idea I agreed to it, like wearing a jumpsuit to a wedding.  We went out for drinks and I said, I heard you were still married, and he said yeah, but she doesn’t live here anymore.  At the time, I gave this a pass, but today I’d say if you ask a person if they’re married and they say yes, you shouldn’t continue to see them.

We got serious very quickly and were married a year later.

Ten years later, he asked me for a divorce on Valentine’s day, because he was seeing a friend of mine and he wanted her to live in the house where I lived and he thought it might get crowded.  I felt really blindsided.  I knew we weren’t the best marriage ever, but I thought we were functional.  I had hoped it would improve, but now it wouldn’t.

So, I moved out to Los Angeles, and got a stupid haircut, and did all the stuff divorced women are supposed to do.  Dated people who were too young for me.  Lived in a fancy apartment full of other divorced ladies.  Got many pedicures, bought myself flowers.  A year later on Valentine’s day, I was in Bangkok, Thailand, and my friend wrote me an email and said, hey, how you doin’, and I said, not that bad, and she said, are your text messages turned off, and I said yeah, it’s too expensive here, and she said Oh!  Well, we’ll talk when you get home.  So, when I landed at LAX, I finally turned on my text messages and my phone started going off like a slot machine bring barrring barrring barrring and for a second I thought, am I famous for something? So, I have all these messages because everyone wants to tell me that my husband got married on Valentine’s day, to the girl he left me for, on the radio, so that pretty much everyone I knew heard it.  True to form, he had married her in about a year.  Just likes being married, I guess.

This is his third marriage, and I wish the third wife the best of luck, because, you know, he cheated on the first two!  But probably they don’t need luck, because according to his facebook posts, their love is special.

One of the first things I learned when I got divorced, is that they’re all sad.  Even your friend who bitched about her husband constantly is sad when he’s not her husband anymore, because it’s a wish that didn’t come true, and a promise they couldn’t keep- so, when someone tells you they’re getting a divorce, please keep in mind that the correct response is never- that’s great!

Another of the gifts of being divorced is that it makes everything else seem not so bad.  It’s like bombing onstage in comedy, once you’ve truly tried to share your worldview with a roomful of people who want no part of it, once you’ve been talking onstage to just sheer, thick, unadulterated silence, and you survive that, you know you can survive a lot of things.  So, every traffic ticket or lost credit card I’ve had since then, I have real perspective on, like, well, I didn’t just get unceremoniously dumped!  It could absolutely be worse.  It always can.

For several years, I have had an awful superstition about Valentine’s day, and have panicked and ended relationships around then, and have regarded with suspicion it like you might give a wary eye to the corner where you had a bad car accident- it doesn’t mean it will happen again, but now you know that it could.

It’s been six years now, and my Valentine’s day breakup doesn’t strike me as tragic anymore, it’s just annoying, more like a papercut or a stubbed toe rather than a stabbing feeling in one’s chest.  It’s not Valentine’s day’s fault.  It’s just a dumb little holiday that the Romans started when they noticed that the weather was a little warmer and all the animals around them were doing it.  I can still love my friends.  I can still share feelings with a partner.  So, this is the year I’m taking it back.  I’m going to make dumb little cards and make romantic plans.  But I’m not going out to dinner.  That’s for suckers.

Til Death Do Us Part: Noir Humor of Sex, Dating, and the Animal Kingdom

It’s Springtime, when the earth renews itself and mating season begins for many animals!

People go on dates and remember that sex and dating can be hard.

It can wear you out emotionally.

But at least you can physically survive it- not like in many parts of the animal kingdom.

Here’s a list of animals that die for sex- to remind you that things could be worse!

Praying Mantis

Oftentimes, the female praying mantis bites the head off her mate while they have sex, and apparently the male thrusts more vigorously after he’s dead, making the sex more likely to generate progeny. (This is probably not true of human men.)

Remember that the next time a woman you’ve exchanged a week of flirty text messages with flat doesn’t show up at an Italian restaurant and won’t call you back- you might leave with your head hanging down, but at least it’s still attached.

The Antechinus

This very cute ratlike Australian marsupial, goes on a mad sex parade with multiple partners for up to 14 hours and then drops dead of exhaustion.  There are advantages to this, for example- he doesn’t have the opportunity to get in trouble with any of the multiple cute ratlike partners he had sex with in the same half-day, but on the other hand the Antechinus never meets his children, nor coaches them in Soccer, which he would call Football, because he’s from Australia.

That’s better than the time you went on a drinks-filled double date with your best friend Allison and your boyfriend’s roommate, and she came home with him, but after you’d left for your house, she snuck into the other bedroom and did your boyfriend as well.  Right?  Still better than the cute little dead sex rat. And you don’t have to speak to Allison ever again.

Pubic Opinion

Where does your pendulum swing for body hair?

virginia jones

Recently, I was staying over with my best girlfriend and we were getting ready for a night out together, like we were in high school.  (We are not in high school, or, at least, I’m not.  I wouldn’t ask her age, because that’s rude, but she never seems to do any homework, and she drinks, so she’s either an adult or a bad student.)

“And I haven’t waxed my bush in weeks, so, you know” she said, pulling a high ponytail through an elastic, “that keeps me from going home with anyone.”

I couldn’t keep my face from scrunching up as I asked her, “What?  Why?”

“Oh, you know…”she said, “I just wouldn’t want anyone to see it like that.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“You know.  It’s a mess.”

“Well, you know,” I replied, a little annoyed, “my bush is so old-school it once beat Billie Jean King at tennis, and nobody has ever complained about it.”  She looked at me with a look of shock and disbelief, but it’s true.  I’ve been naked in front of lots of people, I mean a lot, (sorry mom), and the response to my hair has either been positive or no stated opinion, according to the exit polls.


Now, don’t get me wrong.  Body hair is 100% a personal decision and whatever you choose to do with it is A-OK, but there was a cultural moment when it felt compulsory- I understand that if you do sex work, deforestation is part of the uniform, but does every barista and blogger HAVE to go full Vin Diesel?  But it is, no pun intended- a touchy subject.

In the 1900’s, only art models and prostitutes (and let’s face it- many times the same people) got rid of their pubic hair, and because of this, the pre-Raphaelite artist John Ruskin was totally unprepared for his wife’s hair on their wedding night and was unable to perform sexually.  She went crying to a doctor, was told that she was perfectly normal and lovely, and left her unconsummated marriage and married another painter friend of his who thought her pubis was nice.

Pub Fashion

It’s been in vogue for so long, it seems like the Brazilian has always been the dominant geographic region affecting our areas-but the fact, Americans left their sites untouched for years and years, until the bikini was introduced in the 50’s.  The swimsuit was named after the A-bomb testing site in the Bikini Atoll, and it was like a bomb was dropped on natural bush.

In the 70’s, women burned their bras and let themselves grow free, but in the 80’s we had maillot one-pieces and Donna Karan bodysuits and women adopted the “landing strip” look- flattering for lots of fashions, but still delineating one from a prepubescent.  Hard-edged, graphic, it was probably what the ladies in the Nagel drawings had, if we ever saw a naked one. 

Love and Obsession: How to Tell Them Apart and Leave One Behind

I’ve been the target and I’ve been the obsessed and neither of them feel great.

Scenario One: You can’t stop thinking about him.  You go to sleep thinking about him and wake up wondering what he’s doing.  When you wake up, you already have a message from him saying that he can’t stop thinking about you either.

You’re in new love!

Scenario Two: You can’t stop thinking about him.  You go to sleep thinking about him and wake up wondering what he’s doing, and hope you’ll see him soon.  You feel like your connection is so strong, you’ve just got to be together.  You think you’re in love.

You’re not.  You’re obsessed.

Obsession and unrequited love can seem extremely romantic, and are frequently romanticized in works of fiction.  Love stories like The Princess Bride, Pretty in Pink, Edward Scissorhands and The Notebook all have love stories that originate in one-sided obsession. In many films, this single-minded pursuit is rewarded by the return of that love.  In real life, that could happen, but more frequently it does not.

Music is rife with obsession- in Late Night, Maudlin Street, Morrissey (the OG romantic obsessive) says “I could list the detail of everything you ever wore or said or how you stood”- Stevin Merritt’s The Magnetic Fields lets a girl know that he’s just a fan who remembers every dress she ever wore.  Pretty much all Evanescence songs are about obsession or stalking.  Look out for fans of that band.

If you’re not loved back, obsession can lead to unhealthy attachment, stalking, or just profound unhappiness as the obsessed person refuses to let go of the object of attachment, perhaps believing that they have no power to do so, and missing out on other possible partners while they are blinded by their pursuit of one.  In the circular logic of obsession, the obsessed person will sabotage new relationships to self-fulfill their belief that they can only be happy with the object of their obsession.  “SEE, THERE IS NOBODY FOR ME BUT CARLA!”

Real love is much more practical than people think- attraction is magical and capricious, chemical in many ways, but in the day to day, love is something two people make together with words and deeds, because they are attracted to each other and care for each other, and it’s not something you can do with yourself.  Like the tango, it takes two.  If you say to yourself, “If only they knew how much I loved them…” you can stop right there.  You’re not in love, you’re obsessed.

I’m Not Really Obsessed, Am I?

Sometimes the slide from normal crush to unhealthy obsession feels gradual, and you might not even notice- but if you’ve been interested in a person for a while, you’ve made your interest known, and it’s not returned- it’s time to back off and try to leave that idea behind.  You’re not in love, because you don’t really know this person.  You’re imprinting on some traits you like and filling in everything else with information of your own making.  You’re in love with an idea of them, and that person you think you love likely doesn’t exist.

I’ve been the target and I’ve been the obsessed and neither of them feel good.  If you know someone cares for you and you don’t feel the same way, you feel pity and guilt and can feel like a failure for not feeling the same way.  If you’re obsessed with someone who doesn’t care for you, it feels like you’ll never care for anyone else.

A friend of mine was telling me about going to a wedding of a woman he was obsessed with, and how he thought it was important that he go and support the bride, even though it made him want to collapse as he stood in a room of happy people watching her pledge her eternal love for another man.  He spoke about his feelings for her, the length and depth and passion of those feelings, and it would be easy to assume that she was an ex lover, but they had never been anything more than friends.  This didn’t keep him from feeling betrayed, from being miserable, and from cutting other dating pursuits short because they failed to measure up to her, his impossible goal.

OK, I’m Obsessed.  How Do I Get Out?

You might think that you’re stuck obsessing over someone, because they’re perfect for you and WHY DON’T THEY SEE THAT?, but you control your own mind and thoughts and feelings.  You do!  You can let go of obsessive thoughts and feelings and make healthier choices.  Try the following:

  1. Distance yourself from the object of your obsession, don’t go to places you know they are, don’t stop by their coffeeshop, etc. etc. If you’ve been stalking them on Facebook (which is sort of like an obsession machine in of itself), consider hiding or blocking them until you feel more clarity.
  2. Don’t feed your obsessive thoughts.

Humans love being sad, or feeling sorry for ourselves- it is pleasurable to scratch that itch that makes us miserable.  We also love being in love, and sometimes obsessive thoughts can feel like that, you can get a little shot of endorphin thinking about them. What if you see them today? Will they pursue you?  Etc.  But you do control your thoughts.  Your thoughts are made by you.  When you start thinking about the object of your obsession, try to let it go.  Replace it.  Have a thought or phrase handy ready to replace it, like a mantra.  It can be something or nothing, it can be a nonsense phrase- just have something ready to reset your unhealthy thought cycle.

  1. Distract yourself- with a new hobby, book, or activity.  Go to the gym and concentrate on yourself.  Don’t let idle thoughts go to the person.

Think of this as practicing good mental hygiene, keeping your brain clear- you’ll be amazed at how quickly you retrain your brain to stop dwelling on one person- and one day you’ll see them at the Trader Joe’s and be surprised at how ordinary and non-magical they seem!  You’ll be more open to meeting people who like you back, and whom you can find something real with.

I Was a 30-Year-Old Virgin and My First Time Wasn’t What I Had Expected

“I was relieved that a p*nis didn’t feel like a giant finger inside me.”

Hi, my name is Virginia Jones and I’m a comedian and writer. I made a girlfriend six years ago who was beautiful and smart and kind and fun to be with, and at one point she told me she was a still a virgin in her late 20s, and I was pretty surprised.

In the years since we met, she has transitioned into non-virginity, and she agreed to sit down and talk with me about it.

Historically, virginity has been so important in religion, in vampire lore, and in marriage, but now it doesn’t seem as significant, and I wondered what her thoughts were on the topic. In this interview, I’m calling myself by my initials, VJ, and I’m calling her Unicorn Charmer, because in Medieval times it was said that a unicorn would only lay his head in a virgin’s lap.

VJ: At what age did you lose your virginity?

UC: I was 30. When did you lose yours?

VJ: I was 15, which at the time I felt was ancient and now I am totally grossed out by. When I see 15 year olds, I think, well, these are children.

UC: Oh myyyy.

VJ: How many partners have you had since then?

UC: I’ve had five sex partners — spread out over the past five years. Two long-term boyfriends, three shorter term. You?

VJ: Some multiple of that. Have you ever had a one night stand?

UC: I tried to have one in Europe with a sexy European man, but he kept in touch and it became an affair that kept going for a while — so I still haven’t successfully had one. I guess I maybe had one with someone I had been in love with forever — but that feels more like a continuation of our friendship. Once I had sex for the first time, he was someone I wanted to circle back and have sex with.

VJ: What was the original motivation for keeping your virginity, and did that change?

UC: I was raised in a very conservative Baptist household and was definitely taught that sex was for married people, and lots of scary stuff about STDs. When a boy first kissed me, I was quite sure I had AIDS. I was engaged for three years starting at 19, and when that engagement ended, I decided, well, I don’t have to be married, but I’d like to have sex with someone who loves me and who I love back. So, that only took… another seven years.

VJ: That’s a minute.

UC: It was. It wasn’t all the guys’ fault. I’m sometimes… fickle.

“I missed sex with people who weren’t in love with me, which I feel is missable.”

VJ: Have you ever lost partners or relationships because you didn’t want to have coitus?

UC: None of them ever admitted it, but looking back, I think, yeah. I think it’s not something you want to say is the reason.

VJ: It’s not a good look. Do you regret anything about waiting?

UC: I don’t regret my age or the timing when I lost my virginity — but I would have liked my first to be a different person?

VJ: Why is that?

UC: I thought he loved me and that he was the right partner, but it turned out that he wasn’t faithful and didn’t care for me the way I thought he did. Later, I felt like I was a conquest. It seemed like the right person at the time, but looking back, could have been better

VJ: I think most of us feel that way.

UC: Ha! But I don’t regret waiting, either. All I missed over the years was sex with people who weren’t in love with me, which I feel is missable.

VJ: What are some positive responses people have had to your sex history?

UC: Women have been 100 percent positive, girlfriends all think it’s great. Lots of men, friends and ex-boyfriends have been respectful of my decision. One man I did sleep with said it made him feel extra special. Which he is!

“I had built a lot of my self-image on being a virgin, on being that girl”

VJ: What is something that you changed your mind about after having sex?

UC: Strangely, I have changed my feelings about oral sex, which for years was my main sexual activity — now it seems VERY intimate and kind of more precious than sex — like, I can have intercourse with someone way before oral sex. I have to trust them more.

VJ: I’ve heard that’s the feeling a lot of millennials have, that sex with a condom you can have with anyone, but oral sex is more intimate. It’s the opposite of when I was growing up. What were you surprised about after the first time you had sex?

UC: I thought it would be really bloody and painful, and it wasn’t. I was surprised that it wasn’t actually that big a deal — I wasn’t a different person, I wasn’t transformed in one way or another — it was strange, I had built a lot of my self-image on being a virgin, on being that girl, and I had to figure out who I was again!

VJ: Ha! Right, part of our worth as a woman is your sexual purity — It gives you the idea that you will be a different person once you have sex, but you’re not. Like a button is pressed and POOF you are a different being.

UC: I guess so! But I just had to train myself out of thinking of myself in relation to what I hadn’t done, and think about myself in the context of what I have.

VJ: Have you had any negative feedback on staying a virgin for longer?

UC: Unfortunately, yeah- it usually gets thrown in my face by partners or men when they’re angry with me or want to hurt me? Stuff about I’m frigid or not normal or can’t come during sex, which I can — Lots of men want to tell me that because I waited, I’m gonna have hang-ups or other issues, that I’ll never be normal in bed.

VJ: That’s cruddy.

UC: It is. One guy in particular has hit that one same note over and over, that I’m not normal, normal people just hook up a lot and don’t put a lot of importance on sex, but you know, I know those people, and they don’t seem that happy to me.

VJ: Maybe not.

UC: And I know that I’m worth more than that.

VJ: Well, I think everyone is worth more, both women and men. But we believe what people tell us, which is that the only thing available to us is hookup sex, so we’d better take it, or get nothing. (laughs)

UC: Ha! Right.

“I was relieved that a penis didn’t feel like a giant finger inside me.”

VJ: What were you relieved about when you lost your virginity?
UC: I was honestly glad not to worry about it anymore. Also…Oh, god…

VJ: What?
UC: I was relieved that a penis didn’t feel like a giant finger inside me.

VJ: Haaaaa!

UC: Well, I wasn’t sure.

VJ: Well, how could you be? Thank you for sharing your sex history with me, babe.

The Unicorn Charmer has just ended a serious relationship and is currently out meeting new dates and potential partners in her new city, and is having fun, mostly!

Are you reinventing your own love life? Work with the experts at LoveTV to have better sex, love and intimacy.

The Herpes Paradox: Is Dating Someone With Herpes That Big Of A Deal?

Chances are, you’ve dated or are dating someone with herpes. Here’s what you should know.

I have several friends with herpes. Everyone does. The CDC reported that as many as 15 percent of Americans between 14-49 have HSV2, which can present as breakouts below the waist. And the World Health Organization estimates that two out of three people in the world have HSV1, which create what are commonly called “cold sores” around the mouth.

One of my friends who has HSV2 pointed out the “herpes dating paradox” to me. Because it’s so common, odds are good that any adult who has had multiple sexual partners has dated or is dating someone with herpes — but my friend says every time she discloses her status to someone she’s dating, they blanch and run away, insisting that they’ve never met another person with the disease.

How could this be?

Many people with herpes don’t show symptoms.

One component is that most people are asymptomatic. Which means, according to the CDC, 87 percent of people don’t know they have it. The test for herpes is more expensive than other STI tests, so it’s usually not included in an STI check unless there are symptoms pointing to it. Combine these two things and you get infected people who don’t find out they’re infected, and then they spread it to other people.

So, although 15 percent of the population has HSV2, perhaps only a fourth of the people that have it know that they do. It’s like there are two populations at work — the known, and the unknown.

young couple sitting on large concrete steps, engaged in a deep,

Another paradox is that people have very different opinions of HSV1 and HSV2.

It’s true even though the viruses behave similarly but just in different locations: an HSV1 virus usually expresses on the face, and an HSV2 usually expresses down south.

I have HSV1 and have no shame about it whatever. I have never had an outbreak, and I assume I got it sometime in childhood. When my marriage ended with my husband’s infidelity, I was scared that I might have gotten something, so I had a full STI workup. When I got the results, my sister read them to me because I was too nervous.

“Well, you’ve got herpes!” she told me, with a touch too much excitement.

“No, I don’t… do I?”

“Well, you’ve got type 1.”

“Oh jeez, everyone has that!” I exclaimed.

I was relieved it wasn’t the “bad” kind, and a little annoyed that she wound me up about it. I’ve thought about it very little since, seeing as (I’ll say it again) at least 60 percent of the world’s population has HSV1.

But people with “type 2” can feel shame, worthlessness, and undesired — even though it’s essentially the same disease.

I wanted to know how people with herpes really feel, since we hardly hear from them. So I set up a poll.

I distributed a brief anonymous survey among people in my friends group to get a feeling for what their experiences were like living with, and dating with, herpes.

Most respondents contracted it in their late 20s and early 30s from boyfriends and girlfriends, which is statistically consistent with the rest of America. Half of respondents said it doesn’t really affect their love life at all, but half said there’s been some effect — and several reported feeling a lot of shame, saying:

“Every time I tell someone I have it, they act like they’ve never heard of it before, like I invented it.”

“The virus doesn’t bother me. The stigma does.”

“I think women aren’t honest about it with partners — when I mention it, every girlfriend I know confides that she also has it. Going by my experiences alone, it looks like 70 percent of all people have herpes.”

“Pretty much everyone has it.”

“I always tell my partners before we have sex, and thus far nobody has declined sexual relations.”

They experience outbreaks anywhere from once a year to once a month, with some outbreaks linked to stress. Eighty percent of respondents said they practiced safer sex with their partners to avoid transmission, and 90 percent of them disclose their status to every sex partner, although one person said mysteriously that it “depends on the circumstances.”

Herpes has a lot of associations with promiscuity or infidelity, but most of my respondents got it from a serious partner — some of whom may not have known they had it.

couple having a serious conversation

Every respondent said the worst thing was not the disease itself, but the stigma attached to it.

According to the CDC, women get herpes more than men (20 percent compared to 10 percent). We’re just built for more transmissions that occur through moist tissue. Women are already shamed for being promiscuous or sexual, so it only makes sense that something more women have would also be shameful, and thought of as being a sign of promiscuity or unfaithfulness.

For most people, it’s just an annoying skin infection. But combine the facts that it’s more common for women, it’s essentially harmless, and it’s seemingly ubiquitous — somewhere along the line, it became a disease that it was acceptable to joke about! This may increase those shameful feelings but, as you can see, there’s no need to feel ashamed.

Herpes is prevalent, but not dangerous. It’s really pretty harmless.

If you’re dating someone with herpes or if you found out that you have HSV2, educate yourself and your partner, look at suppressants like Valtrex, and know that you are far from alone and that it’s not a big deal.

And if you don’t have herpes, consider not joking about it, or speaking glibly about it — in any room where there are more than six people, someone is bound to have it.

Want more reading about sexual health? Check out this story about HPV or some tips on how to tell your partner if you have an STD.